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May 28, 2024

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here

Alum studying business and environmental sustainability in the United Kingdom says Notre Dame Prep prepped him well for the challenges and the rewards of attending college abroad.

Max Thornton NDP'23, third from left, is taking a break from university studies with schoolmates and friends.

The University of Exeter is a research university in southwest England. It's ranked as the No. 1 business school in the U.K. and the first university in the world to offer a business and environmental program.

Which fits 2023 Notre Dame Prep alum Max Thornton to a T. 

But his English journey actually started a bit north and east of Exeter. In fact, his first choice for university was the University of Birmingham and he was ready to roll late last summer.

"At the last minute, I changed to the University of Exeter," he said recently during an interview from the U.K. "Exeter is No. 1 in business and overall ranked very highly in the UK. I was lucky to get into what I think is the better university in August of last year!

Now well ensconced in Exeter and the U.K., Thornton looks back without regret to year No. 1 overseas. 

"My first year of uni in the UK was amazing," he said. "When I first came to Exeter, I moved into a flat, where I have my own bedroom and bathroom but share a kitchen. In the UK, the first week of university has no learning involved and instead is filled with many social events and parties for people to socialize and make friends, which was super helpful for me."

After finally diving into academics at Exeter, Thornton had four focused modules that were all related to his degree, and he said he thoroughly enjoyed each one. 

"Each module has one extensive essay per semester and a final exam, but no other homework or assignments, which left me some valuable free time." 

Traveling man

He was lucky enough to spend that free time traveling to various cities in the UK, plus Dublin, Ireland, and Barcelona, Spain, for quick vacations amongst his ongoing academics. For this and for other reasons, he said he really appreciates the differences in university life in the U.K versus the U.S. 

"I love everything I am being taught and how the educational system here is set up," he said, "I don't have to take general education modules; I can take courses directly related to my degree. And while my modules were rigorous, I was being taught information I enjoyed, so I didn't mind." 

Thornton is never far from his home state roots.

And, he added, the second semester was surprisingly more fun than the first. 

"The modules I was put in were very interesting; we went on multiple course trips, and the classes were very useful. This past semester, I actually was able to travel to Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; Prague, Czech Republic; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Agadir, Morocco; and Greece." 

Thornton is majoring in business and environmental sustainability with a proficiency in law, which is basically a minor in law. The program is quite new and was the first of its kind in the world. 

"I love the program," he said. "It is everything I desire in a major. Every course I take is about exactly what I am interested in learning and is helping me prepare for my future in the industry. My program is a three-year course, but it's laid out quite differently than it might be in the U.S.":

     • Year 1 (completed): year one of learning
     • Year 2: year two of learning
     • Year 3: a year in industry
     • Year 4: year three of learning

While he gets to come home about every two and a half months while school is in session, he is now off for the summer, but decided to stay a little longer for an internship and to travel more. 

"I would say being able to go home for a month every couple of months is amazing; it allows me to become very independent and responsible on my own, but I am never away from home for too long!"

Overall, he said, his first year in the U.K. has truly changed his life. 

Fun, balance and high levels

"And I would go back and do it all again if I could," he said. "The initial decision was quite hard, but it completely paid off in the end. The year was filled with great learning, lots of new experiences, traveling, friends and fun."

Outside of school, Thornton is constantly doing activities with friends or his flatmates.

"Whether it's going to the campus gym, partaking in an on-campus activity, going out for a pint, heading to the beach for a BBQ, or going out for a night, I have never been disappointed in my time outside university," he said. "Of course, when I have time off, you will find me on the next flight to another country! By the end of June, I will have traveled to eight countries within the eight months or so I have been here!"

Among Thornton's travels in Europe are Barcelona, Spain, above, and Vienna, Austria, below.

Quite a journey thus far for this 2023 Notre Dame Prep graduate. But no matter how far is he from 1300 Giddings Road, he's never far from the advantages he enjoyed from his high school nor can he forget what it meant to graduate from NDP. 

"The classes I took at NDP were taught at such high levels that some of the same material was taught to me here during my first-term modules here in the U.K.," he said. "I really feel like the classes I took at NDP prepared me well for the extensive and critical learning I'm doing at Exeter.

"Also, at NDP, I took on a lot of responsibilities, such as being the president of clubs, becoming a student ambassador, taking multiple AP and IB classes, and more. This all helped me learn what life is actually like." 

He added that in the U.K., he finds himself able to balance a heavy workload while still managing to utilize any free time he has in country. 

"I am so thankful that NDP prepared me so well for university and for life," he said. "I feel like I've gained a lot of experiences at NDP that allowed me to find who I was and in which direction I wanted to eventually go."

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School
"At Notre Dame Prep, we inspire our students to become the best versions of themselves. We challenge them through an experience of academic excellence, focused on active, project-based learning. We invite them to explore a world of opportunities beyond the classroom. We guide them as they grow in spirituality within a community strong in its Catholic and Marist identity."

Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDP is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at