I attended undergraduate liberal arts courses at U Illinois in Champaign in the 70’s, and U Wisconsin in Madison in the 90’s (finally got a degree in 98:)) Both were pretty similar. Very large (200-300 students) lectures, “discussion sections” typically from 15-30 students and a grad student. Occasionally, a prof would teach a discussion section as well, for the more aspiring undergrads.
Social life was fairly sharply divided by living status – dormitories, fraternities, apartments, local “townie” students.
Main recreational activities: binge drinking and attending school sports events, binge drinking and film festivals, binge drinking and… well, you get the point. Oh yeah, two others of note – deer hunting and snowmobiling. Both sometimes associated with binge drinking.
Having never been to the UK, I’m not qualified to compare the two. But it seems safe to say that if you’re interested in older stuff, go to the UK. If you’re interested in newer stuff, come to the US. The UK has one big advantage, though, which is close proximity to a more diverse cultures just a hop across or under the Channel. And I’ve heard that Europe is much better organized in public transportation. You would have trouble seeing much of America without a car, though you will also find on campus parking virtually impossible to find. But at either UI or UW it is pretty easy to get by without a car if you stayed near campus.
I don’t want to pry into your background, but your ethnicity, accent and/or skin tone may be a factor in how you are received in different places in the US. If you wish any further comments on this, please let us know.