Why did you choose this program?
Sussex was not on my radar. I originally looked into a third party program at University College London because I wanted to be in a big city while also having easy access to other countries. I applied, but I did not get in, so my school recommended the University of Sussex, which is relatively close to London in a cool city called Brighton.
I have never heard of Brighton but kept an open mind because I knew I really wanted to study abroad in England.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Sussex provided a lot more support for me than I thought. Sussex was a direct enrollment where it did not provide the hand-holding that many other study abroad programs had (arranging all your housing and trips and forcing all the American college students to be together so they become friends), so I initially worried I would not have much support. Fortunately, the school provided a coach bus for the visiting students arriving at Heathrow Airport.
The university also has a "Buddy Scheme Society" where international students get paired up with a local student who would acclimate them to the new lifestyle. I was not sure how I would be able to make friends in a direct enrollment study abroad program, so I took advantage of that and met a super nice girl. This was a great way to meet the locals.
Meals were not free, so I had to pay for lunch at the school or buy my own groceries.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Don't make it your #1 priority to leave Brighton and go to other places in Europe.
Before I came to Sussex, I thought studying abroad in Europe was all about cramming in as many weekend trips as possible to see how many countries you can visit in a semester. Traveling to another city is great for a change of pace, but I got so much more from getting to know Brighton and immersing myself in the English (and European) culture through meeting people from all around the world. Coming home, I realized this is the true study abroad experience.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Living off-campus, I took a 40 minutes bus to the university.
Many of my classes had a lecture and a seminar component. In the lectures, all the students enrolled a course in sitting in a huge hall listened to the professor teach. The students were assigned a time to have their seminar, which consists of group work and discussions. It is a hands-on component of the coursework.
I was fortunate to not have classes on Friday. This gave me time to catch up on homework so I can make time for fun.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was how I would be able to balance my studies with having fun.
I thought that during weeks when I had many deadlines, I would be so drowned in my studies I would not have time to have fun. What helped was I always had the mindset that studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that you should have fun during this relatively short time period because you will look back on those memories rather than the nights you spent cranking through your papers.
No matter how busy I was, I always made sure to carve out time for hanging out with my friends, exploring Brighton, or going on a short trip.
Do you have a favorite story you'd like to share?
During my time abroad, I had many rituals with my friends that brought me close to them because we would have fun together. My favorite one was riding the bus to the university every Wednesday morning together with two of my friends because we all had our classes at the same time. It was a 40-minute ride and we would spend the arduous trek having intensive conversations whether they were goofy or insightful. This brought me close to them.
The take-home message here is that the best memories are often not what you would think they are. While I really enjoyed going out with my friends for partying or sightseeing, what stood out to me were the times when I just talked to my friends because that was when I formed my strongest bonds.