Although it flew by, I had a great two weeks at home. The first week was filled with seeing friends and catching up, Christmas gatherings, and a hockey game, where the Arizona Coyotes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Colin arrived a week after myself and he spent the holidays with my family… my whole family (well, almost). My mom’s family came to Arizona where Colin met everyone on that side of the family. The day after Christmas, we drove to southern California where he got to meet a lot of my dad’s side. While we were there, we also went to Santa Monica Pier and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Our last few days back in Arizona were spent relaxing before I dropped him off at the airport this morning. Our time together went by quickly, but I’m glad he go to come out and I’m most likely going to make it over to Canada this July.
While I was at home, I got to share my experience with a lot of interested people. For those who missed it, here are some frequently asked questions for those who I did not get a chance to talk with:
What was your favorite place to travel?
This is probably the question I get asked most often. My two favorite trips were to Dublin, Ireland and Nice, France. The Irish countryside was beautiful and I’d love to explore more, particularly the west coast, and revisit the north coast. Nice was a beautiful coastal town and I enjoyed the warm, sunny weather.
What are the academics like?
The lectures are pretty much the same: the professor talks for an hour and you are expected to take notes, although I find British academics are less participation-inclined and have less total lecture time. However, the out of class work is a little different. At Arizona State, my overall grade is more segmented (for example, my final will be worth 30%, homework will be worth 10%, quizzes will be worth 15%, etc.) where my Sussex classes have few assignments that are worth more (for example, my final may be worth upwards of 70% and a few assignments like essays and presentations will constitute the other 30%). It’s hard to gauge which one is more difficult as the two systems are pretty different.
What is the campus and dorm life like?
My campus is about the same size as the Arizona State Tempe campus, perhaps a little smaller. My campus is ten minutes from Brighton by train and is located in the South Downs National Park, so we are surrounded by beautiful rolling green hills. We also have a professional football stadium on the south side of campus by the train station, and I’ve promised myself to get to a match eventually because I’ve been told the team is pretty good.
The building I live in is three floors (with my hall being on the top floor) and shaped like a square, with each corridor of twelve people sharing a kitchen and several bathrooms (a shower half bath, two toilet half baths, and two full baths), however, I do have my own room and wash basin. I have eleven roommates and get along with all of them well, although I only personally spend time with a few of them. I was afraid we would always be on top of each other in the kitchen and bathrooms, but that’s hardly the case. There’s almost never anybody else in the kitchen with me or using any of the bathrooms when I am. One of my roommates was an exchange student for the semester, so it is likely we will get a new roommate once the new term begins.
Are the accents hard to understand?
Not usually, just the slang. Although, I find most northern accents hard to understand.
How do you get around?
As I mentioned, not a lot of people drive, and they don’t really need to. The rail system is really extensive, with stops at even the smallest towns. I will take the train pretty much everywhere within a five-hour radius such as the airport (about half an hour by train), London (about an hour by train), and other towns in the south. If the train journey is longer than five hours, it’s more economic to take a coach bus. However, train tickets can be really cheap if I buy them in advance. On top of the advance discount, I also have a railcard, which I bought for £30, that gives me 33% off all rail tickets for the year.
Between my university and Brighton, I generally take the bus as it stops right in front of my dorm, it runs almost all day, and gets closer to places I frequently visit (the grocery store, the shopping center, the seafront, etc.).
How much did your trips cost?
I flew with a budget airline called easyJet that cost about $100 for each return flight. My hostels typically cost about $30 per night, give or take $10. Other costs include food, the occasional drink, transport, activities, souvenirs and other miscellaneous expenses were also included and varied from country to country.
What is life in England like?
There aren’t many major differences between the United States and England. The major ones are the buildings and roads. The buildings are older, closer together and larger stores and restaurants are usually two floors rather than one widespread ground floor. As for the roads: they suck. It’s difficult to get anywhere as there is no easy access to the motorways from most parts of the city and the speed limit on the motorway is about 60 miles per hour anyway. Inside the city, all the interactions are roundabouts rather than stoplights and traffic is often slow moving. Although the driving age is eighteen, a lot of people I know don’t have their license and even fewer drive regularly. With the extensive public transit and national rail system, they don’t need to.
As for other, more minor things: I learn new words and phrases often, even after months of hearing the”language.” I’m pleased to say it’s easy to cook vegetarian meals, in fact, I would say wholesome, vegetarian meals are more accessible in England than in the United States. I find most British people a lot more reserved than Americans. One-stop shopping is more or less nonexistent, but the large shopping center in town makes it easy to get everything I need in a convenient location. It’s not as rainy as you’d think, just overcast most of the time. And when it does rain, it rarely rains hard.
If we missed catching up while I’m at home and would like to know more, don’t hesitate to ask.
Now that I’ve had some time at home, I’ve had some time to reflect on my time abroad. All in all, my semester was a great opportunity, but it had its rough patches. A while ago, I remember my dad saying that if he were to build his own house, he would do it twice, so the second house could have features and improvements that were overseen in the first house. I feel like that’s a bit like my time abroad; now that I know what it takes to succeed abroad, I can make my second term even better.
I fly back tomorrow night for a new semester of academics, traveling, and other shenanigans. Aside from my trip to Germany at the end of the month and a likely grand tour of Italy in the spring, I have not made any other travel plans… yet.