Susie, an Olin College of Engineering student, packed her bags and left Boston for Brighton, England (for the Spring semester) and has shared some great tips from her experiences at University of Sussex so far.
Hello everyone! I’m Susie, a junior at Olin College of Engineering near Boston, MA. I’m studying general engineering with a concentration in human-centered software design. Basically, I love UX research and I love to code, so I combined the two into a major. This semester, however, I’m a second-year at the University of Sussex studying Informatics in lovely Brighton, England!
I had never considered going abroad- when I was checking out colleges it was never a point of consideration. As an engineering major I assumed I wouldn’t have the flexibility in my schedule to be able to leave my school for a whole semester. As my sophomore year passed this became more and more of a reality. I started planning my class schedules in such a way that I would be able to study abroad if I ended up deciding to do so. All of a sudden, it was halfway through my first semester of junior year, and I was faced with the final decision. Turns out I had done a really good job of leaving the door open, because try as I might, I couldn’t think of a single reason not to go. So I paid my deposit, signed some forms, and it was official.
It didn’t feel real, however, until about a week before my fall semester ended, when I was packing up my room at Olin and saying goodbye to my friends for 9 months (6 in England, and 3 in Seattle at an internship). My life became a flurry of last minute preparations, shopping, and visiting friends before leaving the country midway through January. My adventures abroad started off strong, with a 10 day journey through Europe with my parents and my high school friend, including trips to Copenhagen, Milan, Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Rome, La Spezia, Genoa, and finally London.
Once in the UK, I said goodbye to my parents, and met up with an Arcadia administrator along with the two other students going to Sussex through Arcadia for a several day orientation. It was here that I learned essential tidbits of information like saying “trousers” instead of “pants,” that I go to “university” or “uni” instead of college, and how to get cheap flights through Europe. Arcadia tried their best to prepare us for life in England, reminding us that we were foreigners in an entirely new culture, even if we did already understand the language. With that, we headed down to Brighton and Sussex Uni. Brighton is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, and I’m completely in love with it already.
After a few days of orientation at Sussex, classes (or modules, as they’re called in England) started. I’m taking four modules: Interaction Design, Sociology of Everyday Life, Music and Society, and American Popular Music, all of which I love. I had saved up general humanities credits to take while abroad, so I found myself doing a lot of reading and writing- a nice break from the engineering and design projects that I was used to back at Olin. Classes in the UK are very self-directed- I only have two assignments for each of my modules, and a ton of outside reading. The nice thing about this, however, is that I can do that reading on airplanes and trains while I’m exploring Europe- since the beginning of my term, I’ve also visited Paris, Stockholm, Nice, Monte Carlo, Pisa, Florence, and Venice!
This experience has absolutely exceeded my expectations already. I was nervous about leaving my top-notch engineering school for a semester taking humanities classes abroad, but it has been so worth it. I’ve met some amazing people and seen some amazing places. I was so focused on my studies at Olin that I had lost sight of other loves of mine- meeting new people, travelling, music, theater, trying new foods, etc. This semester is allowing me to spend time in these areas of myself that had gotten overshadowed by the constant stream of problem sets and project work back home, and I couldn’t be more grateful.