Amanda Guarino ’12

Hello all,

Traditionally, I think that August is a dragging month.  Usually I am sick of summer at this point, tired of humidity and lack of a school routine.  However, this year is a whole other story.  Every day I am so busy busy busy and this summer is escaping me.  Don’t get me wrong – I would still prefer this shortened summer as opposed to last year, when I was home from the beginning of May until the end of September, when I left for England.  I can’t believe that in 2 weeks I will be moving back onto Mount Saint James for the last time.  Let the stress and excitement of senior year begin!

As much as I am excited to get back to my Holy Cross routine and be with my HC friends everyday, I am a bit anxious about transitioning back.  I am pretty pumped for my class line-up – 3 Psychology classes and one Italian class!  I am really excited to be living with my best friends in a senior apartment.  I am excited for my brother, who is coming to Holy Cross as a freshman this year.  Finally, I am excited just to soak up every moment of senior year, getting in my lasts of everything and trying to make the most of every opportunity.  I can’t believe it all starts in 2 weeks!

Besides the fun-side of senior year, I am nervous about life after graduation.  Will I apply to grad school or get a job?  Where will I live?  What will my life be like?  What do I want to do for the rest of my life?  I can’t answer any of these questions right now, and I am becoming more anxious and stressed over these issues on a daily basis.

On another transitional note, my mind is still in England.  I think I am definitely experiencing a reverse culture-shock to America.  So, at the moment my year abroad is really affecting my views on things.  I think, as a whole, it’s a good thing that I have changed and experienced new and radically different things over the course of this past year.  However, change is difficult to deal with, and I am still making sense of this past year and how it relates to my daily routine life at home.

Alrighty, before I babble too much, I hope everyone is having a nice weekend.  I have been big into the back-to-school shopping this weekend, as well as chilling with family and friends.  Two more weeks to get everything done and still have some fun – craziness!!

The summer term was definitely a roller coaster, with so many things going on and dealing with my mixed emotions over leaving.  We had a 6 week break between the spring and summer terms, so it was definitely a high to see everyone after that and begin what would be my last term ever at Sussex Uni.  The break was great – I was in the USA for the first three weeks, spending time at home in NY, and visiting friends up at Holy Cross and down in Washington D.C. for the semester.  For the second half, I went to La Coruña in Spain to visit my friends, and then I spent a week in Greece (Santorini and Athens) followed by a long weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. 

Sussex only had 4 and a half weeks of classes during the summer term and then roughly the same amount of time reserved for exams.  Therefore there was a lot of down time, but I filled it with interesting things.  For instance, the royal wedding was a national holiday, so it was so fun sitting in my kitchen with Charlotte and watching 5 hours of footage.  The next day, I departed for Sicily to meet up with my dad and meet for the first time some cousins of mine who live there.  Later on in May I had one last trip – this time to Brugge, Belgium and Amsterdam, Holland with Nora.  I also did fun things with flatmates in this time including trips to see their new houses for next year, special flat dinners, a barbeque, lots of birthday celebrations, enjoying the warm Brighton weather and soaking up as much as I could about English life, culture and of course the people I lived with.

I studied a lot for exams in this time and took my exams over a very spread out period – May 28th, June 6th, June 9th and finally June 23rd.  I came home for a week for my brother’s high school graduation and then finally moved out of the flat the day after my last exam.  At that point in time, the girls had moved out of the flat already and it was just me and the boys.  The year ended on a good note, but it was so strange leaving.  I have never lived somewhere and with people that you never know when you will see again, so it was really hard. 

As excited as I was to get back to my normal life in America, I realized that England is a part of me now.  At this point in time, it is a month and a half since I left England and I miss it every day.  I miss Brighton, I miss my flatmates, and I miss the culture and the lifestyle.  On the bright side, however, there is more of it to come!  Not only do I plan on having my flatmate Danielle visit me in a couple weeks, but I will be visiting England again before 2011 ends.  Oh life, it can be quite ironic sometimes.  If you asked me what I thought about this whole experience in December, I would have told you I had had enough.  But if you asked me in June, I would have told you that I just can’t get enough.

By the end of the autumn term, I had had my fill of Sussex.  At the end of the winter break, I wasn’t exactly keen on coming back to England.  However, things really turned around this term, making it a drastic difference from the trying autumn term.

One of the main things I loved about this term was that it formed a regular routine week after week.  I am such a routine person so needless to say, I was a bit lost the first term.  In the spring term I loved my classes and my schedule – I took two art history classes as well as health psychology and philosophy of mind.  I became closer with my flatmates during this time.  Whereas the first term was more about getting to know everyone and do everything all the time, people settled down a bit during this term and started to hang out with the same people regularly.  The fact that they all had to choose their housing for next year in January changed up some friendship groups and dynamics, but by the end of the term it was all sorted, as they say in England.

The spring term also had a bit of travel, which was so exciting for me!  In England, I got to see Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon as well as another trip to London when one of my best friends, fellow blogger Nora, visited me for my 21st birthday!!  Internationally, I was finally able to visit Dublin, Ireland where I spent a few days visiting my good friend and fellow blogger Amanda.  After seeing Ireland in February, I made it to Barcelona, Spain for Carneval Weekend in early March.  Travel was a big theme of the spring term because I spent so much time organizing flights and travel info, and I definitely realized that travelling abroad is a lot harder to organize / carry out than one might expect.  Nonetheless, it was totally worth it!

On another good note, my computer worked amazingly well during this term and had no issues!  For me, the spring term was quite peaceful because I really was enjoying daily life, the people I lived with and opportunities to travel.  Even though it was winter, the time flew!  I was right in the heart of the abroad experience – having a good time, well enough in so that I knew people and how to do things but still many months away from the end.

The autumn term was all about adjustment, trial and error, and learning how to do basic life things in a different country.  Of the three terms, this was definitely my least favorite.  While I have always liked my flatmates, in the beginning of the year I was very aware of the 2-3 age gap between us and I thought they were difficult to live with.   I am so used to a fast-paced life at school, whether I am always working or in class or in activities, and I could not understand how they could sleep all day, never do homework, and stay up all night.   I was definitely a lot quieter back then, but my flatmates claimed that they were a lot more quiet and reserved in the autumn term as well.  Basically, we were all adjusting in our own ways to life at Sussex Uni.

I was frustrated a bit in the autumn term in several areas.  Some of the clubs and organizations seemed promising but then they would never hold any meetings, so that was a source of frustration.  Food shopping and other errands in Brighton required patience because I didn’t know the city as well at that time or where to find things.  In terms of academics, figuring out a schedule with the right number of credits, understanding the British marking scheme for grades and figuring out what school office to turn assignments into was challenging and frustrating.  As someone who has never gotten sick before at college, I had 4 colds over the course of this first term.  I also took about 3-4 trips to ITS because my computer would not turn on and had several issues, which was very stressful worrying about that computer!  To top it all off, I had to cancel my trip to Ireland last minute due to, in my opinion, a dusting of snow (you could still see the grass!).  I rescheduled the flight 3 times but this minimal amount of snow not only cancelled my flights, but closed all roads, buses and trains, thus stranding me on the Sussex campus.  It makes a good story to tell now but it was NOT fun at the time.

With all of those frustrations aside, some of my best memories of the year are back in the autumn term.  For instance, on weekends I had the chance to travel to different parts of southern England and the midlands, which was a fantastic way to see the country!  I think that many Americans do not look past London much when they think of England, but there is so much character in the small towns and distinct regions of the country.  I would have loved to see the north, as there is a big north-south divide in England, but I will save that for another trip.  While I did not make it to any other countries during these first 11 weeks, seeing other towns gave me great perspective on Brighton and my own experience.

My dad visited in Week 8, which was a great chance to spend some time out of the flat and in the hotel!  We went to London one day and it was a really nice week.   The flat Christmas party, which involved all our neighbors as well, was such a highlight of the year and literally reminded me so much of Thanksgiving at home!  Looking back on it all now, people spent so much time hanging out in small groups with just their flatmates.  In hindsight, I cherish the memories with the original flat of 5 (Charlotte, Harry, Josh, Jason and myself).  When Danielle moved in with us in late November, we were initially worried that our dynamics as a flat would change, but Danielle has been an amazing flatmate and has had such a positive impact on the flat.

So, while I cannot re-hash every moment of the first term, it was really just a time of carving out a routine and familiarizing myself with another country, new people, new university and a new way of life.  These things were all worth it in the end, but they took time and I didn’t necessarily see all of the benefits of the experience at that time.  Being homesick and frustrated with how to do things were common emotions for me, and I will say that I learned a lot of patience from this first term!  However, looking back, these challenges of the first term paved the way for smoother and happier spring and summer terms, and overall it makes an interesting story to my year abroad.

Sorry for the length of this blog, but please tune in to my reflections on the spring and summer terms, once I write them of course!

Hello,

Well, my final week at Sussex was quite a sad and interesting time.  The summer term is a bit odd because we all ended classes in May, so June is basically just a time to prepare for exams, if you have any.  So for my last week, it was just me and the boys in our flat, with everyone studying.  We each had different amounts of work to do – I had 4 exams total, but only one left at this point.  My flatmate Harry had 2 exams, Jason had 8 and Charlotte and Danielle didn’t have any, which was why they moved out of the flat early.  So it is definitely interesting having exams spread over the course of a month, and a lot of people were quite tired of studying by the end of June.

 Unfortunately, the weather was horrible for my last week in Brighton, with lots of rain and dampness.  I know that this is ‘stereotypical British weather’ but I have found this stereotype to be more hype than reality.  When it rains, it rains for a few days but it can also be sunny for weeks at a time.  The grass was even turning brown in May because southern England was experiencing its’ third largest dry spell, according to my radio.  Overall, I thought the weather was pretty mild throughout the year, not generally too cold but never really hot.  If you ever visit, bring lots of layers, an umbrella and also sunglasses, as you never really know what you will need.

Anyway, so in addition to studying and staying dry, I also packed, cleaned my room out completely, and said goodbye to my Lewes Court family.  On my last night in England, I went flat-hopping, saying goodbye to the neighbors in my building (Block 2) as well as Block 1.  This was quite a surreal experience because it is very hard living with people for a year and then not knowing when you will ever see them again.  I gave away all of my cutlery, pots, pans, plates and other items that I would not be able to take home.  It was quite funny seeing the boys claim what they wanted.   

The next morning was Friday and I knew I would be leaving around noon for Heathrow.  Jason was up early, as he had a three-hour exam that morning, and Harry was up revising for an exam he had that afternoon.  I was running around getting everything organized for the airport, but definitely built in time to hang out with my mates before leaving.  We woke Josh up right before I left, and a few minutes later I was on the 25 bus into Brighton for the last time.  

I did think I was going to be more of a mess when I said goodbye to the boys, but it felt like the natural time to leave.  I was happy to have the year end on a good note.  Now that I am home, I miss all of my flatmates like crazy!  This is quite an ironic statement from the beginning of the year, when, as incoming freshmen, the flatmates had so much energy and were a bit difficult to live with.  However, we have all changed over the course of the year, and in my next set of blogs I will reflect on each of the three terms.  Hope everyone is having a relaxing summer and 4th of July Weekend!

Hello,

Let me start off by saying Happy Father’s Day!!  An interesting fact (wel, I find it interesting):  Father’s Day in England and Father’s Day in America are on the same day, but the same is not true of Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day in England was late March or early April, whereas in America it is always in May.

Anyway, today I am home with my family but tonight it’s back to the airport, on my way to England for the last time this year!   I am so excited!!!!  I am also extremely sad, as it is really difficult to live with people for 9 months and then not know when you are ever going to see them again.  Ah, I am such a mix of emotions these days.  I am definitely not one to say that the study abroad year as a whole flew by, as I think that the first half dragged while the second half flew.  It has definitely been a lesson in giving people and experiences a chance, and now I don’t know what to do with myself as it is nearly over.

Ok, off to do some packing.  Since I have accumulated a lot of things in my flat over the year, I am basically bringing nearly empty bags with me back to England to bring the rest of it home.  And of course I have an exam on Thursday that still needs attention.  So a busy day for me for sure.  Hope everyone has a great Father’s Day, and I will update you again soon!

Hello,

June has been quite a busy month so far – revising for and taking exams, soaking up my last minutes in England, coming home for my brother’s high school graduation and preparing myself for saying goodbye and moving out of my flat.  Definitely a mix of emotions to say the least.  Additionally, in that time, both Charlotte and Danielle have moved out of the flat to start working for the summer (Danielle will actually be in America!!!).  Anyway, although I still have one week and one day left until I am on my way home for good, I am dedicating this post to my amazing flatmates, whom I miss so incredibly much as I write this from my home in NY.

On Tuesday of last week, the 6 of us went out to Donatello’s, one of my favorite restaurants in Brighton, for a nice meal together.  In addition to the amazing 3-course menu and endless food, it was definitely one of the last times all six of us were together, just us.  Although I love my neighbors at Sussex greatly and the fact that they always come to our flat to visit, it was so nice to spend time with just my flatmates.  I really am so grateful that I was randomly placed with such amazing people and that all six of us managed to get along quite well throughout the year.  Although I thought it was quite difficult to live with incoming freshmen in the beginning of the year, they have definitely grown on me and I now find their antics rather amusing.  Living with them has been an aspect of study abroad that I could not have possibly planned for, but it has definitely been one of my highlights of the experience.

A brief history of the flat:  We originally started out as ‘the flat of 5′ – me, Harry, Jason, Josh and Charlotte.  We had a Chinese roommate named Su, and although we tried to speak with her and include her in things, the language barrier and cultural differences were too much for Su and she ended up making all Chinese friends.  Then, one evening in late November, Danielle knocked on our door and announced that she was most likely going to be doing a room swap with Su and moving into our flat.  This caught all of us off-guard, as we were not expecting a new flatmate at all.  We felt bad that Su would be moving out.  Also, since the 5 of us got along so well, we worried that the dynamics of the flat would change if Danielle moved in.  Within 3 days of our initial and unexpected meeting, Danielle moved in, and I must say she has been an extremely positive influence on the flat!  While some things did of course change upon her arrival (such as the flat definitely becoming a lot girlier for instance), Danielle fit in so well and I’m glad we were able to spend 2 terms as flatmates.  Wow, as I write this it all feels so long ago!  Crazy!

Fast forward 6 and a half months to the end of last week.  Charlotte packed up all her belongings and went home for the summer.  I flew back home for a week while the boys each went home for a few days and Danielle packed to spend the summer in America (she is on the plane right now actually!).  So, at this point in time, flat 27 is just the boys (I will re-join them in Week 9).  Looking back, we have all had so many great memories this year, and it is definitely a bittersweet moment knowing how little time is left.  I am ready to begin the summer officially, be back at Holy Cross and spend time with family and with my American friends.  However, I really am so sad to say goodbye.  Really sad. 

Ok, time to continue revising for my Philosophy of Mind exam, as it is one week from today and quite confusing.  I will post some pics below of the flat 27 family at our lush meal! 

From left: Danielle, Josh and Charlotte

From left: Jason, Harry and myself

All 6 of us at Donatello's Italian Restaurant in Brighton

Hello,

I hope that everyone in the USA had a great Memorial Day Weekend, especially HC’s Class of 2011, who graduated this past Friday.  Over in England, we have had a bank holiday.  Yesterday (Monday) practically everything was closed, even the library for a good part of the day!  It was definitely not the most exciting of weekends for me, as the boys in my flat went home for a few days, making it pretty quiety and empty in flat 27.

On a positive note, the sun is peaking through for the first time in days!  While the commonly held stereotype of England is that it is always rainy, I have to disagree with this.  See, when it rains or is gloomy out, the weather will stay in that pattern for a few days in a row.  However, when it is sunny out, the weather can also stay that way for a few days, even up to a couple weeks! 

On another random note, I am studying for exams.  This really is the only thing I have to do this week.  I have 2 exams next week and then one on June 23rd.  Then, it’s all over.

So, although most of my blogs seem to have a theme, this one seems to be all over the place.  However, that is kind of a reflection of how I have been lately.  In many ways I am ready to go home – ready to see friends and family and return to Holy Cross and normal life for me.  But in many other ways, I really love Brighton and I absolutely love my flatmates, which are things that I obviously can’t bring back to America.  So, as I soak up my last days at Sussex, I am quite reflective – looking back on how myself and all my flatmates and neighbors here have changed over the year and wondering how the year is going to end.  Since people have exams at different times throughout the month of June, some are done earlier than others and then go home.  So it really makes you appreciate every moment with everyone all together, because you don’t know when the last one will be.

Hello!

So my title of this blog is a bit of a contradiction because this morning I had my last art class ever at Sussex! This was so sad, and even more so when a few hours later I realized that it was my last lecture I will ever sit in at Sussex Uni! I really can’t believe it.

Art has been one of the greatest and most unexpected things of my year abroad. Back in the autumn term, I was signed up to take a first-year course called ‘Stories of Art’, which I was basically using to fulfill my art requirement for HC. While the class was interesting in itself, I was more inspired outside of class by my flatmate, Charlotte and my neighbor, Frankie, who lives 2 floors below me. Both of them study art history, and as first-years they happened to be in Stories of Art as well. It was fun going to class with my friends and meeting their other art history friends in the lectures. I really enjoyed learning about Italian Renaissance art, but the lectures were so varied that I was able to learn about a wide range of art.

When it came time to choose my classes for the spring and summer term, I enrolled in 2 art classes. The first of these was Communicating Art, which was another first-year course with Charlotte and Frankie. The second class was called Art of the Modern Era and was a second-year course that Charlotte and Frankie will take next year. Each class explored different themes, and I am proud to say that 3 of my 8 classes this year have been art history classes.

This week, Week 5, is actually the last week of classes of the Summer Term. Normally, classes end in Week 10, but weeks 6-10 of this term are reserved for exams. With the art classes, instead of sitting a formal exam, you complete slide tests during the final week of the term. These are online, and you have from Monday to Thursday to complete them. Last night, all of the art history girls came over to the flat, where we studied for the Communicating Art slide test. I stayed up quite late working, so needless to say I had to drag myself out of bed to attend my 9 AM lecture for Art of the Modern Era. Yesterday was my last Communicating Art, and as of now I have no more classes left to attend at Sussex. I still can’t get over it.

The reason I named this entry ‘Endless Art’ is because I feel that I have been living and breathing art this week as I have been completing the online slide tests. While the information is interesting, after working on it all day every day for the past few days, I feel like I am about to explode art! Well, only 48 hours until everything is due…

OK, back to the work! Writing this blog has been my break from working. Below are a couple pictures of Charlotte and Frankie, my art history friends at Sussex!

Charlotte and I

Frankie and I

Hello all,

I am taking a break from studying various modern art movements to explain to you all two exciting meals that occurred this weekend.  Firstly, a few days ago Danielle decided to host a dinner party in our flat for all of us flatmates.   Those who attended included all of us who live in flat 27 as well as all honorary flatmates, which basically consist of others who live in Lewes Court but are always here.  ‘The meal’, as it came to be called, was held a couple days ago on Friday and was quite a feast!

The night before, Danielle drove the boys to Tesco to pick up ingredients for our Mexican-inspired menu.  When I woke up Friday morning (as they had gone grocery shopping literally at midnight), the kitchen was stocked with chips, salsa, guacamole, meat, beans, tortillas and many other things.  I did a personal grocery run at Asda later in the day and picked up some tubs of ice cream as well as some fresh flowers to spruce up the kitchen.  Needless to say, everyone was pretty excited for ‘the meal’.

Danielle wanted to cook everything herself, and she is quite an amazing chef, I must say.  The boys were in charge of buying groceries and dragging in the kitchen table from flat 28 while the girls straightened up the kitchen, helped Danielle, and decided where everyone was going to sit.  Sitting at one long table, the 10 of us piled our plates with cheesy nachos, salad and burritos.  We chatted and listened to music as we ate, and we were all so full afterwards.  Danielle did a great job, and it was so great to have a meal all together!

I thought Mexican food was a great choice, seeing as it is not as popular in England in general as it is in America.   The leftovers were so popular the next day, with Charlotte and the boys in my flat racing to the fridge to get the last of the burritos. 

Saturday afternoon I went with my flatmate Harry and some neighbors from flat 23 to the Stanmer Tea Rooms in the park!  While I walk through this part at least once a week, I have never been to the tea rooms and have always heard my mates rave about how good the food is.  Yesterday afternoon was one of the most gorgeous weather days, so we sat on picnic tables outside and ate a variety of foods.  I just had a traditional scone with cream and jam but many others got tea, the farmer’s breakfast (consisting of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans and toast), Viennese cookies and ice pops.  It was so relaxing, sitting in the sun. 

Ok, that is about it for the excitement of this weekend, meal-wise.  Currently I am sitting in my room in my pajamas on this cloudy Sunday morning while my mates are sleeping.  With week 5 starting this week, it is the official last week of classes for me at Sussex Uni!!!!  In addition to finishing classes, I have to complete two art slide test essays this week as well as my first official exam (ahh!) on Saturday.  So, I am expecting a stressful few days ahead.

Alright, I hope everyone’s weeks are going well.  Especially for seniors at HC, soak up your last moments – I can’t believe you all graduate this week!!!  OK, back to work for me.  I will post some pics of the meal below.

my newly purchased flowers

setting the table

delicious food!

a relatively recent photo of Danielle and I (more flatmate photos will come in future blogs)