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!