Hi there! My name is Emma Rappold, and I am a third-year Radio-Television-Film major and Art History minor from McKinney, Texas. This semester, I am studying Documentary Filmmaking and Photography in the University of Sussex’s Filmmaking program in Brighton, England. I chose Sussex because they were the most enthusiastic in helping me make a film abroad – my number one goal during my time. Nevertheless, both myself and lots of my peers were a little unsure of whether studying in an English-speaking country would truly feel like a “study abroad”; would it just feel like studying at another American university? Luckily, I have already been blown away with how many differences there are between UT and Sussex, and I do feel like I’m truly “living abroad” in the way I hoped I would.
Already, after being here for just over a week, I feel that confronting and understanding these differences between where I’m from and where I’m at now have challenged me to be a better person. Some of these differences have prompted frustration, some smiles, and some simply a shrug. Altogether, I am getting a chance to comprehend a place and group of people different from where I grew up, yielding a better way to put my own life in perspective.
For those of you wondering just how truly different things can be, even in places that share English as a dominant language, I’ve listed out 16 points of difference that I’ve found between my experiences in the US versus in the UK.
1. We are all familiar with the concept that British people drive on the other side of the road. What I did not expect was trying to figure out where to stand for the bus stop being so difficult. Where exactly am I going? What direction is that? What side of the road do I need to be on then? I stand a little confused at every crosswalk, and there’s definitely no UT tower landmark in the distance around here to reassure me that I’m going the right way!
2. People pay in cash more here. Not as much as in mainland Europe, but more than in the US. I always have to make sure I have a couple of coins on me too, since the values are higher and sometimes needed to get places… like the bathroom.
3. THERE ARE CASTLES HERE! I live in a suburban town called Lewes, which is a bit out of the city. Just a little over a mile walk from my homestay is a literal, real castle.
4. Ride-sharing apps have not caught on as much here. Apparently there are some legal battles going on, but at any given moment, there are only about 4 Uber drivers in the city of Brighton. I’m going to have to get used to calling taxi’s, which I cannot say I have done before.
5. Trains not only exist to connect cities, but are rather efficient and abundant. I took the train into London myself the other day, and it got me to the heart of the city in a little over an hour. It’s scarily cool to think how quickly I can get all across Europe this way.
6. And on the note of public transport, the buses around Brighton and Hove are much more built out and consistent than in Austin. They are all fancy, double-decker buses with WiFi and charging ports at every seat. I was a little nervous about a 15 minute bus ride to campus and a 40 minute bus ride to downtown Brighton, but this level of luxury makes it no problem at all.
7. The UK is less spread out and more walkable than I am used to. Hardly anyone my age owns a car. I can walk across the town I live in in under 30 minutes. When I was in London, I managed to see Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and the Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben (which is disappointingly under construction until at least 2021), in just one day’s walk.
8. Students don’t use notebooks like they do in the US. I went all over the city, searching for a Five Star, college-ruled notebook. I had to settle on a wide-ruled diary sort-of-thing to bring to class. I cannot imagine how my entire educational career would have looked if I did not have a reliable place to put my notes.
9. Before classes start, Freshman move in a week early for what is known as “Freshers Week.” It is a chance for the university to host mandatory orientation events, but also to provide some more low key ways for new students to get accustomed to living in the area. I have gotten to participate in many of the events as a newbie here. There were walking tours of campus and the city, café crawls, food tastings, meetups for different clubs (called “societies” here), and chances to explore Brighton’s nightlife and famous amusement-park style pier.
10. The UK version of the TV show Shark Tank is called Dragon’s Den. It’s the same premise, but for some reason, a television exec determined that dragons are more marketable here. This is a great conversation starter for me that is sure to make whoever I’m talking to laugh.
11. On that note, we may speak the same overall language, but there are a couple lesser-known differences in linguistic convention that I’ve been learning. Zucchini is “courgette” and eggplant is “aubergine.” Both of these are the French word for the vegetables. I found this out when ordering pizza and wondering what mystery food would come out atop the dish.
12. Visiting the grocery store for the first time was a unique experience. I found some new things – like yogurt-covered crackers – that I really enjoy. And I’ve found that I miss some things, chiefly Cliff Bars for when I need a quick bite on the go. Some things were just different, too, such as yogurt coming in squeezable paper cups.
13. I might see a Starbucks around every corner in Texas, but they are far less dominant here. There are 3 other major chains competing for our coffee money – Pret a Manger, Costa, and Café Nero. I’ve tried them all, and I think I like Café Nero the best. They all close at 5pm; as a person who thrives in Austin’s 24 hour coffee shops, I am not sure how I will get my work done.
14. WiFi??? It’s much less common, especially at coffee shops. In fact, one little coffee shop I stopped in at had a “no laptops” policy because they want you to focus on actually having conversations with the people you are with.
15. Coffee shop prices differ based upon your situation. It’s more expensive if you are going to sit down in the store, instead of take your drink to go. If you bring your own cup, you get a discount! Recycling is all around more popular here – there are pickups from homes twice a week and more available recycling bins across the city and university.
16. I am traveling alone for the first time in my life, when I am used to going everywhere with a group of friends. It can be lonely, and I feel a huge pressure to meet people – more than I did freshman year – since I have so little time here. Nevertheless, I do have a different, better, more loving view of the people I treasure and miss back home.
Amidst all of these differences, I have found some wonderful chances to relish in the similarities shared between all of humanity – I look forward to three more months of learning about myself and the world around me in this lovely place I call home for now.
This post was contributed by Emma Rappold, a 2018 Global Ambassador.
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