|Brighton can have snow too|
My first impression about the University of Sussex was how they welcome international students warmly. When I arrived in the UK for the first time in Heathrow Airport on 16th September 2018, just when I walked out the arrival gate, the university greeted me with someone holding the university signpost. She and other students standby there that day (and the day before) were sent by International Student Support (ISS) to help international students find their way (new) home to Brighton safely. They also provided a coach from Heathrow to Brighton for £20/person. It was quite a superb price, almost the same price with public buses and trains tickets, plus you attained the guides, and the coach went directly to the campus. Undoubtedly a valuable deal for students living on campus. After spending several days in the university, I realized how wide-scale the international students studying there, largely in postgraduate degrees, considering the fact that the University of Sussex has a few high-ranked postgraduate courses especially in social and political sciences (IDS and SPRU). Just look at my course, MSc Science & Technology Policy, we are a tiny group of 13 students come from Argentina, Chile, England, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, and Wales! According to Times Higher Education (THE) data 2018, the university ranks 161st in the world and 22nd in Europe, with 39% international students from around 13,000 students in total. Most people I meet in the campus respect international students and our English.
The second element I adore about the University of Sussex, which is also the ultimate unique key that everyone in the university is proud of and cannot stop bragging about it, is how pleasant the campus view, surrounded by South Downs National Parks! It was designed by its architect about 60 years ago, to be blended harmoniously with the natures around it. All the buildings are not high (only 3-4 floors) and there are countless green spaces with huge trees. A perfect and peaceful place to study. The recent Jubilee Building, home to Business School, has solar panels on the rooftop as the source of energy. That is how environment-friendly the campus is. Hills are just on our backyard. If we are bored with the woods (which rarely happen), we are just 30 minutes away from the beach and Brighton & Hove city center.
|National park in our backyard|
The next point I would highlight is how digital-minded the university is. It aims to build a smart campus by using cutting-edge technologies and tools. The Wi-Fi connection covers the whole campus including housing and library. The library itself is a high-tech place. It is open 7 days 24 hours where students and members can enter even when the staffs are not working. We can borrow a laptop for maximum 6 hours and can bring it out of the library, for example to our lecture classes. It is a mini slim Google laptop without a charger (that is why we must return it back after 6 hours for recharging), therefore it is indeed convenient and not heavy to carry. Once in the weekend, I borrowed the laptop from the library and brought it home (housing on campus), to be able to work on my essay assessment which the deadline was coming up shortly, while my daughter was fixed in watching movies with my own laptop. Borrowing and returning laptop and books are ideally easy by using the self-service machines. From time to time, the books are renewed automatically when there is no waiting list for those books, or we can renew it manually in Study Direct website or mobile app. This one-stop system includes all necessary functions, for instance, checking email and campus map, finding available laptops/PCs and vacant rooms around the campus, seeing lectures/seminars materials, accessing supports and helps, and so on.
|One-stop system that we always access everytime|
The other part of the university that I amaze is how they handle students extremely serious. The Students Union (SU) have full-time officers and staff to work dedicated to taking care what students need: facilitating clubs and societies, creating and promoting events, listening to students’ voice and bringing it to the university, and making changes. They are being paid to do that, except some voluntary students’ representatives who represent a specific group of students, such as Women Students, Mature Students, LGBTQ+ Students, International Students, Arts and Humanities Students, etc. I am proud to volunteer as the current Student Parents Representative. This is not just my way to pay back the university and some student parents that have given me support, but it also arranges me to meet and socialize with other people with the same struggle and brings my life here easier. If SU is not enough, we have ISS (I mentioned before) that gives guidance and information needed for international students, and arranged some fantastic events, for example, the Harry Potter Studio Tour! There is also the Student Life Center where students can consult about their life or mental health.
Finally, the opportunities to learn! Every module has a lecture class, where the teacher primarily explains the lesson; and a seminar class where students dominantly speak to discuss the material provided beforehand. Reading before the seminar is essential. Actually, no one cares if we do not read before, but we are the one who loses to some extent. It forces us to speak, express and challenge our ideas in front of the public, which is essential in whatever we will do after graduate later. Beyond the modules, the students can join a wide range of free seminars that suit their interests. For example, in my school department (SPRU), at least three general seminars per week are held to talk about science policy, innovation, energy, sustainability and climate change given by professors, or important people working in an international organization. Furthermore, for students with English as a second language, there is a large number of productive workshops about reading, speaking, and writing in academic English presented by Sussex Center for Language Studies. They also give 30 minutes one-to-one tutorial where we can ask them to review our essay, presentation, or any matter about academic English. We can book it as many session as we desire (if there is still available spot). In addition, Career and Employment Center creates similar events on how to write an essay and other academic reports, on top of their usual workshops about how to write Curriculum Vitae (CV) and to land a job. In a completely other note, students can obtain handy training to learn more about Information Technology (IT) gear, such as Microsoft Excel, EndNote, Photoshops, InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, and Mindmap (basic and advance), supplied by IT Services. These all are free, and students should seize this opportunity as much as they can.
Isn’t it amazing to study at the University of Sussex with all these world-class facilities and support? They welcome international students genuinely that we will not feel isolated even though we are in a minority community. The campus is in a remote area in the middle of a national park, far from busy city life but not too much distance from the city center. Following the technology trend, the university set up a digital smart campus to ease all students, lecturers, and staffs’ life. Moreover, they administer the students carefully and seriously in all aspects of students’ life, so the students can succeed in their studies. Lastly, they accommodate significant workshops and training inside and outside the main courses to equip students in facing the real life out there. It is up to the students to utilize these resources.