What You Will Gain From a Year Abroad

As a law student I had to add an extra year to my degree in order for me to go on exchange. While thinking about whether to really go through with this extra year, I was confronted by many who asked if it would really be worth “losing” a year, when I could be graduating and furthering my education or finding a job in that time instead. I had an answer for them then, and that answer remains the same now: an exchange year is anything BUT a lost year. Quite the opposite, you will gain a year of experience that nothing else can replace. And here’s why:

  • Independence
    Studying abroad in a country where you presumably don’t have any family or friends (at least not at first) forces you to become independent quickly. You will need to take care of yourself and learn how to do many things in a short amount of time (bank account, phone contract, housing, rent, groceries, laundry – literally everything your family might have been doing for you up until now). Although this sounds like a lot at once, it’s actually a good thing. Within the first month abroad you will have learned all of this and will be equipped for the future when you may have to do it all again.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
  • Perspective
    The life of a tourist is worlds away from the life of a local. Becoming a local in a foreign country means you will become familiar with the culture and way of living. It will change your perspective on the world and enable you to broaden the way you think, act and solve problems.
    It will also allow you to view your home country in a different light. The customs and beliefs that you are used to can now be viewed from an objective point of view.
  • Open Heart and Mind
    Exchange students easily learn to become more open-minded. Being confronted by a foreign culture on a daily basis will teach you to understand and accept views different to your own. It teaches you to value and respect differences rather than simply tolerate them. This is an irreplaceable trait to have, even in future when you may be working in an international community where disputes and problems need to be solved beyond borders and cultures.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
  • Friends Around the Globe
    Naturally you will meet people from all around the world, which also means you have even more opportunities to learn about additional countries and cultures and even more reason to travel further (chances of free accommodation are very high – I speak from experience!)
  • Discover Yourself
    Simply said, exchange is about growth. There will be moments when you are alone, but spending time just by yourself can really allow you to reflect on your character, beliefs, your experiences and what you have learned out of them. In the end, it is this kind of reflection that tends to produce the biggest growth and maturity.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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Loneliness or being alone? Tokyo challenges the social stigma

Tokyo – the city that never sleeps, the lights that never stop shining and crowds that never stop moving. It is ironic how a city  so alive is supposedly the most lonely: surrounded by the solitary hum of 35 million people.

I find this most noticeable on train journeys. Crammed between rows and rows of well ordered commuters and students, yet acutely aware that we are all covered by a film of silence, spread smoothly across us like bubble-wrapped sardines.IMG_20150915_184712 Continue reading

So Japan. What’s it like?

I came back from studying abroad for the Christmas break. Choosing to take a year in Japan rather than face looming graduation, I still chose to return to familiar soil. I didn’t want to miss out on food, family and friends. After four months of living in dormitories, trying to make sense of a new currency and balancing wanderlust with deadlines – it was a well needed break. Since returning and interacting with people of all sorts, I have constantly been faced with questions ranging from “How’s Japan?” to “What’s Japan like?” IMG_0707 Continue reading

One World Week Sussex is Coming up!

As One World Week approaches, I’m reminded of just how many international students I’ve met during my time at Sussex. Back home, with a population of around 50,000 students, it’s much more difficult to come across those students who have come to Texas from far off places. I did have a chance to interact with some of them, but the ratio was nowhere near that of Sussex, where I’m told there are five thousand (if not more!) students and staff members from other countries and continents. That is an incredibly impressive number, given that the university has around 14,000 students in total.

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Sussex Student to Gaijin Student

Many of you may be wondering what the word ‘gaijin’ means, I know I definitely was when I started to notice it being repeatedly murmured around me when I arrived at my new university in Tokyo. Gaijin, according to the trusty urban dictionary definition, just means foreigner or more specifically in my case: white/western person. The concept of being labeled as an outsider or standing out due to my “Western-ness” was, I guess very new to me. Having grown up in England my whole life, I’d never experienced what it was really like to immerse myself in a culture that is so far, different from what I know – I’d always been part of the majority.gaijin2 Continue reading

What’s in my bag?

Walking around campus, I often wonder how some people can fit everything they need for classes into a tiny handbag. Especially if you have one of those long days where you experience sunrise and sunset only on campus. On the other extreme are those that carry around at least two or three bags, with god knows what. So, what do we actually need for a day at uni? That’s obviously different for everyone, but I think you can get an idea of it by having a look at what’s in my bag.

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Sussex vs University California Santa Barbara: Exam madness and the value of mince pies.

Assessments are weird in the USA , or so I think anyway. I have regularly discussed with friends here about how different our education systems are and I think it an important factor to take in to account for anyone thinking of a year abroad.

As someone who strives to do well and is now in their third year of higher education, I feel like I have the UK system pretty well understood. Readings for seminars are important but I would love to meet the person who can honestly say they have never skipped the odd article. Or to meet a person who can say they have never been in a seminar where a significant portion of the class is clearly suffering after Oceana Wednesdays. (I had a 9am Thursday seminar in my first two years, and for some reason, attendance by others was always low!)US-UK-blend Continue reading