I thought this month I would do a slightly more informative, hopefully useful blog for anyone who is interested in the variation between student living in the good ol’ US of A versus back home. Having conversed with a fair few friends at different US universities I can say with some certainty that supermarket food is more expensive here than at home. Particularly when it comes to fresh produce, the prices differ quite substantially. Even in the cheapest supermarket here, the average price for a pepper, for example, is $2.50. $2.50!! Yeah, OK, that translates to a little less in pounds, but seeing as you can get a pack of 3 for a quid in Sainsbury’s, I’m gonna go ahead and say that they’re ridiculously expensive.
I would say a substantial, long-lasting food shop here usually comes to about $60, which is about £43. While that doesn’t sound like loads, for the cheapest supermarket here it’s quite a lot! Compared to Aldi, (beloved, sorely missed Aldi) where an average shop is around the £25 mark, it’s fair to say that food costs more here. Drinking, on the other hand, is cheaper here. While I know alcohol isn’t for everyone, it simply does factor into many a student life. A 1.5l bottle of Barefoot wine (which I personally think is a pretty pleasant wine) can be bought here for about $10 (£7), whereas back home you’d pay that for 750ml. Similarly, the average cocktail here costs about $6, but back in Brighton it would be about £6. So essentially, the UK wins on food, and America wins on drink.
Something I wasn’t really expecting when I came out here was the difference in the way work is assessed. At Sussex, the average way the module will be assessed is an essay or two and an exam. Maybe you’ll have a group presentation thrown in there (oh, the joys) but essentially you are required to do 2 or 3 pieces of work. In America, meanwhile, the average assessment breakdown will include weekly quizzes, research papers, book reports, group projects, midterm exams, final exams, and often participation. While this method of assessment could be considered fairer due to the fact that you have multiple opportunities to do well, rather than just having one essay a term and an exam at the end, it can be extremely stressful. I’ve had weeks where I have had three short papers, a book report, and a quiz all due on the same day. And often the papers will only be set a week or so in advance of the deadline. At Sussex the worst I have had is two essays due in the same week, but seeing as you normally get the titles about a month in advance, it’s really my own fault whenever I have to write two essays simultaneously the night before a deadline. When said essays are worth half of your entire grade, the pressure really is ON, whereas knowing that the paper you’re writing in the US is only worth 7%, you can relax a little.
Overall I would say that there are certain aspects of American student life that are preferable, but the same goes for back home, which turns out to be good because it means I can both enjoy this year but also look forward to my return to Sussex!