Day Two

I’m just hemorrhaging money on this side of the Atlantic. I’m looking forward to when things settle down and I can stop spending quite so much money. Of course, I haven’t even gotten my course text list yet, so we’ll see how optimistic that is.
The staff here at Sussex are wicked friendly, as are most of the people I’ve met around Brighton. Helpful, too. One or two of them have been excited about my American-ess, which is highly entertaining to me (as is the fact that you can study American Studies here). The moment I open my mouth I’m marked as American, and quite possibly before that, I don’t know.
Something that does surprise me is how much people here will reveal to strangers. Americans have a habit of saying, “How are you?” like you’d say hello, it’s just a greeting, they don’t really want to know. And while I find that really irritating – if I ask you how are you doing, I will give you a chance to answer – the English seem to swing the other way and give me their whole life story in the answer. Which is fine, just different.

Eighteen year olds are eighteen year olds universally. One on one, they’re perfectly pleasant near-adults that I can connect with as a human. The problem is that so many of the travel in packs. All six plus of them will walk abreast on a sidewalk (pavement) and refuse to move for you, even if you’re carrying six grocery bags and an unwieldy suitcase, so you need to run off the curb and into the road in order to pass them. A group of them will clump up a line at the grocery store and only one of them will be carrying anything to check out. I fail to see why all five of them need to be in line to buy one basket of groceries, especially a line as long as the lines at the Co-op have been. They’re also loud drunks in the hall yard, with lots of echo off the buildings, but I’ll forgive them their two am loudness until classes start.
I feel like a crotchety old woman.

International students are an interesting breed. We’ve been grouped together pretty thoroughly as far as orientation week events and housing go, which feels weird to me because aside from the visa process and my accent, I have more in common with the British students than I do the Chinese. I wish I could have opted out of it – or at least that there was more mingling. Most international students seem to fall somewhere on a scale between “Wow You’ve Done Some Really Awesome Things You’re So Cool” and “…You don’t speak English, do you?” Which I mean, wow. I’m periodically overwhelmed at this whole process – it’s like freshman orientation all over again, only with a different culture, but I can’t imagine doing it all this when I didn’t even speak the language. Let alone take classes in that language when I can’t carry on a conversation in the language. One advantage of living with all international students though is I just made crepes for dinner and shared them with the Chinese students who were making fish balls, who shared their dish with me. Food is the best sort of intercultural exchange, truly.
Sussex is huge. Some perspective: the undergraduate university I went to had 790 odd undergraduates. Northfield, the group of on campus residences I am living in, holds 770. It is by no means the only on campus housing group, and there’s a whole slew of people in home stays and off campus. I’m pretty sure it’s larger than the town I grew up in, which, while isn’t hard to do, is still pretty impressive.2 The campus is unoffensive. I would not call it pretty, but I went to a very beautiful Southern women’s college with buildings that predate the American Civil War1, with that traditional Southern American architecture of pillars and wrap around porches. And weeping willows. Sussex just can’t compete.
It takes me about 20 – 30 minutes to walk across campus (Northfield is at the northern most part of campus by some cow pastures, so every walk is a walk across campus. And yes, I can see cows from my window), which is a long enough walk that sometimes I stare longingly at the bus that runs throughout campus and down to city centre Brighton and wish I could justify the expense of taking it.
I have two other complaints. One is that there is no cell phone service in my flat, or just about any of the flats in Northfield. The other is that the internet is a pretty inconsistent connection (which is something I just submitted a ticket for in a moment of connection. None of my documentation has a phone number for IT Services, which is fun when your internet is flat out not working). At the best, my connection cuts out every twenty minutes. At worst, I get two sentences in a chat in before the internet cuts out again. So, when I’m in my room, I’m pretty cut off from the world. It’s like attempting to send things by telegram. The wifi also does not appear to work, or at least I cannot connect – and if the connection process is anything like the registration process was for Ethernet, I won’t be able to get my kindle or my android on this network with any ease, if at all. And as I don’t get reception for my phone OR 3G for my kindle in my room, I have some very pretty bricks. Well, one of those bricks has books on it, but loading more books on it is not possible from campus.
Orientation begins in seriousness for me tomorrow, but today I wandered around the “Freshers Fair” which is geared towards freshman but there’s one or two things I want to be involved in on campus. Neither one of which is the Anarchist Organization. Yes. There is a student group that is an Anarchist Organization. Cute. They looked like they took themselves too seriously for me to ask about the contradictory nature of that.
Undergraduates take themselves so seriously. It’s really hard not to be “Aww. You’re so cute!” I’m told that’s condescending (which, as Luke jokes, is when you talk down to people).

1 I know the Brits make fun of American’s idea of history, but this University is only 50 years old. So the American Civil War really does predate it. 😛
2 Edit: Sussex University has 12,445 students and the town I grew up in (age 5 to 16) had 6,123 people.

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