My name is Luana Vasconcelos and I am currently in my second year of the English Literature with Creative Writing BA Course at the University of Surrey. I’m an International Student Ambassador at the University so I am eager to share my experience of moving to the UK and studying at Surrey in this blog. I hope you will find the information in this blog post helpful and if you have any questions you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
My Journey to the UK
I’m 23 years old and for most of this time I have lived in São Paulo, Brazil, with my family. However, my parents enjoyed traveling so I got to visit many amazing places including the UK.
In 2018 when I was in my second year studying History at the University of São Paulo (USP), I decided to take a semester off to improve my academic English skills and prepare to take the IELTS Exam (International English Language Testing System). I traveled to Brighton where I lived for 5 months while completing an International Exchange Program.
This first experience of living abroad was quite amazing but also challenging. I learned to live independently and how to adjust to the huge differences between Brazil and England. In my next blog post I will list the main ones and explain how I managed them.
During the program I learned about Universities in the UK and courses available. I decided upon my return to Brazil that instead of continuing to study History I wanted to change my degree to English Literature with Creative Writing. I wanted to stay in Brighton so I applied for a Foundation Year in Social Sciences at Bellerbys College Brighton.
This enabled me to apply to many Universities where I could pursue my course. I applied to a few including Sussex, Royal Holloway and Greenwich. However, I chose to come to Surrey for 3 main reasons: the module structure was the most interesting, the location of the campus close to London and Surrey’s high scores on the Guardian for general Universities ranking, course ranking, student satisfaction and teaching satisfaction. Surrey seemed like the ideal place to start my new life as a University student and now I can confirm that is true.
Studying at Surrey
Studying at Surrey is quite different from USP, Unicamp, Unesp or other universities in Brazil. There is a lot of independent study so you don’t have as many contact hours. For my course, most of the independent study means reading the compulsory texts and preparing to discuss them. For others I’m aware there might be specific activities to be completed like worksheets.
Teaching at Surrey is divided between 1 hour lectures when the teachers explain the historical, social and theoretical context and 1-2 hours seminars during which students discuss the texts as a whole class or in small groups. Usually I have about 8 to 10 hours of lessons per week leaving plenty of time for independent study but also to enjoy life in Guildford. If you want a more detailed description of how a week of studying English Literature with Creative Writing BA at Surrey is, check out https://www.surrey.ac.uk/news/week-life-english-literature-creative-writing-student
The University also organises many events and non-course related activities. There are all kinds of societies for most courses, nationalities, sports, LGBTQ and specific interests like drawing, reading, watching films, gaming, etc. Currently I am a part of Disney Society which is great fun as we watch films every week or sometimes have quizzes and there’s even a karaoke night in the works. There’s also Lit Society for my course, The Stag society which is the Uni magazine and a great opportunity for students who enjoy creative writing and want to get that first experience of being published. Lastly, I am a part of the Pet Society which mostly involves walking cute dogs every week. If you want to learn more about clubs and societies, you can have a look at https://www.ussu.co.uk/activity/Pages/Clubs.aspx
Living in Guildford
Outside the University, there are many things to do in Guildford. Despite being quite a small town, it is very lively with plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, stores and pubs. There is also a big cinema near the Train Station and a theatre close to the river. Not to mention that Guildford is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. If you’re a nature lover or just enjoy taking pictures of breathtaking views, this is the right place for you.
Everything is also quite close so if you want to go from University to town it’s maybe 15-20 minutes walking or you can also take the bus which unlike in Brazil is quite effective-the bus number 1 comes with a great discount for the annual pass. The distance between the main University campus and Manor Park where the Surrey Sports Park gym is located is about 20 minutes as well.
Guildford is also quite close to London, so if you ever want to get that feel of the busy city life or explore the million things you get to do in London-museums, parks, theatres, shops, nightclubs, etc-you can just hop on a train and be at London Waterloo in about 45 minutes. Though train tickets can get pricey, students are able to purchase an annual railcard for about 30 pounds which allows you to pay ⅓ of the price for every ticket. You can also plan ahead and get cheaper tickets this way.
Overall this was my introduction to what it is like studying at the University of Surrey and living in Guildford. I will be posting more blog posts in the upcoming months about specific aspects I find interesting or crucial to know prior to moving. I am hoping this can be a source of useful info that will teach you what to expect when moving to the UK and offer some guidance on the day-to-day challenges you might face and how to solve them.
Thank you for reading!