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Study Abroad - Victor Sledge

Name: Victor Sledge

Degree: English and Journalism

Home University: Georgia State University, USA

When did you study at Northumbria University?

I studied at Northumbria University during the academic year 2018/2019.

What subject did you study at Northumbria?

English Literature.

Why did you decide to do Study Abroad?

Oddly enough, when I was in the third grade, I made a bucket list. One of the things I was most eager to accomplish on that list was going to the UK. I always imagined that I’d just visit Big Ben or something for a week, but I was obviously thinking too small. Studying abroad has always just seemed a part of the ideal university experience. Not many people can say that they’ve been through education in a totally different system than they have at home, so I felt like I had to take advantage of it. Also, I just wanted to know how it felt to learn from a different culture’s lens. I feel like the States have a way of making everything we learn about us, and I just wanted to know what other people felt about a classic novel or a political happening. Even if it wasn’t in the UK, I just wanted to see how other nationalities thought about the issues we spend our university experience talking about. 

Why did you decide to come to Northumbria University?

Northumbria University has a longstanding exchange program with my home university, so it was actually introduced to me at the end of my first semester there. The experience of living in England (especially as an English major) was definitely the main consideration. Then, when I heard about the courses Northumbria offered and being able to learn about books from an English perspective, I was sold. Specifically, the reading lists really caught my attention. I know that’s such a stereotypical response for an English major, but tackling prolific novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 12 Years a Slave, or The Awakening isn’t easy. So I was excited to see how professors at Northumbria would approach them. 

What is your favourite memory of being at Northumbria?

My favorite memory is definitely my first week here as a whole. Even though I’m not a freshman, Fresher’s Week was such an experience for me. Campus and Newcastle felt very electric for the whole week. I was totally lost every day and was going through a bit of a culture shock, but somehow it was still so fun.

The first week was also when I met all the friends that I still have now. Even though we went to the same home university, that week was when I first started hanging out with my friends that came over with me. So just to have that feeling of experiencing a new place with new friends, and then meeting people from here who were so friendly and who I’ve grown so close to seems so surreal. The energy between everyone felt very new. Everyone was so willing to talk to each other and meet new people which was so refreshing. Then going to the events on campus that showed you all the organizations you could join, and seeing that even though I wasn’t from this country, I still had so much in common with these people was a great introduction to Northumbria. It was one of those weeks that you know you’ll never recreate again, so it’s definitely my favorite memory. 

Did you find living in Newcastle expensive?

I’d say living in Newcastle is about on par with living in Atlanta, GA. I think the biggest difference in my expenses outside of converting from pounds to dollars is the fact that there isn’t a university cafeteria with a meal plan attached to your accommodation cost like there is at home. So, to budget out a grocery bill every week instead of it being a part of my total university costs took some getting used to.

First moving into my accommodation was pretty expensive, but only because there were so many necessities to buy that I usually take for granted. It was buying things like kitchen and bathroom supplies that seemed to add up, but the cost of individual items weren’t much more expensive than they are at home. I also go out with my friends a lot more here than I do at home, so pubs can get a bit expensive, but I find that it’s all about budgeting before you go out. There are also a ton of places to work around Newcastle that help out with expenses. 

How will you use your experience of Studying Abroad at Northumbria in the future?

Studying here will obviously help strengthen my transcript, but the personal benefits I’ll have seem a lot more valuable. I’m personally the first person in my family to live outside of the States, so I feel like I can use my experience to start a new norm in my family, especially with my younger relatives who may want to do something like this in the future. It makes me feel like I’ve started a precedent for them to see. At the same time, learning how to live away from family seems like a skill in itself because my family mostly lives within a couple of hours of each other, so there’s always that safety blanket.

Being here, I’ve learned to be way more self-sufficient and that I don’t have to stick to the status quo to survive. I also feel like I have a new confidence that I’ll always carry with me just from knowing that I was able to come to a foreign country alone and adapt to it so well. It has been really encouraging to know that I have the courage and the wherewithal to take chances like this. I feel like a bigger risk taker and more of a go-getter after being here for a while.

I also now have such a different perspective on so many issues from listening to my English friends’ opinions on them which I feel like I’ll also take back home with me to use in the future. As far as the rest of my university experience, I actually have plans to apply to some UK university master’s programs, so I’ll also have this experience to help me re-adjust if I come back for that. 

What advice would you give to a student who is thinking of coming to Northumbria to Study Abroad?

Do it! Northumbria and Newcastle are totally worth it. I know before I came, I was mostly worried about being homesick, but I met people here with the same interests as me who feel like family now. The community is small compared to most places in the States, so you get used to seeing people around town and on campus that really make you feel at home. There is a small hump to get over when you first arrive, but once you adjust, it’s such a great community to be a part of.

As far as academics, the teaching style and the student-professor relationship is so much less tense here while still being very effective, so I’d say just make sure you stay self-disciplined. The deadlines are less frequent, but they’re still there.

Also, try to find other people from your university who are interested as well because their support is very helpful. I know my friends and I come from a big city where everyone usually keeps to themselves, so it was odd for us to break out of that shell. However, I’m glad we did because I honestly could not imagine trying to figure all this out on my own. The students you come over with are also built-in friends to go out or travel with.

Financially, I’d say just to start preparing early. Plan out your plane ticket, visa, and passport costs as early as possible. Then make sure you try to spread out paying for expenses so you don’t have to shell out everything all at once. It’s expensive to get here, but it’s definitely manageable with a couple months of preparation.

Other than that, just jump in feet first. It’ll be harder to adjust if you lock yourself in your room all semester long, so just get out and meet some people and get involved. You have to be here to really get a good idea of it, but it’s an experience you won’t regret.


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