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United Kingdom: Sheffield Student Experience

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HOST UNIVERSITY

Sheffield, being a large city, shares many of the benefits and detriments of large American cities. Live theatre is flourishing with two major and a dozen or more smaller theatres in the city providing excellent entertainment and value. There is a large clean park system consisting of many public footpaths in the city itself, which makes invigorating hiking easily accessible. The other side of the coin being that as a large post-industrial city Sheffield has many of the unsightly features one would expect to find in a large inner city of America, (e.g. litter, abandoned factories, etc.).

The University has a fine reputation. Sheffield University is situated in the center of the city. There is no campus, per se, rather the university buildings are interspersed with others. The architecture of the area is diverse, ranging from brick Victorian residences to modern high-rises like the Arts Tower, in which many students attend lectures in the downstairs lecture theatres.

Since the beginning of December we already had two snowfalls. Apparently, January and February will be colder. It's been in the 30°-40°s since October. The climate can be unpredictable--bring warm clothes.

ARRIVAL/THE FIRST TEN DAYS (Top)

The easiest way to reach Sheffield is to find a flight to Manchester Airport, then register with the University to be part of the Meet and Greet Schemes. This is wonderful, as there will be someone waiting to greet you and help with your luggage. In addition, it is a good start to meeting other international students. A bus will then take you through the scenic Peaks District to Sheffield. The trip is roughly two hours long. The other possibility is to catch a train from Manchester airport to Sheffield, then have a cab take you to Housing Services (the whole trip can take one to two and a half hours). If you will be arriving later than 5 p.m. that day, make certain to contact housing services and let them know. They will then set aside your keys, which can be picked up at Firth Court, or at the Hall of Residence (if you will be living in one) at the Porter's Offices. If you are in private residences, you will have to find some other arrangement.

Arriving before the first week of registration, you will usually find very empty self-catered flats and halls of residence. Most students do not arrive until the weekend before registration week begins. If you can, sign up for the Orientation to Sheffield. You will not need to worry about your initial housing, you will meet other students and be led around Sheffield for the first week. It is not necessary, but may help. If you decide not to, or are unable to register, then not to worry. The first thing to do is to become familiar with a map of Sheffield (you receive one from Housing Services). Get to know where things are, and go about setting things up. You will need to acquaint yourself with where things are. If the other students have arrived, then it can be fun to go exploring with them, as well. Places to seek out are the local supermarkets/eateries, the University Union, the City Centre and Meadowhall (becoming accustomed to the tram may take a trip or two). If you have any problems, the university's International Office or Student Services are more than happy to assist you. Many of the British students will be getting used to Sheffield as well, so it can help to hook up with others as you go exploring.

ACADEMIC LIFE (Top)

The academic life requires a bit more discipline in the English school system. Classes are not structured on a 3 to 4 class-meeting week, with some classes meeting only once a week and the reading lists being extensive. Individual meetings are often arranged between student and instructors, but there is not a lot of time devoted to individual instruction and students are expected to fulfill their course work without much supervision. Some students had between 5-7 hours of class per week, however others can have as many as 20 hours.

When asked "What are you reading?" or "What course are you on?" they are asking your major, your department. Crucial for equivalencies--find out if classes are first year, second or third. First year classes probably won't count if you require upper division courses. "Lectures" mean very large groups with attendance usually optional. "Seminar or tutorial" are small classes and can be challenging. It's tough to be unprepared when you're one of only five people. Tutorials (English department) really have no relation to the lecture in the same class. Therefore, additional reading is required for tutorials. It's almost as if the tutorial is another class all together.

Depending upon one's department, the academic milieu is on the whole more intense than in the States. It requires discipline to maintain one's studies in light of the very active social life made available to the student.

The English Department is respectable and well-published at Sheffield. There are young as well as older lecturers, rounding out the freshness of its scholarship. Personal preferences attract some students to certain lecturers, and one's tutor can have a profound effect on one's studies. For the most part, the department is very receptive to the student's personal needs--any problems brought before them they will do their best to deal with, bringing about mutually beneficial compromises. In other words, if one does not like a tutor, one can find a different one.

Sheffield also has an excellent Politics Department. Virtually all of the professors have written widely used textbooks. The department also has a former member of Parliament, David Marquand, on the faculty. He is very well known throughout the country. Other professors are on many British and international committees, such as on governmental boards that are formed to discuss prospects of European Integration.

At registration the initial registration is for lecture times; tutorial and seminar times will usually be arranged at the first meeting. Registration is also very improvised--you should have a clear idea of what courses you want to take before you get here--BUT, have back-ups, or at least an impression of what sort of classes you want, because classes are not actually scheduled until the department has an idea of how many people will actually sign up. Request reading lists, if they are available, since the English students are afforded these lists at the close of the preceding year.

Sheffield facilities are typical--not enough library books, no typewriters, and limited access to word processors. Handwritten essays are accepted but there could be some which must be typed. There is no bookstore on campus for the purchasing of text books, but only what Americans would refer to as a stationary store. There is a chain of bookstores called Blackwells which does cater to the University and is working hard with the University to supply all the texts needed for courses. There are two Blackwells located just about a 10 minute walk from the student union. Also, the library has most books needed for courses which is a cheap alternative to purchasing these very expensive texts. Also, do not purchase all your textbooks off the reading list, wait until your course begins to find out exactly what you really need. Text books must be purchased at local private booksellers, which may or may not carry required texts. Some teachers may be flexible about assignments being aware of the deficiency of this resource.

REGISTERING FOR CLASSES (Top)

The University will send two handbooks detailing when and where the first registration meetings will be held. READ them carefully, and bring them to England with you. By arrival, you should already have a number of classes picked out. Have several back-ups ready. You will be given a date and time to attend the first registration meeting, do not miss it. You need not worry about attending any other meetings.

The meeting will detail how you register and who and which departments must be contacted. When it is finished, you will need to visit each individual department where you plan to be attending lectures and meet with its Study Abroad advisor to set up your classes for the entire year. Once you have been granted permission for all classes, there is a date where you will go the Goodwin Sports Centre to officially register with the University. You will also register with the National Health Services at the same time (all students who will be in the U.K. for longer than 6 months are automatically given basic coverage by the NHS). Be patient, it can be a long process.

Information will be given to you about adding/dropping classes. If you find out at the beginning of the semester that your timetable clashes, you should meet with your advisor and see what can be done to rearrange things. Any further information necessary will be given at the Registration meeting, and it is very thorough.

HOUSING (Top)

You will probably be housed in a dormitory. These are not much different from U.S. dorms, except some have bars! There are several dorms and self-catering flats to choose from. The cost of living will not go below £1800 for the whole year (approximately $2300). It is relatively inexpensive to buy things for your room in the U.K., and either sell them or give them away at the end of the year. Ranmoor House is equipped with a wall heater in every room which is particularly nice for us thin-blooded Californians--nights can be very chilly. Each corridor of each block contains a kitchenette in which there is a stove; consider bringing cutlery, mugs, and crockery from home. You may want to wait until you see what your flatmates have brought, and share with them as opposed to loading down your luggage with kitchenware.

There are cafeterias in each dorm as well. The food is bland, a common but accurate generalization, but on the whole palatable--this does depend on the day and which dorm you get in. All three meals are provided on weekends, with breakfasts and dinners on weekdays (lunch on weekdays is served at an extra charge, and is of the fast food variety). In Halifax Hall there is no lunch option.

The dorms are way too loud to work or relax in--they are peopled mostly with 18-19 year olds, first year students who have never been away from home before and are hell-bent on having fun. If you like quiet, be forewarned. Halifax Hall, for the most part, was very quiet.

If you would rather have a room in a private home, or share a flat with other students, do not worry! The Accommodations Office is very helpful, and they always have listings available. You do have to break your contract with the dorm warden if you do decide to leave. It is not hard to find places to share with others. Utility bills are comparable but remember it can be a long cold winter. You can buy small appliances here, musical things are more expensive. England has most of, but not all the same kinds of soaps, toothpaste, etc., we do--bring what you have, buy the rest. Europe's largest Mall, Meadowhall, is located in Sheffield making finding appliances, etc. very easy, and you can take the train to the mall for £2 return or the new Supertram for £1.70 return. Taking the tram costs £2.20 for an all day ticket, but most places within Sheffield can be reached by tram for only 70 pence.

A vast majority of small items can be found in stores up at Broomhill (the Hardware Store is a general catchall phrase for a large amount of common household goods). The City Centre is another good choice, either at T.J. Hughes or the Argos Superstore. Finally, Meadowhall will generally carry anything else you look to find.

MONEY AND BANKING (Top)

The English banking system is not as standardized as the American system. To get the best rates and services you must check from bank to bank as each bank varies and many of the services offered are up to the discretion of the bank manager. We found that most of the banks near the university are the most helpful, but don't assume anything, read the fine print carefully and ask any questions you may think pertinent as banking officials here will volunteer as little information as they can. The English banking system is not governed by American disclosure laws.

Most banks are no longer offering foreign students checkbooks due to the repercussions of 9/11. Some banks may still offer this, but the majority do not (NatWest, for example, does not).

Make sure you have money in reserve to carry from one term to the next. Financial aid checks do not arrive on a uniform timetable and usually not on the advertised disbursement dates. Many banks provide overdraft protection but the rates are high and in interviewing two bank managers in January 1992, we were informed that because of a growing number of abuses by overseas students and the growing recession, this service would be offered on a more limited basis.

Check guarantee cards are a must for cashing checks in England. They are now easy to get (in theory) you must take initiative and go to the bank to pick it up. They say they will ring you, but after three weeks, I finally went to the bank to pick it up. Most check guarantee cards are good for checks written for not more than £50.

Everyone handles their financial transactions in a different way. Some entered the U.K. with a lump sum of money and simply deposited it all in a nearby bank. The new student accounts officers are quite helpful, whatever branch one chooses to go with--NatWest is recommended by this year's group, but Midland and Lloyds are also good. Bank charges vary on converting dollar checks to pounds. It can cost $9.00 each time you deposit a dollar check. It takes a week for checks in U.S. dollars to be converted to sterling if you open a bank account with such here. Bring at least £200 in traveler's checks in pounds (it is easy to get them in the States; call around) and another £200 in cash. It can take a few days for traveler's checks that have been deposited into your account to become available. Make certain you do not need them all immediately and that you have some cash available before placing all of them into your account. Then, if you have financial aid checks in dollars, or other American checks to convert, you will not be stuck for a week without money.

NatWest has a branch in the University union itself, as well as cash machines (yes, they have those here). You can open a current account (checkbook, cash machine card, no interest) or a current account and deposit account. The deposit account earns interest (this is good if you have a large amount that you will not need all at once), but you will have to either transfer some to the current account or withdraw directly from it to use what is there. If someone is going to be sending you money from back home on a regular basis, have them check with a bank there about sending it in pounds--this saves you the wait of converting it, and it is cheaper to convert over there. Most U.S. banks will do this for a slight fee. As for exchanging U.S. dollars here (other than doing it at your bank), avoid the Bureau De Change at airports and rail stations like the plague! Find a branch of Barclay's Bank, or the American Express Office--each is pretty fair. The rate this year has hovered around $1.50 to £1 (although it does change daily).

Sheffield, as it's in the north of England, benefits greatly from a lower cost of living than in London. Transportation, haircuts, food, all are cheaper in the North. The lifestyle is also less colorful and there is less variety in goods.

Always check if certain attractions and services in the U.K. have a student fare. Many museums and attractions do, and some of the major shopping stores do, as well. It can help save a lot of money in the long run.

TELEPHONES (Top)

Within the self-catering flats there is a single telephone in each. The University supplied all students with a Dog N' Bone card during registration, which is required to make calls out of the flat. You'll need a credit card to charge and recharge it. It can be used at local pay phones, too.

Cell phones are another huge method of communication with the U.K. If you want to use a cell phone, there are a couple of options:

  • You can purchase a telephone within the U.K. If you do this, you must choose whether or not to go on a contract, or whether you wish to pay-as-you-go. Contracts differ amongst the various services (Orange, T-Mobile, O2, and Vodaphone are the largest and can all be found at Meadowhall). Contracts charge monthly, but the cost of the phone itself is cheaper. If you choose pay-as-you-go, you will have to buy the phone outright (the cheapest ran bout £70!) and afterwards you will have to buy "Top-Up' cards (available at most supermarkets and kiosks) to pay to use your phone.
  • The other final option is you can bring your phone from the U.S. and buy a different SIM card from one of the service providers, turning your phone into a pay-as-you-go phone. Most services charge roughly £30 for a SIM card. However, Vodaphone had a 50% student discount (you'll need some proof of student registration).
  • Calling home is very expensive. If you can, have others call you back, or use the internet. Text messaging, depending on the service, might be free or relatively cheap. The university Dog N' Bone card cost £1 every ten minutes to call the United States.

COMPUTER/INTERNET ACCESS (Top)

Students can either bring their own computer from home (laptops are a good idea) as all submitted essays must be typed, buy one here (expensive!) or use the computers in one of the university's two I.T. Centres. If you reside in a Hall of Residence (such as Halifax), the hall may have its own private computers available to residents. All computer access is free at both the Halls of Residence (to residents only) and the I.T. Centres, but it costs to print any material. The St. George's I.T. Centre is open 24 hours.

Internet access can be accomplished in several ways. The first is to use the computers in the I.T. Centre (all students are given a University e-mail address, so not to worry if you don't have one). Halls of Residence also provide the same service through their computers. For those in Self-Catering flats, it is possible to connect to the Internet using the phone line via the University's network All students are provided with the network's number. The access is free, but runs at the speed of 56K. You are also limited to a certain number of hours a week. We inquired about having the flat as a whole chipping in and paying on our own to install a second phone line and paying for DSL, but Housing Services would not allow it. Those in private housing can sign up for internet access through the phone lines just as back in the States.

The final option for internet access is to use one of the several internet cafes within Sheffield, but this is very expensive, even for just 15 minutes.

WHAT TO BRING (Top)

It is a nuisance to bring a lot of stuff. To ship home one 50 pound box, it will cost $100+. England is very expensive. Expect to pay 2-3 times more in the UK than in the U.S. Definitely wait. It is more fun to see how people dress, then shop here for things. Thrift stores have big wool coats and snow boots (wellies) for very little money. People do not wear light colored shoes or bright colored prints. New clothes are expensive in the U.K., (e.g. Reebok tennis shoes on sale are the equivalent of the non-sale price in the U.S., Levis cost anywhere from $50.00 up). Also, everyday the Student Union has different people selling cool clothes for a reasonable price.

The need for warm clothes cannot be stressed enough: sweaters, gloves, a scarf, wool socks, and long underwear (just in case) and some lighter clothes as well (there is the odd warm day, and it can be humid); heavy coat and something besides leather court shoes (both of these can be bought here at good prices). You need a rain jacket and rain pants, especially if you are an outdoors type. An umbrella is necessary. HOWEVER, DO NOT EXCEED SENSIBLE QUANTITIES OF CLOTHES. Make sure you consider this while you're packing. There are not many escalators in the Underground. If you take the Underground from Heathrow, you will be faced with long passage ways and numerous stairs. Many people saw me struggling with my luggage and offered to help me, but I heard this is rare for London. Make sure you can manage your luggage!

A taxi from Heathrow to St. Pancreas (where you catch the rail to Sheffield) is expensive (£40) and unless you meet someone on the flight chances are you'll end up taking the Underground to the rail station.

As far as sports equipment, bring what you know you will use--if you bring skis, make sure you are going to use them, because they are a pain to ship and carry around. Consider purchasing a dictionary, a thesaurus, and the Harbrace College Handbook. You may want to bring your campus catalog just in case you need to research the infamous "Home Campus Equivalents" for OIP while you are here.

If you can find travel-sized, dual voltage appliances (iron, hair-dryer), get them; if not, buy voltage converters. Always get plug adapters--you will need them. Most of us found it more convenient to buy the small appliances once we got here rather that try to fiddle with the converters and adapters.

TRANSPORTATION (Top)

For Sheffield, two of the best methods of transportation are walking and the tram. The tram runs from early in the morning to generally around 11:30 p.m. at night (depending on the location). The tram is reliable and generally inexpensive, and the ticket will work for travel both ways up to an hour (after an hour, another ticket must be purchased to return).

The trains and buses are the best ways to travel outside of Sheffield. The buses are generally cheaper, but take longer to arrive at their destination. You can purchase a Discount Coachcard if you plan to use the buses a lot to reach out of the city destinations. For rail travel, one can purchase a Young Person's Railcard for £18 if they are under the age of 26. This cuts the cost of the price by 1/3. Trains do not generally run on time, and it can be very confusing to figure out which trains to take (even for the locals). If you must make a connection, try to find trains that have significant gaps of time in between, just in case your train arrives late. It's also a good idea to have time for other trains that leave from the connection point. If you find yourself without this information, don't panic. You can go to the information desk or the ticket counter and they will be able to find the information for you. The website www.railtrack.co.uk is the best place to check for train times and schedules. You will have to check the individual services (given by the website) to determine what each will charge, however. Buying your tickets several days in advance is also much cheaper than buying on the day of travel.

Having a car in Sheffield is just not feasible. Buses run rather convenient schedules, and are relatively cheap. The buses in Sheffield go everywhere--find yourself a schedule and you are set. After a few months, it will be second nature to read the schedules on the 24-hour clock times. And, you will understand "coaches" are for long-distances. Be patient and keep looking around...get all the travel discount cards; you really save money. Keep lots of change in your coat pockets.

Taxis in Sheffield are inexpensive and they are easy to get any time of the day. It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers, but if he/she is helpful you might want to give them a little something.

BritRail also goes everywhere (in the country); and there are cheaper, but much slower, city-to-city buses as well.

Walking is the chief source of transportation for students and most places are within a half hour from the residence halls. Besides, it is good exercise for the student who is usually unable to get out to the Goodwin Sports Centre. Remember to bring your umbrella!!

SERVICES (Top)

Many things are closed on Sundays--get used to it. There is limited bus service on Sundays as well. Boxing Day is a legal holiday and all services are closed with only limited public transportation available, avoid making traveling plans then.

Expect to have to ask a lot of questions initially about where to get things. Saturdays are busy shopping days in downtown areas, malls, etc. Larger stores give you or sell you plastic bags. Don't be surprised if a small shop expects you to put groceries in your pockets or backpack. Some people carry books and all in ever-present plastic bags. Most shops are small.

Expect restaurant service to be slow and unfriendly - customer service isn't the same. Standard tip is 10%. No tip to barkeepers.

Post offices are everywhere--overseas letters cost 41 pence airmail to the US for a standard letter, postcards 35 pence. Overseas letters vary in price according to weight so make sure you have the correct postage or your "airmail" letter will go "overland". Packages can get expensive, be sure not include letters in them because they become even more expensive.

Overseas parcels: As an overseas full time student you are given relief from Customs charges on postal packets that contain articles of personal clothing or material that pertains to your scholastic endeavor. If, once you are over there, you decide to send for personal articles the procedure to follow is to clearly and boldly mark your package "OVERSEAS STUDENT" and to include in the package a copy of your acceptance letter to your English University.

If you are charged the customs fees, import charges, and VAT (English sales tax, yes, you could be charged sales tax on your used clothes) do not pay the fees but contact HM CUSTOMS AND EXCISE in London: Telephone: 071-239, Fax: 071-473 0929, Address: HM CUSTOMS AND EXCISE, ROYAL MAIL PARCELFORCE I D C, STEPHENSON STREET LONDON E16 4SD for instructions. Usually, producing your student ID will be sufficient for the release of the parcel. Otherwise, you may be subjected to the Kafkaesque labyrinth of the Customs service to claim a refund. Customs charges are expensive, they can triple the cost of postage. One encouraging note is that once you have located the proper office in the Customs service they move with exceptional efficiency. Also, the Customs and Excise department will send you a free brochure detailing what is duty free and what is subject to tariffs.

Phoning home is extremely expensive. Have people call you right back! A great communication option is taking advantage of the free internet access. Get e-mail immediately!

Each dorm has a laundry room, as does the Students Union. There are laundrettes most everywhere as well. Do not expect the dryers to be as hot or efficient as ours.

There are some decent restaurants around: The Broomhill Friery, English places, fish and chips (these are dodgy--go in and smell them first), lots of great Indian places, a couple of "American-style" restaurants (they try), and also some Chinese places, but do not expect the kind of Chinese food you are used to--it is very much Anglicized (i.e., chips with your meal!). Indian and Oriental cuisine seem to be the British equivalent to the American all-night burger joint. Students here generally "go out for curry" late at night, which for the uninitiated, is a spicy dish consisting of various ingredients (beef, chicken, etc.) usually served with plain rice. There is a McDonald's on The Moor (an outdoor shopping mall), a Pizza Hut nearby, and also a Wimpy's hamburger restaurant. To be perfectly honest, for the student living in a catered dorm, really fine food will be a rarity. Many Pubs serve inexpensive, hearty meals. However, Pubs (and restaurants) often close during the day rendering it impossible to get a meal between the hours of (approx.) 2:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. The student union serves pizza, burgers, etc. and is open during these hours in case you're desperate (the food's not bad!) It is a good idea to try not to eat out that much and instead to stock up weekly at the supermarket which is inexpensive.

It's difficult to be vegetarian in England because many things are made with animal products. Read labels even if the food labels say "OK for Vegetarians". You may be surprised to find "animal oil" listed as an ingredient.

Almost all cheap eats are "take-aways" so you learn to eat while walking. The best restaurants around are also rather expensive. It's understood here that sit-down service is more expensive. The staple diet is bound to consist of beef, potatoes, rice, fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish, and beer.

If you are into shopping, take a weekend in London, or go to Manchester. There is also a mall in Sheffield. Downtown is so-so--it does not take long to see it all. Shopping for food: try Sainsbury's for American-type supermarket shopping, or save money and go to a Co-op store, then to a butcher, vegetable stand,

Meadow Mall is a very nice huge mall just opened. It is about a 20 minute ride on the new supertrain.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES (Top)

During the first week you are here, both the Academic Societies and the Sports Societies have a fair in the Students Union. Sign up then--there are so many activities, you are bound to find something that will interest you. Practically every possible interest group has a society - excellent.

During the registration week, the University will hold a Clubs fair in the Octagon Centre. It is well worth checking out! It only costs a small, one-time fee to join most clubs, and a wide assortment are present. You might be surprised to see what's available. Joining a club is one of the ways to meet new friends.

The NUS student union card is absolutely necessary for all functions at school, for discounts in the city, for starting a bank account, for purchasing your youth rail or bus pass, and for virtually every transaction you will make as a student.

Travel is another fun method to spend the time. The Peaks District is easily reached by bus, and is a beautiful area to hike. If you plan to travel, get a traveller's guide--the Lonely Planet series (purchasable in the States or Britain) is one of the better ones, and can help not only to find your way around, but provide ideas about what to see and where to go next.

The main source for sport is the Goodwin Sports Centre. It is equipped with the usual pool, weight room, etc. There are fields nearby for football, rugby, and so on. Many of the English who are health minded (though they'll tease the Americans for it) do jog regularly, when the weather permits.

Sheffield is a university town. There are a multitude of pubs, clubs, and restaurants in the immediate area, all conveniently within walking distance; or, at most, a fifteen minute journey by bus. Leisure activities usually consist of dorm dances, films (there are a number of cinemas in Sheffield) and a great film program offered by the university; four nights a week, movies are shown at the student union for a small fee, theatre (both university and professional), and so on. An excellent value is joining the Film Unit for cheap movies. The main social activity is going to the pubs. Believe it or not, you will get into the habit. Be careful--pubs and discos can be expensive. Traveling is just as important as a social life. Make sure to save some money by maybe not drinking a lot if you go to the pubs often.

There is something going on at the Student Union every night. Famous rock bands play here regularly and there are discos virtually every night. It will be hard to find a night where something isn't happening.

There are several travel agencies in the area--Woodcock Travel is right in Broomhill. The Union has a travel office; they can plan holidays for you or simply find cheap flights--they are not overly friendly, but they do help. The JYA office organizes several excursions throughout the year, including a trip to Stratford and one to Derbyshire. Sightseeing is easy, by train or bus or--if you are brave--by hiring a car. England is full of The sights. Travel to other parts of the country, like Scotland and Wales, which is exceptionally easy from Sheffield, and it is not difficult to find something of interest nearby (i.e., the Peak District National Park). For the student hungry for sightseeing, individual traveling is a must. Travel is probably best left for vacations, as one's studies will keep you busy at other times, and travel is also costly. Globalspan is an organization that funds day and weekend trips all over England and Europe constantly.

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE (Top)

In the book "Survival Kit for Overseas Living," there is an excellent section on "culture shock." Study it well. Even though one of the most striking aspects of Sheffield is how very similar it is to an industrial American city, as an overseas student you will quickly learn that there are some distinct cultural traits that can be extremely disquieting. Don't be put off by them, merely be cognizant of them. Cultural differences, on the whole, are more fun than frustrating. Table etiquette, for example, will cause the average American to stick out like a sore thumb (the British tend not to eat everything with a fork only, the way we do). After ample attention is drawn to the strangeness of your American expressions and idioms, you will begin to adopt theirs. Start practicing "Ta" for "Thank you" and "Cheers" for not only "Thank you" but "Good-bye," "Have a nice day," "Here's to your health," and various other friendly phrases. Besides being rather ethnocentric, the English tend also to be "lingo-centric." It was THEIR language first, as they will doubtlessly tell you, and WE are the ones who misuse or abuse it. Whereas we tend to be lax with our terms, the British want more specificity--for example, a "store" may mean several things in America, but probably only ONE in England.

There was a definite language barrier between the accents and different words. For the first month I could hardly understand anything. It seems there are an infinite number of dialects here; you will eventually learn to tell the differences. Expect to ask people to repeat themselves, as the words tend to blend together. Pretty soon you will forget you are in a foreign country, though, and the dialects will be routine. The English are very friendly and open, but also very proud. Some have a certain disdain for Yanks, so beware. Do not take it personally, because most of them do not mean it personally and once you show them how likable we are, they forget the difference.

The pedestrian in England does not have the right of way as in America. English drivers, like most Europeans, drive aggressively. Even when stepping into a large striped crosswalk make sure oncoming traffic is going to stop. Remember, all crosswalks are not mandatory stops for vehicles.

You will find at first that the other international students are friendlier, but after getting to know the British students, they can soon become good friends. What's nice is that if you make a lot of international friends, travel to Europe in the summer will be cheaper and you will have much more fun. Make the effort to find friends from all over the world. You will get different perspectives on life, the USA, the world, etc. and you will have a better time studying here.

Bear in mind that this is a small country, and people make more of an effort to be social here--they cannot get around it. Take advantage of this. To meet Brits, introduce yourself. Remember, you almost always must speak first. Virtually everyone appreciates it and will be friendly. Just remember someone did tell you to smile and speak first. On the other hand, Sheffield is not on the tourist route and people don't always know what to make of you. When all else fails, buy them a beer.

STUDENT COMMENTS (Top)

Before you leave, have 10 to 15 passport size photos made, if you can; do it cheaply. Seriously, during introduction week you will need every one of them. There is a photo machine in the student union.

U.S. students did not have to register with the police (certain nationalities, however, do). If in doubt, you can ask at the student orientation week, as there will be members of the South Yorkshire Police Force present.

Budget your money to carry you through the first part of the second term if you are receiving financial aid; the term may be half over before your checks arrive!

Do not expect to be academically coddled--you are virtually on your own in your studies, and it is up to you what you read and how you do. Study hard.

Most services close in Sheffield between 4-5 p.m. This includes many of the regular cheap eateries (there are some sit-down restaurants that are open until 11 p.m.). The majority of the cheap take-out opens at 5 p.m. and is open until "late" (usually 1-2 a.m.).

The clothing dryers are extremely ineffective. The better method is to buy a cheap clothing rack (roughly £5) to hang clothes to dry on. Be patient, as doing this can take 1-3 days depending on the number of clothes drying and how warm the room is.

Have plenty of travel money--Sheffield can become tiresome. There are many interesting towns nearby.

Listen to the older people (porters, cleaning people, coach drivers, bed and breakfast owners) they are full of interesting and knowledgeable stories.

The balance one strikes between leisure activities and academic ones, of course, are going to ultimately reflect one's real reasons for studying at Sheffield. If the year is looked upon primarily as a cultural and social experience, perhaps studies will take a back seat. However, for the student intending to do well and receive good marks accordingly, be prepared to "buckle down" and get to work--particularly during weekends and even vacations. Continuing students here (depending upon the department) have made use of vacation by reading lists passed out in the previous year. A cliché, but true: the year at Sheffield is what you make of it.

Don't let yourself get caught up in hanging out with only Americans, you learn 100 times more about the culture and society from talking with the British. It will make your trip valuable and a once in a lifetime experience. It goes without saying that one shouldn't spend all their time with other Americans. However I think it is a close-minded statement to warn against the "evils" of getting caught up hanging out with other Americans. There happen to be at least two large benefits to occasionally hanging out with Americans: 1) You might meet Americans from all over the country, not just California. In this case you would gain insight to your own country as well as to others. 2) Every American you meet will probably have their own friends who they can introduce you to, thus widening your own social circle.