Canada: the country that forced Eva to buy a book


In Canada I had many new experiences; maple syrup became a staple in my diet (turns out it’s great in curries), I felt what it’s like to walk around in -40’C, I witnessed politeness so extreme it made me uncomfortable, and, for the first time, I felt how it feels to buy a book for my studies. That’s right, you read correctly, Eva bought a book.

We were all given ‘course outlines’, printed handbooks, made by and handed out in the first class by the lecturers, which contained information about the module and reading lists. Course outlines were so detailed (they averaged about 12 pages in length) that students obediently followed them, including the section on which books to buy. In the course outlines, most lecturers made it very clear exactly what you had to do, the style you had to do it in, which themes link with which, and which boxes to tick. Some would say spoon-feeding, some would say clarity.


The detail(!)

Sample page of course outline: the detail(!!)

Students were not only accustomed to spending huge amounts of money at the beginning of each module (they still complained (until I told them how much we pay for tuition fees)) but they had the resources there for them to do it in the most efficient and easiest way possible. The bookshop was centrepiece in the student union building and the lecturers communicated with local bookshops who compiled all the short readings into a printed bundle with a $30 tag on. These reading packs (a.k.a. ‘course readers’) were available to purchase from a couple of local book shops and were printed compilations of all the journal articles, book extracts and newspaper articles on the reading lists. I never bought one because I found all the articles online through both Sussex and Ottawa’s online library, and I found most the books in uOttawa’s library. Luckily I didn’t experience much competition on my monopoly on library books as the reading packs were so popular. They were popular not only because they covered the module’s entire reading material, but also because they were printed rather than online so students could write notes and highlight on them.

It is perhaps how accustomed everyone else in my classes were to buying books and course readers that enabled me to mainly bypass the system. I reserved books well in advance from the library, I used old editions from the library (checking with friends which chapters had changed in the new editions), I used Sussex university’s online library collection and I immediately dropped a class that expected us to buy 3 books.

In my second term I felt forced to buy a book due to a particularly scary “proff” who used the book as the foundation of her course. As I had managed to dodge buying around 8 required books/ reading packs since starting at Ottawa, I knew that it would be my first and last purchase. I bought it from the bookshop on campus who promised to buy it back off me half price in order for them to sell it second hand which was a huge incentive. It ended up being well worth the money as it was both a fascinating book to read and imperative in order to stay on the good side of the scary proff. I then sold it back to the bookshop at the end of term which saved me money and valuable suitcase space.

Recently purchased book from Wordery

Recently purchased book from Wordery

It is perhaps the fact that I had let down my guard of never buying a book that I actually bought another one recently, upon starting my final year back at Sussex. And this time the purchase wasn’t even motivated by intimidation. It was a core reading for one of my modules and I thought that while I had found an online copy for free, I would enjoy reading it as it was a book it broad enough to be politically relevant to most of my studies and explains a theoretical concept important to engage with international relations today. Canada has changed me beyond recognition.

The student dream

I miss you, Canada

Posted in Accessing resources, Ebooks, Library, Printed, Reading lists, SAGE students

In a jungle of books

I had expected along with my acceptance letter an additional note, like in the Harry Potter books where it clearly states which book students had to purchase ahead of their year at Hogwarts. Like the disappointment of not receiving a Hogwarts letter, a list like that did not appear in my letterbox. Like any other future student, I had to log onto the Sussex page and scroll and roam around the wood of Study Direct like a lost sheep in order to find my reading lists. When I eventually found the reading list, my jaw dropped onto the floor. It was a list that never seemed to end. How I am supposed to afford all of this (!?) I thought to myself. A friend of mine from back home had told me the secret of student life in England and every student’s best friend (maybe except for a nap during the day) is Amazon. The endless opportunities to find cheap deals, and where textbooks range from freshly printed to those that have passed from student to student and are barely hanging on by a thread. Despite this, I realized that I was not going to order 10+ books. I decided to wait and ask my professor once I arrived at Sussex. Luckily for me, my professor did the work for us and spent the first introductory lecture guiding us through the reading. The professors in most of my lectures publish PDF documents for each week along with the reading, which is both handy and good for the environment (double luck!).

When finally deciding to purchase a textbook (see picture)sage1, it was due to the recommendation of my professor who said: “You’ll need this throughout the three years”. I thought to do my future self a favor and buy it at the beginning of the term instead of the time when your bank account is drained.

Secondly, in one of my politics courses, we could buy all of the 12 weeks of reading (printed and in weekly order) for a small amount. Included are all of the seminar and lecture topics and questions regarding those topics. I’ve only heard positive comments regarding this system from my course mates, who all agree on disliking reading from a computer. Instead, having the actual reading in front of you makes such a different when you’re either preparing for the essays or for the lectures. As you probably can see by the pictures below, this set of politics reading used to have a fancy front page but sadly lost it due to all the travels between lectures, seminars and the library.


(A complete set of in total of 12 weeks readings = happy and relieved student)


This is the introduction to each week:

  1. Which week (Always good to know)
  2. What this week’s topic is
  3. Full and complete reference to each reading (This is like the holy grail when you are referencing an essay)
  4. The questions for discussion in the seminar

I would like to take this last paragraph to give my advice to future and current students at Sussex.  Sort the reading out when you arrive at university and don’t panic because other people have already bought their books. Listen to your professor’s recommendations because this will save you a lot of money. Most of the readings they post are specific chapters from a book – use the physical library or the online library to try and find the reading first before you decide to buy anything.

Posted in Ebooks, Library, Reading lists, SAGE students

The Pre Read

Before starting university, more often than not many schools like to send you a list of pre reading and suggested books for you to acquire over the summer, prior to your arrival at uni. I didn’t ever receive this list, and I’m not going to lie, this didn’t bother me at all. Unlike many other students I already had my login details to the Sussex system, so just to cover my back I logged into Sussex direct and checked out the module resources just to make sure I wasn’t just being completely oblivious and missing a large collection of essentials necessary for the coming year.


When I clicked on the reading lists for the two that had them, all I discovered were a few more links to online resources.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-05-10-18Feeling as if I had put in enough effort to find any essential reading, I presumed the Global Studies department wanted us to enjoy our summer and worry about readings when the time is right. So I did exactly that, and had a great summer.

Greek Sunsets

Greek Sunsets

Then the start of uni came, I found out being the pioneers for sustainability that they are, the Global Studies department had recently invested in digital resources. This means that all the material we need for our course is now accessible online and via Study direct and the library resources, so no  excuse not to do a reading! (awesome, I know right)


Good old Study Direct

Which basically means that 1. I was right to trust my instinct, and 2. Instead of spending £250 on books like law students do (soz guys), I can spend it on my first love, FOOD<3.


My Beautiful Books. (Please ignore the cracks, I’m clumsier than I look)

So with no physical books to read, my mac and my iPad are all that I need.

The reading resources on Study Direct, are easier to find than you would expect.

(Okay I’m sorry 😂, the poem stops there, got a bit carried away)


All the readings!

However the poem doesn’t actually lie, the reading resources for each module are posted on Study Direct under the specified weeks so you know exactly what you need to prepare.

And that’s exactly what I am, prepared (he claims), so thank you Global Studies!


Posted in Accessing resources, SAGE students

To buy, or not to buy

Multi-buy Bundle

“As if! Two-hundred pounds for a couple of text books?” was, as I recall, my initial reaction as I read the email from the School of Psychology. The email detailed a package deal on textbooks that was being offered to first year students; £199.99 for 5 psychology text books, saving me around £38 in total. The list of books included: An Introduction to Brain and Behaviour; An Introduction to Social Psychology; How to Design and Report Experiments; Discovering Statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics; and, How Children Develop.

I looked the books up on Amazon and to my surprise I found that a few of them were actually being sold for more money second hand than new, meaning it would be cheaper to buy the package deal offered by the university. Nonetheless, two hundred pounds isn’t an amount of money that I could easily justify spending – even on textbooks – and while I’m not one to turn down a decent saving, I eventually decided it would be best to wait until I got to Uni and find out how necessary the books were to the course, before I decided whether or not to buy them.

It is only recently, however, that I revisited the dilemma of whether or not to buy the text books. We’re eight weeks into the term, and I have been managing to get by without them fairly well. There’s the library for one, which has copies of a lot of the text books. But, aside from that, there are around 380 people doing psychology this term so most people are bound to know someone who does have a copy of the textbooks; more often than not, I have found people are willing to let me borrow theirs for a short while, or at least to send me pictures of the pages we need to read.


My copy of the textbook

Even if that wasn’t the case, a lot of the material we are required to read are articles which are provided online, and it’s only in the last few weeks that we’ve been asked to read passages from one of the text books – ‘An Introduction to Social Psychology’ by Miles Hewstone, Wolfgang Stroebe and Klaus Jonas – hence why I have been forced to revisit the to-buy-or-not-to-buy situation. Despite having access to the textbooks when I desperately need to, there are downsides to not having your own. For starters, I don’t have instant access to them, meaning that if I need to do some emergency ‘12 am the night before a seminar’ reading, I don’t have the means of doing so. It is also a lot harder to make notes and get a clear understanding of the text when you are reading from a picture off of your phone.

After a lot of deliberation, I eventually decided that implementing an ‘as and when’ policy was probably my best bet – the thought of spending £200 in one go was too much for my tightfisted brain to handle, even if it wasn’t necessarily the most inexpensive option. I decided to start with buying ‘An Introduction to Social Psychology’ from Amazon and then purchase any other books I may need further down the line. I thought I’d treat myself and buy a new copy as it was only a few pounds more than the 2nd hand one (ah – small luxuries), and having recently signed up to Amazon Prime Student for a 6-month free trial, the postage and packaging was free and the book arrived the next day! Even if you take nothing else away from this post, I would say that whether or not you decided to buy your books on amazon (if you decided to buy them at all),  I definitely recommend that you try out Amazon Prime Student, even if it’s only for the free trial*. As well as free delivery and discounts, you can also stream music and videos for free – what more do you need?

*Side note: if you do decide to try out Amazon Prime Student, and don’t want to pay after the 6-months, then make sure that you cancel your subscription before the trial ends!!!

Posted in SAGE students

Starting University: The Reading List

After buying half of Ikea, and ticking off that list to ensure there is nothing you have forgotten to buy, you finally feel prepared for university. That is until a friend or parent asks you about what books you need to buy for your new modules. Then it dawns on you, what books do you need to buy for your modules?


Economics Reading List

The frantic search through your emails begins; checking and triple checking you haven’t missed the crucial email telling you that you were meant to read twenty books before term. With no luck you hastily move on to the Facebook fresher pages, “anyone else not received their reading list yet?”, with little to no response you preserve. The long search on Google commences and yet still nothing shows for 2016-17 first year reading list.

Finally you settle on looking at last years reading list and praying inside that nothing has changed too much. Upon first glance you notice that it is split into two sections per module; recommended and essential reading. Fortunately there is only one book listed as essential for each module, that wont be too expensive surely? A quick search on Amazon soon reveals that these five books are in fact very very expensive. Staring back at you is a basket total nearing £250 and a sudden panic as to how you are going to find the funds for these “essential” books.

Maybe I can ask for them as an early Christmas present?

Surely the library will have them in stock?

Perhaps I can find a second year to buy them off?

Yes that’s right, the second year who you will be eternally thankful to for the rest of your degree. Scrolling through one of the three “Official University of Sussex Freshers 2016-2017” pages you stumble across a few second years who have already begun selling, also begging, new freshers to buy their old textbooks.


Message to a second year student

These books are selling at the sorts of prices students can actually afford;£20 a book, two for £45 and even a bundle of six for £100. After browsing trying to find the best offers, you start to write a comment showing interest in the book, following a short hesitation you decide to post it. After getting a reply you now know if your search has been successful or if the quest continues. Either way this means that you will not have your books before term commences; ensuring no pre-university reading will be taking place.

Upon getting to your first lecture you nervously ask around to see if anyone has done any summer pre-reading. With a sigh of relief you realise quickly that no-one else has been given or found the reading list for this year and you instantly feel more relaxed. However there is always that one person… At the beginning of the introductory lecture you find out whether the books you’ve just bought from a second year are useful and are surprised to find out all but one out of six are. Before the panic can set in you are reassured that the book you thought was useless is still relevant but there is a free copy of the new book for this year online on KorText.


You finally feel ready and prepared for the semester ahead of you, all books bought and ready to read. Oh how wrong could you be. Then comes the elective! If you’re lucky you’ll only have one book if not you might have up to two or three books to purchase. The problem with an elective is that it is incredibly hard to find a second year student who has done the same elective as you and is willing to sell you the book at a reasonable price. The only resort is the university book shop or Amazon.



Now you’ve eventually got everything bought and paid for, your bank account significantly less than you wanted it to be, and you can relax a little bit. However, not for too long as you now have to work out how on earth you’re supposed to read the books and still manage to take it all in. Good luck with that!


Posted in Freshers, Reading lists, SAGE students

A new country, a new town and a new experience

From the backseat of my parent’s car I saw the sign: UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX. Squeezed in between boxes and suitcases I could not get the grip that this would become my new home. After a pair of rewritten personal statements, a huge amount of exams, open days and an acceptance letter later – the day have suddenly arrived. The day you are off to University. The day when you’re life is changing; it doesn’t matter if you have a 20 minutes drive from home or like myself moving to a new city in a new country. Not only are you moving away from home; you’re moving away from everything that is familiar to you whether it’s culture, tradition, friends or family. People told me that at University you are going to have the time of your life and you’ll get friends for life. Although there is a time before that, there is a time when you arrive and you know no one. The time when you nervously meet your new flatmates, course mates or teammates for the first time. You are a blank page about to filled with knowledge, experiences, trips, people and everything that will become your time at University. Fresher’s Week is the week that kick-starts this enormous adventure that lies ahead – your next three years (or more) at University.

Fresher’s Week is like a tornado of social events, induction to your courses and team trials. You’re like a lost lamb trying to make sense of your new surrounding such as trying to locate the library or figure out where the university hid the launderette. As a fresher there will be several occasions where there will be people around you all the time and you’ll forget more names than you can remember. You will probably ask everyone at one point all of these three following questions:

* Their name?

* Where they are from?

* What course they are studying?

And most likely you’ll forget it as quickly as they’ll say it. Fresher’s might not be the week to improve your memory skills, although it might be the chance to try out a sport you’ve secretly wanted to try such as pole dancing, Quidditch or Rugby. This is the week that gives you the chance to try out a new version of yourself. A new version that perhaps ends up loving the new experiences. I tried Rugby for the first time at Sussex and now I absolutely love every minute of it. As every day in the first week went by, I gradually settled into life on campus. As the fireworks lit up the sky on Friday I realized that I am home; Sussex is now my home.

By Louise


Posted in Freshers

The Fresher Feeling

Having completed a foundation year in Social Sciences, freshers was nothing new to me. However the anticipation of meeting new flat mates for the first time never goes away, along with hopes that they’re both clean and not boring; it’s the fresher feeling. I know I can’t have it all, but one can always dream! My 2nd attempt at freshers was already different to the first, as instead of coming to uni on moving in day, I was starting freshers 5 days in, which I didn’t mind really being as I had been on holiday in Greece for the past week. However this meant I was going to have to infiltrate those initial groups of friends made during the early days of freshers, which to be perfectly honest I didn’t really have a problem with. Although the infiltration would have to wait until Thursday morning as one of my good friends from my foundation year, and now next-door neighbour Marce, had already planned my first night out; like every student on a Wednesday night out in Brighton we were off to the infamous Pryzm, for the only day of the week they have both cheap entry and drinks.

So as I stepped off the plane there was no time to waste, it was goodbye family and hello University. I was straight onto the train from Gatwick to Brighton where I picked up my belongings from my now 2nd year friend’s flat and got a taxi to my new Park village accommodation. On arrival to my flat I was met by two flat mates, both of which were very nice, but I didn’t even get a chance to get to know them at that point because as soon as my things were in my room, I was changed out of my plane clothes and next door at pre-drinks. I instantly hit it off with everyone at “pres” as they were very welcoming and a real bunch of laughs! I just couldn’t remember any of their names, haha typical Andre. After an abundance of excellent dance moves being shared with the world (I’d like to say haha kidding, but I’m really not 😉 ), we ended our night at 4:30 in the infamous Cheeky Chicken, grotty by day and heaven by night. The only thing cheeky about it really is the price, yet we keep going back because it’s open and tasty, it’s a not an option really.

Having missed the initial geography induction on the Wednesday (instead on a Greek beach), I felt it was imperative I make it to the geography breakfast at 10:30 the next morning to get to know the goings on. There was also a free breakfast, and being as I was yet to do a shop I had to be there! The first rule of university is “Never say no to free food”, so I pulled my self from a far from sober slumber and made my way to the Geography Resource Centre for some breakfast and course information. The breakfast was actually very useful and I even found myself making some new friends on my course so a win win I guess. As for the rest of freshers week it was spent mingling, drinking and learning, effectively the definition of university life.

By Andre

Posted in SAGE students

Day 1

With a resigned sigh I flopped down on my bed, staring at my sparsely populated pin-board, and wondering what I should do with myself. My mum had left a few minutes earlier and I was suddenly feeling very alone. It was a strange feeling having finally arrived at university, I had been thinking about this day since I was 11 years old and now I was finally here it just didn’t seem real.

Checking the time, I saw that it was just gone 8pm. The whole day had been a bit of a mad rush. I had been packing my stuff all night (admittedly not the best idea to leave everything to the last minute) and didn’t finish until 7am, meaning I was running on absolutely no sleep. Safe to say I wasn’t in the brightest of moods. We’d arrived around midday and shoved all of my stuff in my room, then we’d spent the rest of the day shopping (clearly a whole car packed from floor to ceiling didn’t equate to nearly enough stuff).

I’d really enjoyed our day together, but after hugging my mum goodbye for the hundredth time and watching her drive away, I realised that being so busy had meant I’d not had any time to introduce myself to other people and a nervous feeling had settled over me. I had only briefly met a few of my room mates at this point. I live in the Northfield accommodation in an 8 person flat and being an only child I wasn’t sure what to make of this sudden increase in people; nor was I sure about how I felt about sharing my personal space with complete strangers.

Nonetheless with an encouraging mental pep talk, I forced myself to leave my room. I walked into the kitchen to find two boys in my flat talking and laughing (and drinking, obviously). I tentatively introduced myself and was met with warm- if slightly tipsy looking- smiles, and I immediately felt more at ease. I joined them and got to know them both more and as we talked the rest of my concerns slipped away undetected. As my first day came to an end I couldn’t believe how much of a good time I was having already and how much I was looking forward to the year ahead.

I think it’s important to remember that you will never know the outcome of a situation until you take that leap and brave it. I was so nervous about starting uni that, when the evening came, all I wanted to was lock my door and keep myself to myself.  But by making a conscious effort to push myself out of my comfort zone, just eight weeks later I have met some amazing people who I can confidently say have made my experience so far one of the most memorable of my life.

Posted in SAGE students

The Realities Of Freshers…

At the start of the week there is a buzzing atmosphere for going out and living up to all the expectations that you’ve created in your head. You’ve bought all of your freshers wristbands in advance for the “biggest student nights” in town, stocked up on a variety of alcohol to help you make friends and already planned where your first night of freshers will start.

Then it begins. The whirlwind of going out night after night, going to a variety of clubs which are all so similar that they blur into one with only distinctive features from the night standing out. For many this is not due to being heavily intoxicated but rather the constant exhaustion and similarity of each night. Each club manages to lure you in with a special element of the night that is unique to their club. This element often goes unnoticed due to it either not happening or because the club is too unbearably hot and over-capacity for you to stand being there a minute longer.

Then there is the struggle of what to do with yourself during the day whilst still striving to achieve the ideal perfect freshers. For many, the majority of the days are spent sat in bed either sleeping or binge watching TV shows, counting down the hours until it is time to get ready to prepare for another night of adventures.

On the other hand, not everyone’s freshers revolves around going out and staying up until 3am every night. For some, a mad night would be sitting in the hallway watching the Great British Bake Off. They would spend their days exploring the Lanes of Brighton and marvelling at the fact they now live by the beautiful seaside. Many would also venture out to the various freshers fares and stock up on the freebies from the hoards of stalls each promoting a different cause or social.

Many freshers are content with having a quiet night in, in the seclusion of their new home; allowing for quality time with their new flat mates. This is much more achievable than looking for someone you’ve only met a day ago in a nightclub filled with people trying to do the same thing.

The reality of freshers is that there is no ideal freshers week. No matter how much fun you have you will most likely have regrets of missing out on a particular event or feeling as though you should have spent more time getting to know your flat mates or campus. All you need to remember is that you have the rest of the year to do this and freshers does not define your university experience.

Posted in SAGE students

Goodbye from Isabelle, Lucy and Lenart

Our time at Sussex seems to have flown past and it is time to take the next steps in our lives. University has been an extremely fulfilling experience and being part of the SAGE scholarship program has played an important role in this. Not only do we hope to have been able to provide a pool of knowledge about study habits, we have learnt a lot from the process ourselves as well. Having the opportunity to write blogs, conduct focus groups, present to large groups, and attend conferences are all skills that we are bound to use in our careers. This scholarship has certainly given us a good head start! Being in a position where you regularly reflect upon your study habits is likely to have also helped us with our degrees. It gave us the opportunity to review the way in which we conducted our research, allowing us to then build on this.

Now that our classifications are out, we are all branching out into different areas. All the hard work paid off and our final degree results will support us in whatever we choose to do next. I am not yet certain as to what career path I would like to take, but I hope to gain some further experience in a few areas to discover what I would most enjoy doing. I also am planning on traveling with a friend around the U.S. in the Autumn.

Lucy will be pursuing a career in Youth work and is currently working in 15-17 year olds on a local summer programme with The National Citizens Service. She is applying for Masters courses in Youth and Community work to develop further.

Lenart has already moved to Dublin, the home of all tech giants, where he found a job in the tech industry. He says that for now the job is his first priority, but he is looking to continue his studies in the next year or two.

We would like to thank all those who have been involved, supporting us throughout the process, and to all the readers of our blogs. We are always happy to answer any questions that you still have and look forward to seeing how the blog develops as the next pool of students join in September.


Posted in SAGE students

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