Doing an exchange program had always been a dream of mine and 99% of my friends – I wouldn’t say 100%, because some of my friends have already been a exchange student before. My dream was going to ether Australia or UK, USA, Canada or any another English speaking countries to take a language course and also to see the world.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to be one of those very cool kids who goes abroad in high school. Once I started my graduation I wanted save up money and make my dream come true. The first thing I had to decide was where I to go. I did a lot of research – and when I say a lot I mean months searching for the right place. I asked friends who have already done this, I went to few travel and exchange agencies, I looked online, and did some calls to the cousins of that not very close friend. Finally, I made my decision and found the place that better fitted for me: Brighton & Hove, UK.
If you are looking for options to do your exchange, maybe this post will help you in making a decision of going to one of the most popular destinations for international students in the world.
Why to do an exchange in Brighton & Hove
Brighton & Hove is a lovely city located on the southern cost, about one hour from London. Also known as “London by the Sea” this city is one of the most famous seaside resorts in England and very sought after by international students to take language courses over the summer period.
I chose Brighton & Hove as the destination for my first exchange. I would say there are heaps of places where I could have done an international exchange at and be satisfied with. But for a matter of variety of English courses and schools available, the prices of flights tickets, visa (which I didn’t need, cause of my nationality and time of staying), cost of living, health insurance, facility to travel to other countries from there, life style, leisure and entertainment options, Brighton & Hove seemed a very good choice for me.
An important point that made me decide on the UK rather than the other countries was the no need for a visa. The visa can be quite expensive for a exchange student. For a couple of nationalities it isn’t required the visa to study for short period of time in UK. Check out at the link if you would need a visa to study in UK: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
For more information about student visas in UK for short and long stays have a look at: http://www.studying-in-england.org/visa-and-entry-requirements/
When I decided I was going to Brighton & Hove, I went to a student travel agency to find out more info about the schools and English courses available. If your level of English is good enough you can get in contact with the school directly, and not spend money on agencies and save more. But if you are not confident with your English as I wasn’t it might be better to find an agency and have someone to guide you in your choice and help you out with the whole process (visa, tickets, health insurance, documentation, school, course, accommodation etc). Anyway, it’s good to see the options and have as much information as you can to make a better choice. Below you can see the link for some of the English schools available in Brighton & Hove:
- Brighton International Summer School
- British Study Centres
- Language Studies International
- Castle School of English
- Regent Brighton
- St. Giles International
- EC Brighton
- Sussex Language Institute (University of Sussex)
- Loxdale English Centre
- University of Brighton
- City College Brighton & Hove
- Embassy CES
- Intensive School of English
- ISIS Study Centre Brighton
- Manor Courses
- Language Teaching Centres Brighton, East Sussex
- Olivet English Language School
- EF International Language School
- Brighton Language College
How long to stay
Most of the schools in Brighton & Hove offer courses starting from 1 week. I stayed in Brighton for 2 months and I did a 6 week course. When people asked me if the course I did there was enough to learn English satisfactorily I always say “no, it wasn’t”. Not because the school wasn’t good or I didn’t struggle. Of course the time we need depends on our level of English and how much effort we put into it, but the process of learning a language is slow and it takes longer than a couple of weeks – it’s a sad truth. If I could come back on time I would have saved up more and stayed there longer (for at least 6 months) cause the price of my exchange wouldn’t increase that much in the long run.
As the longer you can stay, the better for you – Really no one knew that!
Where to stay during your exchange
Whatever type of accommodation you pick, try to stay at one near the school, cause the transportation there is expensive! It is really good though, with many bus lines and options of night buses. But if you are a typical student as I was, any cent makes the difference. Remember that, for everything, you will pay in pounds, nothing will be cheap so you would not want to pay just in transportation half the money you have to spend per day. I know “who converts doesn’t have fun” but it sounds better in a night out context
I mean when buying drinks in pounds. Keep in mind that the majority of schools are located in Brighton, the most famous part of the city Brighton & Hove, so it would be better to find a place to live at that part of the city.
About the type of accommodation, if I was to give this advice few years ago I would say “stay in a hostel if it’s for a short time, find friends and rent a place if it is for long stay”. If the friends doesn’t speak your native language, yeah good! But otherwise, please don’t. If you have that hope of “ahhhhh we have a deal of just speak English when at home”, forget it, I don’t know anyone who was successful with this plan.
My advice today is “find a family, stay in a homestay”. Homestay near the school? Yes that’s possible to find, it’s just required a little more of research and patience. I know the idea of homestay isn’t very accepted for those independent students who like living on their own, as I was, but for self experience, living in a homestay can offer you a lot more. It is not just about having everything easily on hand (your dinner ready every day, your clothes washed and your breakfast set up on the kitchen table every morning), it is about living like a local, be inserted on the everyday customs and get to know more about the culture. Living with a family can be very positive and can speed up the process of learning a new language.
For that experience to be positive it’s necessary to find the right family. How to do that? The school you pick can help you find that, or you can look by yourself online (it can be a lot cheaper doing that) or find a good and flexible agency to do that for you, where you can look up at the families available and chose one you better relate to. My first experience staying in a homestay wasn’t any good cause I didn’t have the opportunity of choosing. The second experience, in Australia, was just the best I could have ever had, but to have that I took a couple of weeks looking at options online every single day and visiting families. Above some of the websites to find homestays.
Don’t be naive as me and think you are going to enjoy a little bit of the beach in the middle of winter, that won’t happen cause it’s just too cold. When people (included me) leave tropical countries to face a winter in Europe we have no idea about what winter is like. When packing to go to Brighton I took my bikinis, my beach yoke, few shorts, even having a rough idea about how the temperature and weather would be like when I get there. It was a mix of hope for a sunny day and I also naiveness.
Yeah, the expected sunny day hasn’t came =( So, if you want to enjoy the beach, you’d better go there in summer. I didn’t regret going in winter, the view of the beach is beautiful at any time in the year and there are lots of other things to do there during the cold weather.
There is something I have to point out here. If you go to the beach there, you should take a chair. The sand there is different. It looks like pebbles and I don’t think it would be comfy to lay on that for hours.
Everyone wants to party!
The nightlife was a important point to consider when deciding where to go.
I will confess, it was more important than the English course. What I have to say about the nights out in Brighton & Hove can be summarized in one word: CocoLoco! This party happens every Wednesday at one of the most famous nightclubs in Brighton – Coalition – and it is a must to go see for all students every week. Besides Coalition, I would suggest also the Oceania, The Olde King and Queen Pub (if you like karaoke), Funfair, Concorde 2. There are lots of options of pubs, bars and night clubs in Brighton. In the website above you can find out more about the options to enjoy the night there:
I could sit here for hours talking about my amazing experience living in Brighton & Hove. About Brighton Pier, Brighton Marina, The Royal Pavilion… Its something I would recommended! Why not do it yourself? Why not do an exchange program? Why not go to Brighton & Hove? Why not go and see the world?