Gaining confidence and experiencing new cultures during two months in Brighton
Damaris Segura from Mexico studied the Intensive Course at Kings Brighton, and was interviewed before she left by fellow student Yoshi Ortiz Leal, about her experience of culture shock and life as an English student in Brighton.
Hi Damaris. How long have you been in Brighton?
I stayed here for eight weeks. Tomorrow is my last day!
I do not want to leave anymore. I mean I want to go, kiss my mom and be with them for a week or two weeks — and then come back here. It was very cool. I liked it a lot.
How did you find the English course?
I thought that it's very useful. I feel more confident about my English and I think I have improved my grammar and speaking.
Why did you decide to improve your English?
Because I needed to improve my English for university. Some books are in English. One day I was reading a Chemistry book and it was in English so I wanted to be able to read it.
How did you first hear of Kings?
I found it through an agency. I went to an exhibition and asked for the prices in different places. Kings was recommended to me a lot because it was an intensive course that was not so expensive. They told me that Kings was a good college and that I should try it.
Kings has several locations in the UK and in the US. Why did you choose to come to the UK?
I like British English, I feel it is more natural. I chose Brighton because they told me that the atmosphere was student-friendly. That the city was very quiet, that Brighton had a more relaxed and nice atmosphere.
What’s your favourite part of Brighton?
Everything. I think everything is lovely.
How did you prepare to come over?
I had to get a passport. They gave me a paper where it said that I needed medical insurance. It also said how I could move around the city. Since I stayed in homestay it gave me their information. They told me the exact address, the name of the lady I stayed with, the name of her son, what they liked to do. They also mentioned what I could do near the school.
What was your first reaction upon arrival?
That the school was very small [laughs]. Actually, the truth is that everyone treated me very kindly. Since I arrived, it was like, 'Hi, como estas, how are you?' I arrived a little sad but they treated me so well here that I felt very comfortable.
One day I felt bad, I felt sad. I went to talk to Annika [Accommodation Officer] and she really helped me a lot. She hugged me, told me that everything would be fine, that I would like it here, that I had to be strong.
How was your first week?
It took me a bit to adjust because I had to speak English all the time. But, I found friends and every time I felt sad I went with Annika to cry it out.
In an international school there’s a lot of nationalities. How do the different cultures get along?
Very well. In fact, I found it very interesting to know the culture and traditions of other nationalities. There was a cool cultural shock. I never got on badly with anyone of another nationality. On the contrary, I liked that they told me about their countries.
Would you mind giving an idea of what a day in the life of an English language student is like?
Well in the first class we have grammar, an hour and a half. We do several exercises. My teacher did games to make the classes more entertaining. Then I had recess and I went to eat. I had a speaking class in the afternoons. The teacher would prepare us for the weekly exam. They corrected the exercises so that we would constantly be improving.
Something that I liked a lot was that if they saw I was bad at something they left me more exercises on that — me specifically. They would see that I needed more work and they would tell me, 'I will give you more work and tomorrow I'll check it so that you get better.' I really liked that to be honest.
In the afternoons, sometimes I go to walk around the city or I go home. I do homework, I fall asleep. I go out more during the night with my friends.
What do you think about your teachers?
I loved them. They gave me a lot of support. They always focused on what I was good at and what I was bad at. They helped me improve a lot, taught me to be more confident to talk.
They worried a lot about what I felt too. When I was sad in class and they noticed, they would approach me.
What is your favourite memory of Brighton?
One day I went with my friends to the beach. We went to the pier and to the games. We went to eat ice cream and then we were walking through Brighton. It was at night but I think Brighton is very nice at night. I have a lot of memories. There are many things you can do in Brighton, I really loved it. I kind of don’t want to leave anymore.
Would you return?
Yes! I'm already thinking on where I’m going to work so that I can come back next year.
Did your parents pay for you to come here or did you pay for it?
Well, both. My parents saved for a year. I was also working and saved up a lot of money. My salary was given to my mother. When I went to school my parents gave me money to spend but I never did. I always arrived and put it in my piggy bank. I didn’t gather so much, but I did gather enough to come, and between the three of us we paid. My mom wanted me to come. She felt that being alone in new place was going to make me more independent and stronger.
Was she right?
Yes. I still cry a lot but I feel that I can solve my problems alone now. I can move alone and that I can speak for myself. I do not need anyone to tell me why you do this and this.
The culture of Mexico is very different from that of England, did that affect you when you came here?
Very much. For example, I wanted to start laughing with someone and they were very serious or they did not understand my jokes. Or just to say hello — in Mexico we kiss, here they don’t.
It must’ve been strange for you?
Yes, but I liked it a lot. To see the traditions of the host family that I stayed with, like they had dinner at seven. At seven they were already in pyjama. It was also strange that here everything is already closed at seven.
How did you survive the culture shock?
I just liked to learn from other cultures. Obviously I would never judge them and never let them judge mine. I really liked learning from them and I liked to share with them about the things that I did in Mexico. So, if they went they already knew what they could do there and so on. I also liked to know the same from other countries.
Could you give any examples?
Even going to the supermarket is very different. For example, in Mexico obviously there are no self-service machine. Here they do not [give free] plastic bags so I would go to the shop and carry a thousand things. I always try to take care of the environment but in Mexico they give you bags for everything. Here I gained the habit that in my backpack I always carry those bags made out of fabric. It changed me a lot.
Also the buses are super different. And the food. I didn’t eat badly, I like the food here, and obviously I miss the food from Mexico, but here there are not the same fruits that there are in Mexico, nor herbs. I mean, here it's very different to go to the market. It's not that I can just go and grab only one avocado and one tomato. Everything comes in a package. That I didn’t like that much, but you adapt.
You mentioned the buses earlier, how were the buses different?
In Mexico there are buses every two minutes and here, if I missed a bus, I had to wait fifteen minutes for the next one. By then I was late. So you force yourself there at that time to be out on the street. In Mexico that does not happen, I could leave at the time I wanted and there was always going to be a bus.
People here are very tolerant. If it takes you three minutes paying the ticket nobody says anything, they are all in their own world. In Mexico, you take more than ten seconds and they start to bother you.
Something else is that the city is very clean. My host family takes care of the water and the light and such. They don’t turn on the heat at night. The other day I was washing my plate and they said, 'Hey try not to waste so much water'. I take care of the water a lot too and I can’t imagine how they can waste less.
And they recycle impressively. For example, bags of tea. My host family would take the cardboard and put it in a place, the thread in another. She would open the bag and throw the little herbs in the bag in another container. They would separate garbage a lot. In fact, she wouldn’t let me throw my garbage away because she did it better than me. I was shocked. In Mexico, my dear Mexico, we don’t know how to recycle.
How was it with the family?
They were a British family. The lady cooked delicious, it was very tasty. She would talk to me and ask about the traditions in Mexico. I showed her pictures and she would tell me what the traditions were here, like Halloween. I asked them ‘Hey, and do you do altars’ and they said 'What?' It’s not common here. She taught me that they only wore costumes here and asked for sweets, that it was not common for them to make altars [laughs]. Also, that family is important here but is not the most important thing. I feel that in Mexico it is the most important thing.
What did you like most about being here?
Meeting new people. That is new cultures, new ways of thinking, new traditions. I became friends with people from Spain, Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Italy, Brazil and Bolivia.
I also liked the people in Brighton. I liked that if I went into a store the employee was super friendly. I feel confident to cry with all of the teachers or tell them my things. The truth is everyone is very nice. It was the best experience of my life.
Where can you see yourself in ten years?
Finishing my university career and returning to Brighton. I would like to come back for more time. Maybe a year, and study English here in Kings. I feel that this time I came to study and relax. To get to know the city and around, to go out. But now I want to return to fully, truly study and not spend money foolishly.
I love the security here. I always felt safe. I was never afraid of being robbed or anything. I felt very comfortable here. Brighton is very quiet and everything is close. I can walk everywhere, except for my house. In the centre of the city everything is very close and I loved that.
As an English student, what would you say to someone who is going to come?
Well, don’t be afraid. This is really a very special, incredible experience that many people would like to have. Take advantage of it and don’t get carried away by the partying, going out, etc. Go to your classes because it will be very useful in life to know English.
Everyone will be there to support you always. Even if you feel alone, you are not. Here you will have a lot of people to support you. And they have to find balance between having fun without leaving their responsibilities.
Do you think you found that balance?
The truth is that the teachers made me not want to miss classes. With one day that I didn’t come, I lost a lot of new vocabulary. I lost many worksheets that I could use to guide myself afterwards. I would feel bad if I didn’t come. But it’s fun go out with your friends so as long as you do it responsibly.
Overall, how was your experience at Kings?
I thought it was great. I always felt very comfortable and I really feel that there is a big difference in my English and I don’t feel ashamed of speaking it. I take a lot material with me to continue practicing.