Study Filmmaking abroad

University life in the United Kingdom is more inclusive

Study Filmmaking in the UK

What I liked the most about studying in the UK is the opportunity of having classes in English and sharing this learning experience with people from around the world. In my case, I had classmates from the UK, Turkey, Lebanon, Italy, Nigeria, USA, China, and India. I was the only Mexican and Latin American student of my class, which was an edge because that made me getting out of my comfort zone regarding the language, and that also made me look for friends and academic alliances with my classmates, who also appreciated my qualities and even one of them requested my help as an actor and coaching a Greek actor who had to speak Spanish in the short film he directed. I loved the creative freedom feeling in which my responsibilities and laboral inercia in Mexico did not allow me to dedicate fully to my passion for filmmaking, and of course I am willing to come back as soon as possible.

Why did you choose this university?

I chose the University of Sussex because they have simpler and more inclusive admission terms, compared to other British universities. Moreover, because they offered the program that I was interested in studying, Filmmaking MA, with the learning approach I wanted: a fair amount of theoretical knowledge and practice in various filmmaking departments: scriptwriting, production, production design, casting, actor and camera directing, film festival studies, sound and film editing, visual effects, among others.

Furthermore, my decision was influenced by the fact that Brighton is located on the South East coast of England and it is an hour away from London by train. I would visit London so frequently that it seemed perfectly normal to spend the weekend there.

How do you find university life? How is this different from student life in your home country?

University life in the United Kingdom is more inclusive and broader than in Mexico, from my point of view, since it has student societies with diverse interests: politics, languages, travel, sports, entertainment, cultural backgrounds, religions, countries, and so on. There are also sports courts and gyms in optimal maintenance conditions; student unions that fight for relevant social, political, and academic causes such as lower tuition fees for international students and reduced accommodation costs for everybody, as well as support for teachers’ struggles.

What are you studying and why?

I studied for a Filmmaking MA because being a filmmaker was what I wanted to do since I was a child, but I had not found the opportunity to study it at a postgraduate level. Previously, I had learned scriptwriting with short courses or on my own, and knew a little about production and crew roles, but upon my arrival at the University of Sussex I found that what I knew was insufficient and that I would have to work harder than most of my peers to get the degree. Therefore, I took more than ten online courses and video tutorials. At the end of the Master’s Degree, I dare to say this is just the beginning and that I still have a lot to learn and improve, but I am satisfied about the classes, the practices, and the effort I put into achieving the goal go successfully completing my studies and venturing into the movie making experience.

Describe a typical day as a student/on your course

The nature of my Master’s Degree allowed me to have several types of classes. There were days of totally theoretical classes or lectures in classrooms or in auditoriums. There were also seminar sessions in which we would put tables together and attend classes with a number of readings already read and set to comment, debate, or question. Additionally, I took classes in computer rooms, either to review my classmates’ script development or put editing or crew roles’ lessons into practice at the film studio, where we all organized to make a short film. Finally, there were two classes in cinema theaters. The first one was a lecture given by the director of a local independent cinema in Lewes; and the second one was at a screening at the LGBT Flare Film Festival, sponsored by the BFI.

How is living in the UK different from home?

Living in the UK gave me a very strong feeling of independence and mobility, as public transportation is extremely efficient, organized, and easy to board and pre-pay. The city I lived in, Brighton, has a bus company with an app that allows the user to pay for up to three months of transportation in advance with a special student rate. Similarly, the train nationwide has a mobile app that lets users buy train tickets at a preferential rate and, if they live in the center or south of England, there is a railcard that allows them to make quite cheap trips to different English cities and towns. That made my year in the United Kingdom so memorable because I visited eighty-two towns that combine history, architecture, museums, parks, geographical conditions, and interesting people.

Regarding supermarkets, there are many options that sell local and imported products. As in Mexico, there are products that are more convenient in certain stores, whether for price, quality, and even expiry. Then I recommend to visit all the supermarket chains and local grocery shops to save money with quality optimal food and supplies.

Tell us about the town/city and what you love about it!

Brighton is a city located in East Sussex, on the south coast of England, an hour away from London, arriving at Victoria Station or London Bridge. It is a highly touristic city, with a great student tradition. It receives students from all over the world. That gives the city a welcoming character, where all ideologies and cultures can coexist freely. I never felt misjudged or discriminated because of my background or way of thinking, on the contrary. 

On the other hand, Brighton beach has five-centimeter rocks, instead of fine sand, like the Mexican beaches do. However, the seafront is surrounded by local stores and museums that give the city a charming vintage look. In the same way, it is quite pleasant to walk through the lanes, streets with vintage and hipster shops where people can buy antiquities and products with creative designs, unlikely to find in Mexico.

Brighton’s museum have wonderful exhibitions. I highly recommend the Royal Pavilion and the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

Tell us about your accommodation

During the term, I lived on the University of Sussex Campus, in Northfield Lane. It is an area that is far from the buildings where classes are held. Northfield is 10 to 20 minutes away on foot, but it as the advantage of being a quiet and relaxing place, with views towards the open field and harmless wildlife such as squirrels, rabbits, crows, and foxes.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I used to go out for walk in Brighton seafront and beach or to contemplate the waves of the sea while talking with my friends. I also enjoyed going to a pub to have a cider or a beer and spend time with my friends. It was equally pleasurable to visit British cities and towns that are unusual to appear in tourist guides. Battle, for instance, has a partially ruined abbey and the historical battlefield where King William the Conqueror defeated Harold in 1066. As I said, Brighton is only an hour away from London by train. Then my trips to the capital were quite frequent.

If English is not your first language, how did you find the transition into studying in English?

First I was a little shy about participating in class and interacting with my peers. I felt strange, without friends and with the culture shock of being surrounded by people from different backgrounds. However, during the second term, there were activities like making a movie all together and the film festival studies subject that helped me gain confidence to be more participatory and contribute both with knowledge, creative, and physical work. I realize that I had a lot to give and receive. By the end of the course, I think I managed to adapt well to the dynamics of a practical Master’s Degree and to my classmates. It was a more than significant and fun experience that left an indelible print in my personal life and professional career.

Is there anything else you'd have liked to know before you applied, started university or went to the UK?

I think I got well prepared and informed about the course, the autonomous way of learning, studying, and working in the universities from the United Kingdom. Moreover, the living expenses before getting there. Although I do recommend to listen to the advice to carry little luggage, because the clothes I got in Mexico were not very useful when I was in the UK, particularly in winter. The weather is truly changeable, from cold and rainy to sunny but windy throughout the day.

On the other hand, the exchange rate from Mexican Peso to Sterling Pound and Euros ended up benefiting me because the British and the European currencies have gone down and the Mexican Peso has strengthen remarkably.

- Victor

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