An American in Sussex

i-studentglobal spoke to international student Molly Berenhaus, an American PhD Psychology student who first came to University of Sussex during her undergraduate studies. She talks to us about why she choose to study in the UK, the difference between studying in the UK and the USA and finding work whilst studying abroad. 


How did you decide to study in the UK and why did you decide to study at the University of Sussex?

I started my degree at the University of Michigan in America. I’d spent the summer before working as a camp counsellor and met a lot of people from England who really sparked my interest in studying in the UK. During orientation week, I attended the Fresher’s Fair and saw the stall for Study Abroad, where I was told about University of Sussex and Brighton and it seemed like a great place to study. I enrolled to study abroad in the UK for the second year of my course (courses are 4 years in America), which was unusual as most people study abroad later on in their degrees. When I arrived in the UK, I felt calmer almost immediately. Brighton is an amazing place which is vibrant and colorful and with a lot of music and theatre to go and see.

And once you were here in the UK, you decided to stay?

Pretty soon after arrival, I had decided that this was the place for me, so I spoke to my advisor and by the end of my first term here, I was enrolled as an international student studying the first year of my BSc in Psychology.

Molly's first trip to London in 2010

Molly's first trip to London in 2010


How does the education system for Psychology differ between the UK and the USA?

The style of teaching is very different in the UK to the US. Over here, students have to be a lot more self-regulated and motivated, spending a lot more time working independently than you do in the US. The education system in America is also really competitive, much more than I’ve noticed in the UK. I loved my undergraduate degree here because I was able to take electives from other subjects - I took some electives in drama, a module on playwriting, modern and post-modern drama and UK politics, which all really interested me.

Did you try to get work whilst studying in the UK and how did you find it?

In America, students really know how to search for opportunities. I think there is a little more pressure in the US compared to in the UK. I approached one of my lecturers that I got on well with and asked if they wanted a research assistant and they said yes, and that I would also get paid for it. It was as simple as that. Later on in my course, when I was living in Brighton, I worked part-time in a children’s clothes shop in the city.

Molly at her undergraduate graduation in June 2013

Molly's Graduation (June 2013)


Was it difficult to get funding and arranging your VISA for your PhD?

I was fortunate to be awarded one of the Chancellors International Research Scholarships, which covered all of my course fees, a stipend living allowance and also £5,000 per year for research expenses, which allows me to visit international conferences. Once I had the scholarship confirmed, getting the VISA for the further study was very simple. 

Finally, have you travelled to anywhere else whilst studying in the UK?

Since being in the UK I’ve visited a number of other cities in other countries including Prague, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Krakow and Dublin. I’ve also travelled abroad to a number of conferences including Rotterdam, Porto, and back to the USA.


You can read more interviews with Americans studying in the UK below:

Alex Vitale is studying an MA in Specialised Translation in the UK

Tom Bathrick is studying a BA in English and Creative Writing in the UK

Chloë Johnson studied a BA Music & an MA in Performance in the UK