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This Sussex Life: Law student, Theo Duerden - "The wildlife was a novelty at first."

Theo Duerden, Residential Advisor for the new East Slope residences.

Image: Ian Sommerschield

Theo Duerden, a final-year student in  Law with International Relations, compares the old East Slope residences, where he was a foundation year student, with the shiny new version, where he is a Residential Advisor.

I lived in the old East Slope during the second-to-last year of it being open. I was originally living off campus, but then my accommodation got broken into and I said I wanted to move onto campus. A room became available on East Slope and I thought, brilliant. East Slope was understood to be a vibrant hub of student life.

It was really odd seeing the place you were living in being replaced
while you were living there. The noise of the building work didn’t disturb us as East Slope was notoriously noisy anyway. If anything the builders would probably have asked us to shut up.

Everyone was in it together
. At one point we didn’t have any hot water or electricity, but that was fine too because if the power in one block went out you just nipped over to another block and used their stuff.

I nearly hit a squirrel with a guitar because it kept coming into my room
. The rooms would be too hot in summer, so you would open your windows and then seagulls and squirrels would come in and steal food. I’m from Guernsey, where we don’t have any squirrels (or badgers or foxes), so the wildlife was a novelty for me at first. Then it got annoying.

The new East Slope feels a lot safer.
If fire alarms went off in the old East Slope they would sort of get ignored. But now we have regular fire checks, and residential services respond very quickly to any issue.
The security is also much better. People were always getting their stuff stolen from the old East Slope. It feels a bit cumbersome to always be carrying your entry pass around with you, but for international students or those who struggle with adjusting to being away from home, I’m sure it feels safer. It’s also really well lit at night now compared to before.

As a Residential Advisor it’s my job to make sure people feel settled in. We’re assigned a number of flats and we help with any issues the students have with their accommodation – or their flatmates. You’re reminded how unworldly some students are when they first leave home.

During the first few weeks I would hover around the kitchen
to make sure people were managing. Just stuff like advising them not to mix cooked and uncooked meat, or to take the cardboard and plastic sleeves off ready meals before putting them in the oven.We’ve all been there.

I was due to go to Southampton Uni, but I didn’t make the grades.
They asked for ‘BBB’and I got ‘BBC’ – I thought, oh, a bit harsh. I had a list of universities that I wanted to approach for clearing and Sussex was top of the list – because I liked the idea of living in Brighton. The Sussex foundation year was a good option as it acknowledged that you might not be good with exams.

I needed that foundation year to mature a bit, especially coming from Guernsey
. People ask if there’s the Internet in Guernsey, which I laugh at. But from a societal point of view, it’s not that far off the truth. For example, the latest club closes at 1am,  so if you come to somewhere like Brighton, where there’s entertainment almost all night long, it can be very easy to forget about studying.

There’s an incredible diaspora of “Gue
rns”, as we’re known, living in and around BrightonIt was funny because I wanted to escape Guernsey, but coming here I see three or four people a night that I know from home. It almost defeated the point of coming here.

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 6 December 2019