“This is not an FAQ service – it’s a matter of choosing life” – Sussex Alumnus, 2002 – 2005
“I received a First Class honours degree from Sussex in 2005, propelling me to my career aim, of working as an HE tutor after I complete my doctoral work.
The student advice centre was a central part of my experience at Sussex, not least for the times when I felt I could not find the strength to keep motivated or give the course what I needed to do well. I spoke with advisers about loneliness, frustrations associated with money worries, invaluable help in the latter stages to do with finding MA funding and realistic advice about my proposed career path. I supported my degree with an LEA fees grant, a student loan, and in times of extreme difficulty, I received Hardship funding to get me through the term. The student support was utterly central – I can remember strongly walking into the offices feeling distraught, and leaving with the immense feeling of relief that comes from being properly supported.
Perhaps the main reason I felt compelled to write this testimonial though relates to an incident which involved another student. I was not making many friends in the first year, and so felt very isolated – most people seemed only to want to go out and party, I was pretty disappointed and miserable by the experience. Until I met David – an intelligent and quiet man who had fled a war-torn country some years before with his family and settled in Scotland. We would sit on a particular bench near Bramber House and talk about European history, our plans – we were friends in a gentle way and felt quite separate from the other people in our halls.
But then I found out that David was getting into taking heroin. He stopped bothering to leave his room, and each time his girlfriend visited his addiction got worse, though for a long time he was just smoking it – I could see which way things were heading. I didn’t know what to do, and even though I told people in the halls I thought were respectful and could deal with the situation together, everyone responded with a kind of disgusted witch-hunt, in that particularly adolescent way: “Urrrghhh! I don’t want him touching my cups! What a freak!” etc. The thing was, given that I felt this bond with David, and was struggling socially to connect with anyone on campus, I could have so easily tried it with him and become deadened to such a pernicious drug. I could see him changing though, and on the one time he did offer, I refused.
Knowing that the situation was serious, and my housemates were treating it as if it was just like “living with a tramp”, I went to the advice centre in complete confidence. They counselled me about the addiction, about how they would have to deal with removing any student abusing drugs, and handled things so delicately and respectfully, it was the boost I needed. I talked things over with him several times, knowing in my heart that to try and ‘save’ a friend from addiction is misplaced – protecting yourself becomes just as important. The advisers would have had to step in anyway, but sure enough, as his addiction worsened, his mother came to try and look after him, and eventually he left the university and began treatment at a rehab clinic in Brighton.
As I progressed with the degree, I stopped writing to him because I knew, sadly, he wasn’t getting better any time soon and I couldn’t give myself to a friendship when the person wasn’t really there. I am still sad about this, but am so greatly relieved I could go somewhere in complete confidence – I can honestly say that without this I could have completely messed up not only my degree, but my professional future – even my life. I hope David found a way out of it.
This is not the kind of support or information you can find by ‘clicking through links’ or going to an FAQ page – which I am sure will come to replace the service in this new, bleaker era of Sussex’s mismanagement. Sure, I could have contacted a range of external services that would not have been trained to deal with the specifics of the situation: this was my friend, on a university campus, in the grip of heroin addiction.
Does the Vice Chancellor care to imagine what other kinds of situations may go unchecked by dismantling this essential service?”
The Student Advice centre can be found on the first floor of Falmer House, and is open 11am-2pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
This article was taken from an independent blog set up by students to anonymously share their personal experiences of the student advisors. To see more go to: