The Future Is Now – Well… After The Placement Year

The future?

Independent of the degree you choose to study at university, we all have a reason for committing to the three year struggle of deadlines and exams – even if we may not know it straight away! A major part of university is the social life, meeting new people and the overall experience, but you do have to get a job at the end (unfortunately!!). Whilst ‘The Future’ might seem a distant thought, it is vital that you plan for after you graduate. Jobs are becoming more competitive, so it’s becoming increasingly important to stand out from the crowd – especially in sport and exercise science (just my luck). Therefore, the opportunity of working in our desired industry should be considered as second nature to us and fortunately enough it is something that the University of Essex offers!

 

So… what exactly is a placement year?

The simplest explanation is that it is a year of working within a professional company or organisation. This might not sound as exciting as the thrills of university, but it gives you a chance to apply academic knowledge into a practical environment – whilst getting paid (hopefully)… I know the prospect of applying for these positions is daunting, however the careers team are able to support you, so it really isn’t that bad! Also, the many benefits of completing a placement year mean it would be ridiculous not to try.

 

Placement years – they aren’t an overnight process…

Applying for a placement year is something you do in your second year, but realistically you need to be preparing for longer. Gaining work experience is vital and fortunately for me, Essex offer work at the Human Performance Unit (HPU). During my second year, I was given the opportunity to assist with the hydration status testing and fatigue monitoring sessions, for the performance sport teams at the university. Specifically, I was responsible for analysing the osmolarity of urine samples, in order to work out personalised hydration strategies, as well as performing neuromuscular testing to ensure training load was correct. These were two weekly positions, completed alongside my studies, with the results of large implications for the sport science support provided to these athletes.

 

Identifying the area of work you want to go into early on is important, as it allows you time to gain the skills needed to achieve your goals. Once again, the university offers lots of support when it comes to gaining this experience, such as CareerHub and the Frontrunners scheme – the careers team are also only an email away!

 

Surrey Human Performance Institute – the perfect placement?

For my placement year, I work at Surrey Human Performance Institute, or SHPI for short. This is a very similar organisation to the HPU at Essex, so it was the perfect match! SHPI is an exercise physiology laboratory based at the University of Surrey, acting on the forefront of scientific research, as well as providing sport and exercise science support to external clients and delivering educational services to the local area and university students The placement wasn’t actually advertised via Career Hub, instead I proactively emailed them to find out if they were recruiting – something I would seriously recommend! When it comes to placement years, you have to ensure the position is 100% right for you, because there is no point doing it if this isn’t the case.

 

So… what did I get to do as a Sport Science Intern?

The job description listed above obviously sounded great on paper, but one of my concerns was “how much would I actually be allowed to do as an intern?” The unfortunate truth is that as we are still students, some placements will be limited – mine definitely is not though! Working alongside two other placement students, I have been responsible for leading many of the services provided. I’ve been able to gain experience of applying sport and exercise science in a practical environment, by carrying out various physiological tests, such as body composition assessments, as well as lactate threshold and VO2MAX tests. I have been involved in all the research projects conducted in the laboratory, with many of these working with pre-operative cancer patients – an extremely rewarding experience! To further this, I had the opportunity to work in a hospital setting, performing pre-operative exercise screening sessions for patients of all ages, as well as assisting with the delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Surrey. Finally, but by no means lastly, I was given the chance to design and conduct my own research study, which was probably the best part of the whole placement (and was fairly good practice for my dissertation…). Overall, I’ve loved every moment at SHPI; it truly is an experience I never want to end – still, I am excited for the future!

 

Placement years – my recommendations

I think I have made my stance on placement years pretty clear – they are the best thing you can do as a student! Therefore, my top tips are: 1) start looking early – don’t leave it until the end of second year, 2) gain relevant work experience, to increase your likelihood of getting that placement you want, 3) make sure you work alongside the careers team – their resources really are second to none and 4) be proactive – don’t settle for a placement you aren’t completely happy with, there is always a position out there to suit you!

All the best finding the perfect position and remember – your future starts now!

Written by Will Gurton, 3rd year Sport and Exercise Science Student

Will is a 3rd year Sport and Exercise Science student, currently on his placement year in Surrey. He is a keen sportsman, with Tennis being his main sport. Throughout his two previous years at Essex, he has represented us at BUCS level for Tennis, as well as being strongly involved with other sport clubs, during his position as the Sports Development Frontrunner for the SU. Away from Essex, Will enjoys travelling, most of the time within Europe, as well as comedy TV shows and of course, watching sport!

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Getting a Part Time Job at Uni

Whether you’re after a bit of work experience or a little boost in your bank balance, a part time job can be a pretty valuable thing to have. Not only does it look great on your CV, but a part time job gives you a bit of a break from studying with the added bonus of a bit of extra money every month!

Whilst sometimes the struggle to get a part time job can be relentless, if you know what to do and where to look it doesn’t have to be that bad!

From job hunting in the past, here are some of my top tips in securing that perfect part time job…

Tidy up your CV!

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Before you look for any jobs, you need to make sure that your CV is up to scratch. Although it may seem like an insignificant piece of paper, it is really valuable for an employer to see what kind of a person you are.

If you haven’t updated your CV for a while or if you’ve never written one before, then check out the Essex CV pack. This is a brilliant resource with everything you need to ace your CV. If you’re still struggling then go and visit the wonderful people at the Employability and Careers centre and they look through your CV with you!

 

Keep an eye out for things

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Some jobs like Student Ambassador and ones offered by the SU are only recruited for at certain times of the year. Therefore, you only have a small window of opportunity where you can apply for them. If you don’t necessarily need a job straight away then the best thing is to keep your wits about for when opportunities open.

 

Look at your options

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Ask yourself what you want to get out of a job. Is it just a few hours to make a few quid to go out with, or do you need something a bit more to help with living costs? There are a lot of jobs out there and they are all looking for something completely different. Have a think at what this might be as this will probably influence what you apply for. Also remember that it’s as much as finding a perfect job for you as an employer finding an ideal employee for their business!

 

Ask your mates about how they got their jobs

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One of the hardest things about getting a part time job is getting yourself in the door, but if you know someone that already works there, it can make your job a whole lot easier. Whilst they probably won’t be able to give their mates a job on the spot, they will probably have some useful advice about what the employer is looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky then they might even be able to put a good word in for you to their employers!

 

Check online (Careers Hub/SU website)

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Another great resource offered by the Employability and Careers centre is Careers Hub. This is an online resource which has loads of part time jobs on there in the local area. This is where all the Frontrunner and UROP placements are advertised too! If you’re on the lookout for a job then this is a great place to start looking; jobs appear all the time on there.

Finally, above all don’t be disheartened if you don’t find something straight away! It might not happen straight away, but you’ll get there in the end with the right mindset! Things like always asking for feedback if you don’t get a job and getting careers advice from someone will help you in the long run.

Happy job hunting 😊

Things to consider before studying in the UK: an EU student’s perspective

There are certain moments in your life where you’re quite clueless when it comes to making big decisions. You don’t really know what the outcome will turn out to be. When you’re a teenager, even though you’re not allowed to go to the toilet without asking the teacher, you are put in a position where you need to decide the path of your entire life; you have to ask yourself, should I go to university or not? Then, more difficult questions start coming; what kind of university should I choose? Should I base my decision on university rankings, or will that confuse me more? What kind of degree should I study? And, in my case, I had to answer another difficult question: do I stay in Romania, or apply to the UK? Ultimately I chose to study in the UK, but there were a lot of things I needed to think about before I made my choice.

Fees

I’d heard stories about the cost of studying in the UK being expensive, or it not being within reach for me, but I’m here in my final year and I could afford it! The tuition fees when I enrolled were £ 9,000 per year, and the average cost of accommodation here is between £3,000- £7,000 per year. Ideally, after that you’d be able to live on around £4,000 for things like food, going out, clothes etc. I know that’s a lot of numbers and you might be thinking, how could I possibly afford that? Don’t worry! I  went through that as well, but it is possible.

The most expensive thing to pay for are the tuition fees, which could be either paid in 3 instalments, or, the choice I opted for, the UK government tuition fee loan, which I will need to give back after I graduate and once I’m earning over a certain amount. If you haven’t been able to earn more than that per year within 30 years, your loan will be erased. If you decide that you don’t want to continue to live in the UK after you graduate, the loan will vary  based on the salary in the country in which you are planning to live.

Luckily for me, my rent was  covered by my parents in my first year and they contributed to my spending habits, as well. I would certainly advise you to take in account every penny you spend and before arriving here. You can’t presume that you’ll get a part time job right away and get enough money to sustain your living. Take every aspect into account and that way there’ll be no nasty surprises. I got my first proper job in my second year and therefore had a little extra spending money for food and going out. It is quite tricky combining working with studying, but it has offered me a new outlook and opportunities to look forward to.

Homesickness

I have battled feeling homesick just like everyone else I know. Regardless of being an EU, UK or International student, everyone has it at some point. It’s normal. But it will pass, trust me. In fact, you’ll get to a stage where you’ll wish you could stay at uni forever!

Extra-Curricular opportunities

In UK universities, there is a lot of independent study, rather than being spoon-fed by your teachers. This means that you get to spend more time doing extra curricular things, as well as just studying! But, if you do need or want a bit more time with your academics, they have on-to-one office hours available to book.

The one extra-curricular activity that everyone should get involved in are the SOCIETIES! Yes! How else could you spend your free time if not being part of a society or being a volunteer?! Here at Essex, I have found that there seems to be a society for everything! Imagine the most obscure, unknown thing on the planet and there probably is a society for it here, but even if there isn’t you can set your own up. Just think about all the possibilities! They are unlimited!

Plus there are Sports clubs and teams, exercise classes, on-campus jobs and volunteering opportunities to get involved in.

Life after graduation

Wouldn’t it be great if your uni could offer you life time support when it comes to finding a career, or perfecting your cv and job applications? Well guess what…it exists! Essex has a Careers Centre to help you find a job, tailor your CV and help you with mock interviews! And it truly helps you feel prepared and prepare yourself for any kind of challenge. On top of that, you’ll receive emails with job opportunities, as well as a portal through which you can check job offers, which can be aimed specifically at students at a certain University.

All in all, there is one thing that you should be certain about: here, in the UK everything, and I mean everything, has been thought through to help students evolve and learn in a setting which tries to go beyond comfortable, something that will enhance your experiences and aims to get you that career that you always wanted!

Until the next time,

Mimi.

 

Essex Bucket List

Probably the most important thing on your TO DO LIST while at the university is to graduate at the end of it, but in the meantime there is so much to explore and experience! Here are a few things every student should do at least one during the time at Essex:

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1. Join a Club or Society
Whether it’s acro-yoga, meditation, origami, or philosophy society, it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests, improve your skills and just be a part of something great! Trips, events and themed socials will make your time at the university unforgettable!

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2. Perform at the Open Mic
Every Friday night the Lakeside Theatre hosts the Open Mic night, so you can share any talent or thought you have in a cosy and friendly atmosphere of the Theatre Café. The mic and the stage are yours, so you can show off whatever you like: from singing to playing an instrument, to dancing, to reading out a poem or a manifesto, to doing a magic trick…take your chance!

3. Make a full round in library lift
The library lift amazes loads of people when they see it the first time, because it never stops. You step into it while it’s moving and step out while it’s moving, and it goes round and round. But actually, the rules say you cannot do a full circle with the lift, so don’t do it. Ever…

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4. Go to SubZero
Some people say it’s awesome, some people say it’s not so awesome. If you think it’s not awesome, go and make it awesome, at least once!

5. Sleep in Nightline
It comes very handy when you live off campus, especially after a long night in the library or a night out. You might have no energy to go back home, or you might just be looking for a mini adventure, exploring the campus and doing something you haven’t done before. Here you go! A nice chat, a piece of toast, and a blanket are waiting for you. And there is even a chance you won’t be late to your 9 am lecture!

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6. Go for a Year Abroad
If you only get one chance, just get out of your shell and go to the unknown! Living in a new place and in a different culture might be a life changing experience, so don’t miss out!

7. Hand in an essay early
You know the adrenaline you feel when you open Faser and see a big red countdown: “Deadline in 2h 20min 39sec” when you’re only half way through your paper? Some people can only write essays in these extreme conditions and somehow they make it without a heart attack. But how about starting to write your essay as soon as the task appears and getting it out of the way a month before the deadline, at least this one time, just to prove yourself that you can? Isn’t that way crazier than pulling all-nighters all the time?

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8. Visit the Art Exchange
The place where exhibitions, talks with artists, and art classes happen is at our campus and it’s free for students! Have a break and just show up to the Art Exchange on square 5, or get involved in one of the art sessions. Get your creative juices flowing! Shake your booty and explore the movements with the dancing class, free your energy with African drumming, or capture a naked yogi with some chalk on a piece of paper.

9. Do a trolley race
When you encounter a random trolley somebody ditched after a trip to the superstore for their weekly shopping, sometimes you just can’t stop yourself. That’s OK. Just mind the stairs and civilians.

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10. Go to the Lakeside Theater
Every Thursday there is a different play, sometimes performed by our students and sometimes by professional actors, in both cases they are stunning and very much worth giving it a try. Last month we went to the Translunar Paradise and the whole audience was secretly wiping the tears. Give it a go!

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11. Have a BBQ by the lakes
Gather your friends, bring some food to share with everybody, some instruments, some games, and just enjoy a chilled afternoon by the lakes with ducklings, rabbits and squirrels coming to say hello.

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12. Take part in fundraising, manifestation or protest
Make some noise for the right cause. Become an activist for a while and start or support any project that you think is right and worth making noise about. At the university you have a chance to express your views and not being criticized by it; also, in such multicultural community you will always find people who share your views and will want to unite and work together. Even the smaller change for the better is a step forward, so find your voice and use it!

13. Put up your photo in SU Bar
SU bar designed their walls with loads of frames that are waiting to be filled in with the photos of the students. Leave a memory before you go!

 

Do you have anything to add to the Essex Bucket List? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments 🙂 And whatever you do, have a great time!

 

The True Essex Experience

It’s March, you’ve been on campus for six months if you’re a fresher, and an infinite amount of months if you’re returning. I’m not good at maths, so I’m not even going to bother guessing a number. Anyway, the point is – surprisingly, there is a life outside of the campus squares and the really pretty lakes. If you’re a fresher, trust me, you may not have seen it yet, but the lakes are really nice in summer term and the majority of your summer ball photos are going to be right next to it.

However, while campus is amazing, and you have everything you need from the numerous food outlets (shout out to the pie bus for their £4.95 full English breakfast), 24 hour computer labs and SU store, there is more to explore in Colchester, and Essex in general, and no I don’t just mean Colchester zoo – although Colchester zoo is great and you should definitely check it out when you get the chance. They have a student discount!

As someone from Essex, I know a fair few things about my own county, and yes, we do really hate when you ask us if you know someone from TOWIE. The answer is no, but yes I do live near that town. TOWIE, however, will not be on my list of recommendations, sorry to disappoint!

Clacton

For those who have never been to Essex, you may not have heard of Clacton. It’s a bus ride away from the university, and only twenty minutes by car. I went there in the summer and it has a lovely beach and great amusements and rides on Clacton pier, and it’s all at a really reasonable price. Even if you don’t fancy going on any rides , or  if it’s raining, they have mini golf and arcade games that you can play on! Plus, there’s nothing better than eating fish and chips, or hot doughnuts on the beach.

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There’s a slight theme going on here, but I think it’s just because I miss the warm, sunny weather. If you fancy a longer trip, you can go to Southend, which is a bit more famous than Clacton but just further away. Southend is obviously where our other campus is, and the buildings look pretty cool. Southend beach is famous for its stony beach, the water you see isn’t actually the sea, it’s the Thames! But it has a really cool aquarium, and adventure island which is just a smaller version of Thorpe park/Alton Towers but just by the beach, so what more could you want?

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Cute beach huts in Southend!

Stansted Airport

I know I’ve probably confused you here – why would I be recommending an airport? But Stansted is only a 40 minute coach ride away and home to that famous blue and yellow budget airline, which means cheap flights to cool destinations. As someone who is constantly stressed about university these days over my dissertation or over one of my ever looming essay deadlines, I can’t recommend booking a holiday enough, or just going away for a weekend trip!

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Lakeside/IKEA

For those who don’t really like the beach, or can’t really afford/have the time to go on holiday, there’s always Lakeside, the biggest shopping centre in Essex, for when Westfield in Stratford is just too far away. What’s also great about Lakeside is that right next to it there’s a massive IKEA which in my second year I drove to with my flatmates who were from the midlands and had therefore never been to IKEA. It was a great afternoon, especially because we all came out with unnecessary purchases that somehow we just needed and our stomachs full with the great food they serve.

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This is before we purchased lots of unnecessary things 

Secret Nuclear Bunker

Yes, you read that right. In Essex there is a secret nuclear bunker that was used for the Cold War, but has been a tourist attraction since 1992. You can go for a tour around the bunker, compete an obstacle course, or use the high ropes. As they advertise on their website, ‘it’s not just about the bunker’ which obviously is pretty rad in itself, but there’s loads more to do than that.

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So when your friends from other universities come to visit and ask what you can do in Essex, now you won’t be stuck for ideas, or you can just brag about how your university is better than theirs, and Essex as a county is pretty great too. Am I being too bias now? I’ll stop.

 

Have fun guys!

A Day in My Life

There’s often a kind of misconception of students that we tend to sleep all day and go out partying all night. And yeah, we might do those things sometimes, but we don’t only do those things. There is so much more to student life! My friends are always telling me I’m the busiest person they know because I get up to so much. To show you just how many opportunities there are to take advantage of at Essex, I’m going to run you through a day in my life. I’m going to give you a sneak peek into my Tuesdays. Tuesday sounds like a pretty random day, but it’s probably one of my favourites!

7:30 a.m. Wake Up

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On Tuesdays I wake up quite early because I usually have to go to work in the morning. I’ll grab myself a bit of breakfast and make lunch (if I haven’t made it the night before) to save some money because I’m out all day.

9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Go to Work

I work part time in the admissions office at the University. I did my Frontrunner’s placement in the office before I went on my year abroad and I’m now back there doing some admin work. If you’re wondering what Frontrunners is, it’s the university’s on campus internship scheme. There are placements in loads of departments in the uni and in the students’ union. They’re a great way to earn a little pocket money and get some experience. The team I work with are great and are really flexible when it comes to needing to do my uni work.

12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Lecture

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Let’s not forget about the degree here! I have a British Politics lecture which I really enjoy. I’ve found that as I’ve progressed through uni I’ve become more confident in talking in class discussions and I get so much more out of them when I take part. Usually the first hour is a lecture and then the second is getting together in small groups to discuss what we’ve learnt.

3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Volunteering

For the past few weeks I’ve been volunteering in a school helping kids learn about politics. This is something I’m really passionate about (especially because I’m a politics student)! We get given a topic each week to teach along with some activities for the kids. It’s up to us how we organise those activities though. I’ve come to realise that teaching  can definitely be a pretty tough job, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. If you want to get involved in volunteering the Essex vTeam has plenty of activities, from recurring opportunities to one off events.

7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sports

27356022_10216010587040937_796284244679394280_oThe rest of my evening is taken up by training. I am a member of both the hockey and ultimate frisbee clubs at Essex. After a busy day I love having a chance to get competitive and have a run around outside. Before uni, I was never really a sporty person which sounds a bit weird seeing as now I play two sports! I decided in my second year I’d give something new a go, so I started hockey and this year I’ve started playing frisbee too. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s definitely room for you in any of the sports clubs at Essex.

So, there you have it, a day in my life! I’ve managed to take advantage of so many of the opportunities at Essex which is one of the reasons I’m a pretty busy person. It’s up to you how much you get involved with all the activities outside of your degree but I definitely recommended trying stuff and getting stuck in!

How to actually get work done: tips from a master procrastinator

I’m a huge procrastinator. I love to procrastinate. I’m procrastinating writing this article right now, in fact. Here are some tips I use to make myself have more Willpower (Haha, because my name is Will).

Eat before, not during.

For me, eating is a full time activity. I can’t forego the pleasure of my meal deal just so I can half-heartedly write an essay plan at the same time. If you’re eating, you shouldn’t be working. Eating is fun and triggers the reward centres in your brain or whatever. Save it for the break. Speaking of which…

Don’t work for too long in one go. Cup of tea breaks are very important.

You should probably aim for around half an hour before having a ten minute break to go and get a cup of tea or coffee or budget energy drink (if the situation is really that dire) so you don’t get overwhelmed or frazzled. Obviously if you’re really getting into it, you should ride the wave until it crashes. But don’t stress yourself out. That’ll just make you want to work less next time.

Use the day! You will never get anything done at night.

You should wake up early! Easier said than done, I know, but if you get into the habit of going to the library by, like, 10am on your off days, you can stay till 4pm and have done six hours of work! That’s a full day! You can go home after that and just watch Narcos or whatever until someone texts you about going to the SU bar. Next thing you know you’re belting out Shania at Milk It and you don’t even feel guilty because you did a full day’s work. Lovely.

Stick on some ambient noise instead of playing bangers.

The temptation when you’re working is to make it way more palatable by loading up the Teen 00s Party playlist on Spotify and getting lost in S Club. But before you know it, it’s midnight and you’ve accidentally transcribed the lyrics to Reach For The Stars into your essay on Nietzsche. My advice is to stay away from the fun stuff, and reach for some ambient tunes. My personal favourite is Rain Sounds For Babies on Apple Music.

Literally, just put your phone down.

The most basic one, but the hardest to do! We’re millennials (I think?) so obviously we find it impossible to put our phones down. This may be to do with our shortening attention spans, but is definitely to do with the fact we have supercomputers in our pockets capable of reaching the entire world at the push of a button. However, since your phone contains all of your interests in one neat package, it’s literally the worst thing to have in your hand when you’re working. So, turn it entirely off and bury it at the bottom of your bag! If it’s all the way off, the effort to switch it back on will be too great to bother with. You’ll be surprised at how much you get done.

Why Last Minute Decisions are the Best Decisions

This time two years ago, I was in my second year of university and I was in two minds about whether I wanted to do a year abroad or not. My friends had just received their year abroad university placements, and I also wanted to be that excited, and wondered about the adventures I would get up to in September.

I was in two minds about it, because I was worried about things such as: could I afford it? (Yes), where would I live? (in student accommodation that I found myself), it’s the second round of applications, will I be able to go where I want to go? (Again, yes). But in the end, it all came down to one question: did I want to go? And that answer was also a big yes. So, I went to campus, I changed my university course from a three year one to four year course at the student centre, and then I went to the year abroad office and submitted my application. It was honestly that simple. I later found out that I applied on one of the last few days applicable to apply, and I am so happy now that I took the courage to do so.

Initially, it was a lot of worrying about where I would apply to, and if I could afford it. Even though I had applied in the second round of applications, I still had loads of options to choose from, including places in America and New Zealand. Eventually, I chose to go to Ireland, more specifically Maynooth university which is forty minutes away from Dublin, and looks like this:

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Image: Domagoj Trsan: https://www.flickr.com/photos/domagojtrsan/37515914472/in/photolist-Za9SkA-efK8kD-XfG8x7-X3cAM7-SqnQGL-Tq7pEL-nuosJM-U9oL31-XjySDP-W3t71d-pmJhQS-8tos4B-RWLz3p-Umd8Xf-8An9FY-pmJk7L-225Jg5m-p2B7fX-TiYkrY-Umd8Hs-WJyaY1-p7fZyi-ncHkey-rhH496-TSGykf-Uv8o9B-7u3t6G-8H3UWw-ZM4fAM-QRq8Ks-VL1BsP-7U8S77-zUZWM3-7TRiji-TmNr8Z-8G1xNc-oAy7ia-Wp2ZJ5-WJygo9-WXE1mz-dL4nmH-Sz7D7E-zhSt4E-z6ndEK-6sgK2E-drPRRK-ban3qM-9onWbg-213944h-TiYk6s 

Some people may consider it a weird place to do my year abroad, considering it’s only an hour away by plane, and it’s next to us. A lot of people when I told them in the summer that I was going to do a year abroad in Ireland seemed almost disappointed that I wasn’t going to someplace like China or Australia. But I can honestly say that I don’t regret choosing Ireland, or not going to somewhere else in Europe, and it was probably one of the best decisions in my life.

First and foremost, I got to meet so many amazing people that I know I’m going to keep in touch with for a very long time. I also met my boyfriend in Maynooth, and we’ve been together for nearly a year now. Because of the people I’ve met, I was able to stay in New York last summer with one of my friends who lives in Long Island and she graciously let me stay in her house for two weeks. This summer I’ve been invited to Spain and Italy to catch up with my other year abroad friends too.

While abroad, I was able to travel around Ireland and Europe, including the Netherlands and Germany, and I’m going to continue travelling this year as well. Your year abroad isn’t just about learning, although obviously that’s a big part of it, it’s more about the culture, and the people you meet.

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Me in Ireland and other Erasmus students

A lot of people ask ‘how did you afford it?’ which I know is a big worry for a lot of students. It was a big worry for my parents when I eventually told them what I was doing. But you’re given so much funding from the government because they recognise that it’s such a great opportunity to learn abroad and they see it as a great investment for your future. Plus, if you go to a university in Europe (and some select universities in America), they offer you the Erasmus+ grant which you don’t have to pay back.

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Me and some friends enjoying the first sunny day of Spring

The reason I’m writing this blog post is just so that if anybody is on the fence about doing a year abroad, they should do it! Be sensible about your choice, and know that you’re going to have a wonderful time. I know I did, and I haven’t met anyone yet who has had a negative experience with their year. And for those who are already doing a year abroad, just know that you’re already made the right decision and you should look forward to August and September when you start. The world is an amazing place, go explore, the university will always be there when you get back!

 

 

The Choccie Connoisseur

I don’t know about you, but during the chilly winter I find that a nice Hot Chocolate can make things seem that little bit better. But with so many food outlets around the Colchester campus, it’s often difficult choosing where to go.

So, without further or do let me, The Choccie Connoisseur, show you the best hot chocolates that the University of Essex has to offer!

I’ll be comparing each Hot Chocolate on its cost and its taste to find out whether these hot chocolates are a hot delight or a hot mess.

To make it fair, I’ll be reviewing a standard small sized Hot Chocolate to take away from each outlet. In my testing, I’ll be looking for perfection; a rich chocolatey taste, a milky texture and some good froth on top.

Let the best beverage win!

 

No.64/ Canteen/ Buffalo Joe’s/Refresh

The reason that these outlets are grouped together is that they all use the same automated machine. Therefore, they’re all pretty much the same!

Cost: £1.50 (Refresh)

Taste: Looking at the cup, it seems simple. There’s a little froth and a very sweet taste that definitely stays in my mouth afterwards. It does the job in warming me up in my 9am class but it wasn’t quite what I was after!

Rating: 2/5

Good for: If you’re running a bit late for class but you still need a little pick me up!

 

SU bar (Starbucks)

This outlet often has a busy queue in the middle of the day but you know what they say… don’t judge a Hot Chocolate by its queue!

Cost: £2.15

Taste: Interestingly, this was the only hot chocolate on my test to use a syrup instead of powder. Controversial… Thankfully, the syrup worked and it had a lovely milky, smooth texture. Really felt like a hug in a cardboard cup. Just what I needed, although I did feel a bit sleepy afterwards. Not what I needed just before a study session…

It was a bit pricy but I felt like I was getting my money’s worth!

Rating: 4/5

Good for: If you need something to calm you down if you’re having a stressful day!

 

Blues Bar (Lavazza)

I had to go a bit out of my way to get this one as I don’t really go to Blues Bar that often. The fact that they use Lavazza products was promising.

Cost: £1.85

Taste: Beyond the foam on top, there was quite a subtle chocolatey taste to the drink which was nice. Overall a decent option, especially considering it was machine made. However, I do feel duped that the cup that I was given was significantly smaller than all of the others that I’ve tried?

Rating: 3/5

Good for: If you need a little pick me up, ready to go again!

 

Union

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never actually stepped foot in this funny compact coffee shop before. But what does this new kid on the block have to offer?

Cost: £1.85

Taste: Frothy milk, chocolatey taste barista made. Whisk and all behind the desk. Cup was as small as the offering from Blues Bar but in this case, good things come in small packages. There was an option to get a larger size and I kind of wished I got that one now!

Rating: 5/5

Good for: If you want a scientifically precise hot chocolate that tastes amazing!

 

Zest/Bonds (Costa)

These outlets are paired together because they use identical Costa Coffee products using a barista machine. Both of them are cool cafés with a wide food selection.

Cost: £2.25

Taste: There’s a lot of foam on this one, it’s as if it’s trying to hide something… If you don’t have too much of a sweet tooth then this one is for you! There is a chocolatey taste there but it’s not as strong as some of the other ones! This was the most expensive hot chocolate on the test.

Rating: 2.5/5

Good for: Those who prefer a slightly subtler hot chocolate.

 

Lakeside Café

I’m in this building a lot for classes and to see shows, so I am already well accustomed to their Hot Chocolate. But how does their offering compare in light of the competition?

Cost: £1.40

Taste: A great cup of hot chocolate there. A good foamy top and a good substantial chocolatey taste with some sweet after tones. The barista really looked like they knew what they were doing as well. All the things you expect from a hot chocolate really!

Rating: 4.5/5

Good for: Getting a reliable hot chocolate that ticks all the boxes!

 

The Kitchen

Tucked away next to the SU bar on Square 3, The Kitchen is a hideaway designed so that you can grab a hot drink quickly in between lectures. All of the hot beverages are made by a machine, so that the service is super quick!

Cost: £1.35

Taste: Nice bit of foam on the top which eases you into the dulcet tones of the chocolate. I found this one very easy to drink for some reason; one sip just made me want another!

Rating: 4/5

Good for: A quick hot chocolate that will keep you satisfied

 

OVERALL WINNER – Union

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Although all of the hot chocolates impressed, the best hot chocolate has to go to Union! Whilst the others were all different in their own way, the offering from Union was faultless. The Lakeside Theatre Café’s option was close but Union just pipped it to the post! This little hideaway on Square 3 is nothing to laugh about, it’s full of top quality hot beverages.

So next time you’re on campus feeling indecisive about your hot chocolate options, give another outlet a try. You may be pleasantly surprised like I was 😊

 

Disclaimer: Although I am employed by the University and the Student’s Union, this is my own independent, non-biased taste test. This has been undertaken in a personal capacity and does not reflect my view of either organisation.

 

Metamorphosis of an Undergraduate to a Postgraduate

After three years studying Biomedical Sciences at this university, I reached a fork in the road, so to speak. I could either apply for a Masters, or get experience working in research. Honestly, I felt scared to move to the next stage of adulthood, working a full-time job for the rest of my life and leaving my friends to focus on my future. Doing a Masters seemed like a better use of my time because I’d be spending one year getting a newer and better qualification that, in the long run, would help me get a better job.

I started applying to universities a bit late, because (A) I procrastinate and (B) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I compiled a list of universities that had interesting Masters programs and decided to apply for ones in or close to London, just because London has everything in terms of services and resources. I kept Essex as my backup, as I’d promised myself I wanted to experience somewhere different. In the end though, I concluded that the University of Essex was more valuable to me than London universities. It was way cheaper in terms of accommodation and tuition fees. Additionally, the uni has a loyalty discount for its alumni, which cuts a maximum of  30% off your tuition* based on your final grade and as an international student, this mattered a lot because I have to pay almost double what a British or EU citizen pays.

*From 2018, this will be up to 25% off your tuition, based on your final grade.

I also have lots of contacts and friends in this uni that I didn’t want to let go of. I know this uni inside and out and staying here would make a stressful and hard Masters become a little easier. I would also get to stay in the same place as friends I’d made from younger years and get to see friends who’d been away on their year abroad and placements again. Moving to London meant that I would be emptying my bank account way faster, I would have to sort out accommodation which would be even more of a burden on my bank account, and I would have to start everything fresh. Its too much to put on someone’s plate and its much harder when you’re an international student. I consider my friends at uni to be family because of the support and safety that they provide me.

Now that I’ve made Essex my home, I feel comfortable doing my postgraduate study here.

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A Masters runs for an entire year, from the start of October till the end of September the following year and you graduate the consequent summer. The program is very similar to an undergraduate degree, except its more condensed as it only runs for one year. There are still exams that occur during January and the summer term, and coursework is spread throughout the whole year. Essays are way longer and there are (too many) oral presentations that we have to give!

In conjunction with studying for your Masters, you’re encouraged to start looking for prospective jobs or programs that you want to pursue. If you’d like to continue studying, I’d recommend that you begin applying for PhD’s in research facilities, hospitals or universities as soon as you can, because some provide spaces on a first come first served basis. On the other hand, if you’re sick of studying, you need to start looking for full-time jobs. Make sure to update your CV as you gain experience so that you can make time for finding jobs, obtaining references.

Unfortunately, we don’t get summer holidays and instead we have to prepare and complete our research projects. On my course, this is compiled of a 10,000 word SPF report (some courses have to write a whopping 20,000 words), project proposal, risk assessment (for those who are doing a laboratory-based project), oral and poster presentation, and a conference. While this sounds hard, you have to think about the benefits and whether or not, for you, these outweigh the sacrifices.

I’ve completed about half of this degree and am looking forward to making my way to the finish line in style! I’ve got a few pieces of coursework left, I’ve found a research project supervisor and am in the process of gathering and understanding resources. Luckily, I don’t have any exams during the summer term so I will be using this free time to search for full-time job opportunities, as I’d like to take a break from studying before doing my PhD. I’m looking forward to finishing, but doing my Masters will be so valuable for my future.