5 reasons why I love the University of Essex

As I prepare to wrap up my time at Essex *cries uncontrollably* a lot of things have been coming to mind. Three years have passed exceptionally quickly and now I’ve written my last essay (my 16th essay at Essex), sat my last exam, submitted my dissertation and ordered my gown for graduation it has now become all the more real that my time here is ending.

Looking back, these are the reasons that I fell in love with Essex in the first place and why it continues to get under my skin.

Diverse Community

Essex was recently declared the 15th most internationally diverse in the world with 44% of the student population coming from abroad. As a result there is a wonderful mix of cultures on campus, most of whom have their own society which is open to anyone wanting to learn more about their culture (and cuisine!).

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Architecture 

Ok, so it is not everyone’s taste- but come on, concrete was exceptionally fashionable in the 1960’s when the university was built. But brutalist architecture I find strangely interesting, and mix this with the other fantastic (and award winning) buildings on campus then you have some incredible buildings to study in.

Thursday Market

I blame this market for making a dent in my student finance loans! On Thursday the market is a must to pick up bargains and delicious food. Think books, bread, burgers, fruit and veg, sweets, fish, cakes, and CD’s and you’re generally in the right area of what is on offer and how lucky we are to have this on campus!

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Module Variety 

I’ve probably mentioned before that just because you study a particular degree doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same as a similar degree at another university. You have the option to pick modules that suit your interests and one of the reasons that made me choose Essex was the fantastic variety of module on offer. This meant that I could select the modules that I was interested in and wanted to know more about.

Supportive Staff

There is a greater emphasis at university for independent study and performing your own research, but that doesn’t mean that you are left on your own. The staff in your department and across the wider support network are some of the most caring, supportive and friendly people that you’ll ever meet. They are people that you can moan to, laugh and converse with- and their passion for their work is contagious.

I can’t put into words every single reason why I love Essex as much as I do – there aren’t enough hours in the day! But I will say I’m incredibly proud to be an Essex finalist and will miss this place when I’m gone!

Living in halls after your first year

Oh, our lovely campus!

Our uni offers a wide range of accommodation, aiming to match any taste. It is common knowledge that all first-year undergraduates get campus accommodation and following that most just choose to move off campus. But what happens with those that wish to stay?

Under specific circumstances, the uni still offers priority to you. Are you an international student? You are in luck! You will get priority and will have high chances of staying on campus for your second/final year. Additionally, if you are coming back from a year abroad, you still benefit from this priority.

Don’t seem to have any of the above traits? Have no fear, there is still a chance for you! Although first years have absolute priority, the uni holds a certain number of rooms for second/final year students and postgraduates. Sadly, the applications for next year have closed, but, for future reference, it is a very good idea to sign up as soon as the applications start. The system works on a first come first serve basis, so don’t wait for too long if you wish to secure your room!

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Phew! We got that one covered. What’s left now is, well, what to expect. I know most of you are thinking: “Ugh, am I gonna have to live with freshers again?” Thankfully, no! The uni does everything possible so that freshers and ‘non-freshers’ do not share the same flat.

“Ok, well what about the atmosphere?”

I happen to know a lot of second and third years that still stay on campus, and it is always fun to hear their stories. Most say that the flats are very quiet as most give up the nightlife for extra study time, or extra sleep (yes, I am talking about you postgraduates). Likewise, many others say they love it because it is ridiculously close to everything on campus.

For me, this is the second year I’ve spent in Towers, and so far, it has been a unique experience! It has had its ups and downs for sure, but looking back on it, I don’t regret a thing.  What do you think? Would you consider staying on campus for another year? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Our Diverse campus: it’s written in the prospectus, but what does it really mean?

When it comes to universities, the word “Diverse” can be seen in use a lot, but why does it ring especially true at the University of Essex?

University itself is a great place to introduce yourself to new ideas, new people and new cultures. You’re no longer at a school where everyone who attends lives in the same town as you. The people that you meet at university will be from all across the world!

Being diverse means that there will be people of different ages, different nationalities, different faiths, different sexualities and different occupations all brought together in one safe and friendly environment.

Students from over 130 countries

With so many people from different countries, it is not surprising that Essex is the 5th most internationally diverse university in the UK. In fact, a third of students at Essex are classed as international.

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Proud Essex: Students protesting about changes to international students visas

Cultural Societies

There are 36 on-campus societies based around the cultures of different countries. These societies aim to bring together people from those respective countries/cultures as well as people interested in learning more about them.

Faith

For many, faith is an important aspect of daily life. There are 11 different chaplains and faith representatives on-campus who are able to help if you have any questions or would like someone to talk to.

LGBTQ+

The University of Essex LGBT Society is one of the biggest in the UK and has won numerous awards for their work in recent years. Essex LGBT have well over one hundred members, associates, contributors and friends from a wide range of religious, racial and social backgrounds and are able to provide a supportive network for those who would like it.

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Mature Students

This means people who are aged 21 or over when they start their course with around 37% of the Essex student population being made up of mature students. In 2011 the University was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for providing outstanding support to mature students.

The Essex student experience and how you can make the most of it

There are so many reasons why Essex has given me an amazing student experience, but here are just a few things available that can help your time here to be as good as you’d hoped!

  • The Clubs and Societies

This is a huge part of the Essex experience and the majority of students are signed up to at least one. From the Cheese and Wine Society to the Harry Potter Society, there are loads of societies to try out and get involved in – you may even surprise yourself with what you end up really enjoying! Meanwhile, sports clubs range from things like Ultimate Frisbee to Cheerleading, so there really is something for everyone. Whether you have played before,  or you want to try something completely new, clubs are open to all levels and abilities! Societies are currently £5 to join and it is completely free to join a sports club, so you might as well give something a go! Not only is this a great opportunity to try something totally new, joining clubs and societies is also the perfect way to make friends with similar interests to you – and what would your uni experience be without a huge group of friends to enjoy it with?!

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  • Jobs on campus

Whilst some people don’t really want extra work on top of their studies, earning extra pennies does help you in lots of other areas of student life. Whilst the thought of a job might turn your stomach now, the feeling of not having enough money for food or a night out with your friends is even worse, so it’s something to consider! In your first year you may not hear a lot about jobs on campus, however if you are interested I would recommend you looking online  before you arrive; the Employability and Careers centre is a good place to start! http://www.essex.ac.uk/life/facilities/careers.aspx.

The campus itself has a range of student jobs available; from Frontrunner positions, Student Ambassador roles, internships, bar staff jobs, to retail assistant jobs and many more! The applications for these generally open before the beginning of each term, however occasionally they pop up throughout the term too.

Not only does a job get you that much needed extra cash to do more fun things in your free time, you are also adding to your CV and therefore making yourself more employable. Essex has really helped to build my CV and now I am close to graduating I realise how much the jobs I’ve had here have helped me to develop my skills.

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  • Living in Student Accommodation

As I am from Chelmsford, I was able to live at home and commute to university. However, in my first year I chose to live on campus in South Courts and I am now living in North Towers for my final year. I am so glad that I didn’t just live at home throughout my time here! Living in accommodation introduced me to so many new friends, as well as helping me to become so much more independent. Living on campus means that you don’t miss out on the crazy stories or deep chats that only happen at 3am when you’ve just got back from Sub Zero; it means that you can form proper friendships and don’t have to plan in advance if you want to spend time together after a lecture! The awful cooking experiments, getting ready for a night out all together, and hanging out until the early hours of the morning are some of the best and most memorable times you will have at uni – they are not to be missed!

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  • Sub Zero

Sub Zero is a big part of the Essex experience for many students. It is the club on campus that is generally open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Sports Fed is a big event that takes place there every Wednesday and I feel like that has been a huge part of my experience at Essex. It is a great way to get away from studying, do some crazy dancing, and have a fun night with your friends.

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  • Year Abroad

If it wasn’t for Essex I wouldn’t have been able to go to Australia on my year abroad. The Essex Abroad team were a great help and Essex offering free tuition for that year made it really affordable to go.

I can’t tell you how amazing and life-changing this experience is – just go and experience it for yourself! You’ll thank me later!

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  • Being so international

With students from over 140 different countries studying at Essex, all students benefit from a really diverse environment. I have met people from all over the world, who I know I will stay in contact with and would love to visit in the future. It has made me more culturally aware and I have learnt a lot about different languages and different ways of living. Embracing this diversity just broadens your mind and your knowledge. My experience here at Essex wouldn’t have been the same and I would have never learnt so much about the world if it wasn’t for how wonderfully cultural the campus is.

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I could go on forever, but these are just a few things that make the Essex experience so great!

 

The 7 stages of revision we can all relate to

It’s officially May and you know what that means…exams start this month *cue uncontrollable crying*. This means we’ve all been busy cramming in some revision, or have at least tried to anyway, and with the hours of despair that this brings, I have written the 7 stages of revision that I think we all face!

The organisation stage

The first step of revision is organising all your work to make it look like you actually know what you are doing. You get your  notes out, line your coloured pens and highlighters neatly (because if they aren’t neat you obviously can’t be productive) and get your revision Spotify playlist ready for the long day ahead.  Now your revision is organised, you surely deserve a break?!

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The first social media scroll of the day stage

The first social media scroll soon happens usually after you have organised your notes. That was enough hard work getting your work neat and a cheeky look on Facebook won’t hurt. Or maybe you were able to hold on that little bit longer and start some work by now?! But eventually you give in. It might be because your phone flashed up with a ‘long day in the library’ Snapchat from your mate (which obviously you have to respond to) or someone has tagged you in a student meme that totally sums up your life right now.

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When you actually pick a pen stage

You’re organised, you’re up to date with all the memes, you can finally pick up a pen. And this is when the real work starts. You have worked up to this moment. You have motivated yourself. This is how you are going to get that 2:1.

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Tea break/coffee break/energy drink break stage

Whether your go to drink is tea, coffee, an energy drink, or a fancy Starbucks drink, the thought of stopping revision to have one is tempting. The good thing about this is getting a drink is the perfect excuse to take a break from your revision. You can’t go thirsty can you! You may do this a number of times in the day. My preference is a cup of tea and obviously while the kettle is boiling I have another cheeky scroll on Facebook. My revision is pretty much based around my tea breaks, but if I’m revising on campus, I try not to be tempted to spend money and be unhealthy by going to buy some fancy Starbucks drink. (Then again, it’s exam season… so I deserve a treat right?!)

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The trying to do anything but revise stage

You’re got all your fancy fine liners out, you’re got the revision cards and you’ve got your tasty Starbucks drink. But you can’t seem to focus on revision. You mind wanders, wondering the big questions in the world like “Are Zebras black on white or white on black?” and “What was called orange first, the colour or the fruit?”. Or perhaps you are looking at holidays, planning to tan yourself after this misery called exam season ends. What ever you’re doing.. it’s not revising and it’s not going to help you pass your exams.

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The ‘panic’ or the ‘I can do this’ stage

You’ve been doing work for a number of hours now. You’re thinking about calling it a day on revision, but at this point your study session has gone one of 2 ways; you’re either starting to panic, or you’re thinking ‘I’ve got this!’.

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The morning of the exam stage

It’s the morning of the exam and their are 2 types of people. Those who are trying do that last minute cram revision with all their lecture notes around them in the library or outside the exam hall, or the one that I tend to take, what will be will be and I can’t change it with a last look at my revision notes!

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Happy revising 🙂

What to look forward to this Summer Term

I know what all of you are probably thinking right now: “What could we possibly look forward to during summer term? There’s too many exams!” And you would be right…partially. For many, the summer term is quite stressful because of all the exams that are coming. However, our amazing university is trying every year to make this time as easy  as possible. In what follows, I created a list of the things that our uni organises yearly, to make the exam experience feel less stressful, and also some activities that you can do by yourself.

Exam Angels

I do not know who they are, I do not know where they come from, but these people are heroes. HEROES I SAY.

Since everyone knows a hungry student is a sad and stressed student, they are trying to help us by giving us stuff. Free stuff. Exam Angels are people who go around campus and give out water, food and fruit, because they are that cool and loving and caring. You can catch them during exam time around the squares. During previous years, they also brought puppies around because well…we need a cuddle or two during exam time, let’s be honest. Truth to be told, if that is going to be happening this year, I am just going to be creepily following them everywhere. #noshame

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The Lakes

And I hear you ask: “But Dragos? What about the lake? I can’t swim in it, so what good is it going to be?” I hear you my friend, trust me, so let me tell you a secret (which is not even a secret but I wanted to sound cool): every year around finals time there is a bridge built on the surface of the lake so you can walk on it and everything. BUT NOT JUST THAT…there’s a castle on it too. Yup. You read that right. A freaking bouncy castle because we are 12. I dare say it is the MOST FUN I have had in years. Just going there after revision to destress and jump around with your friends – it’s the best feeling ever.

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Summer Ball

Ah yes, the Summer Ball. The only social event every student is truly looking forward to during the Summer Term. The Summer Ball is the time to relax, dress fancy and pamper yourself before going full-on party mode up in there. You go there, you get yourself a glass of champagne (because, yes, we are fancy), and you celebrate the year of constant battles of papers that you have been through and survived. It is an amazing opportunity to be with your friends and relax after the exams are officially over.

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Warm weather

Mother nature is truly amazing. I have never seen as many people sunbathing, playing Frisbee, and just out and about, as I have seen during the summer term around the lakes. Some people just have a little picnic there, others have full on study sessions there with their friends – and not going to lie, it is kind of motivating to see that. I did it last year too and it felt so good to be out, laying in the sun and still being productive. As warm weather is sort of a rarity in UK, I highly recommend it!

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Here’s just a few things for you to enjoy. Good luck with your exams and enjoy the Summer Term!

Trying to make the work/life balancing act work… I still don’t know the answer!

When I was in first year, a course mate in the year above me described how “second year is just like riding a bicycle’…

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Looking back as a (not so) wise third year, whilst I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was hell, it’s a pretty accurate description!

University life can be difficult to manage. This is especially true, considering that just studying for your degree isn’t the only thing on your mind. A vast majority of students are part of something at University, whether it be a part time job, sports teams, societies, volunteering etc.Then on top of that you need to socialise, eat, sleep and perhaps the occasional alcoholic beverage just to keep you sane!

In the end, it kind of just looks like this…

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Resulting in you looking a little like this…

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Now don’t get me wrong, a rare breed of student can balance it all successfully…

And to those people I salute you and give you a gold star.

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But for the average student, it’s just not possible to do it all. You can try to, but you’ll probably soon see that the “bicycle” is catching fire a little bit quicker than you think when deadlines come around.

Going from a calm relaxing week to one where you’ll have 4 deadlines due, 2 social events on and millions of other things on, is not uncommon.

Now I still haven’t mastered this and I don’t think anyone can really to an extent but here are my tips in trying to reach that elusive perfect balance…

Do something not nothing!

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Now I’m not saying don’t do anything. In fact that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. Doing something as well as your degree is always better than nothing. No matter how tempting it is to spend your days locked up in your room watching Netflix!

Don’t be afraid to get the balance wrong

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It’s okay to mess up and get the balance wrong every once in a while. You’re only human! If you feel like you’re not doing enough or you’re doing too much then remember that you always have a choice in doing what you want to do!

It’s physically impossible to do everything

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I definitely feel like I’ve learnt this the hard way.

See, I’m the kind of positive, go getting person who just goes for everything. Coming from a tiny village with little opportunities looking back to my first year as an eager eyed fresher, I was amazed by everything that I could do at Uni.

I’ve been part of societies, peer mentoring, course representatives, volunteering at the Lakeside Theatre, the list goes on. I would exhaust and stretch myself so much that I would have such little time off. Whilst I enjoyed what I was doing, in hindsight it probably wasn’t worth the stress!

Organise AND prioritise   

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This is probably what I’ve learnt from trying to do everything…

I thought that because I was organised with my diary to keep up to date with my life that I was doing everything right. In hindsight that was only half of the battle. I just wasn’t prioritising the stuff that I wanted to do!

By organising everything that you want to do and picking the things you want to prioritise, you soon start to see what’s important. If you’re truly passionate about something, then the choice should make sense in the long run.

So, whilst it may seem that the uncontrollable “burning bicycle” might be taking over your life, there are ways to deal with getting the balance right. It will be impossible to get the balance right all the time.

But by making a conscious effort, you can make things a whole lot better for yourself!

 

Brain food: What you should eat to ace those exams

As the exam season is getting closer and closer I came to realise that one of the most important things that you need to take into consideration is what you’re eating. In the past, I used to eat quite a lot of unhealthy snacks like crisps and biscuits that I got from the Store, as they were a very easy (and tasty) alternative for a meal. This affected my productivity quite a lot as I felt tired most of the time, although generally, I would get more than enough sleep. So, I decided to share with you some healthy snacks that you can make to trick yourself into eating a bit healthier. They proved to be quite useful for me!

 

Chicken and Spinach Ciabatta Pizzas

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A very simple and healthy recipe that has saved me so many times when I had to study. Feeling tired and do not want to do much cooking? Just stick some chicken (or you can just use some salami as well), cheese, pasta sauce and spinach/tomatoes in the oven, and in less than 15 mins you’ve got yourself a proper meal.

 

Fruit salad skewers

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Everyone knows fruits are a great study snack and making some fruit skewers, although it may seem like a tedious task, is a very good way to trick yourself to eat something healthy.

 

Nutella and banana sandwich

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Okay, maybe this one is not the healthiest of study snacks but it is definitely one that’s sure to give you a lot of energy for the day! Both the bananas and Nutella are a very good way to start off your day.

I hope this helps and you’re able to enjoy some tasty food during the long hours of revision!

Easter Fun in America

I love Easter. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s chocolate galore!

Here in the USA, my university doesn’t have an Easter holiday, but I still had an amazing Easter weekend full of fun. Me and some friends went to stay with one of our lovely American pals in Phoenix, Arizona. We were looking forward to experiencing the 30 degree weather in Phoenix and finally going to a water park.

You might think that Easter in America is pretty similar to Easter in the UK, but there’s actually a lot of things that are quite different. First off, and I was extremely devastated to discover this, chocolate Easter eggs aren’t very popular here at all. Instead, there is a tradition of Easter baskets. The family we were staying with were kind enough to give us one. It was full of American candy and chocolates. We were also given a jar of over 1000 jelly beans!

18010386_1665677296780365_3201051392254263424_n Four Brits very happy with their Easter basket!

Taking advantage of the very hot weather we went to Wet n Wild Phoenix which is a massive water park in the middle of the desert. It was a welcome break from all the work I’ve been doing! I had a go on a water coaster which went much faster than I thought it would. There was also a slide that 6 people could go on together and so we all squeezed on but I did bang the head of one of my pals on the bumpy ride down! After our ordeal we decided to cool down with a snow cone. They were much bigger than I expected and I think I went slightly overboard on the syrup flavours as they all seemed to merge into one!

IMG_20170421_133450 Enjoying some huge snow cones!

Our hosts were cooking us all a special Easter dinner, so it was only right to share some classic British food with our American friends. We made a Victoria Sponge! It went down a great hit as our dessert after our American Easter dinner. It’s traditional in America to have a ham at Easter, which we did, we also had a croissant, some stuffed baked potatoes and a delicious pineapple bread dish. I’m very fussy so I was concerned I wouldn’t like a lot of the food but I tried quite a lot of new things and found myself enjoying them!

IMG_20170421_134750 Sharing some delicious British desserts!

After dinner we took part in some fun Easter activities. We had a very competitive Easter egg hunt in the garden with everyone hurrying to find as many eggs as they could. Although there was no overall prize, each egg had a dollar in and there was a special golden egg with five dollars. We also took part in some art and dyed some eggs. Watching the eggs change colour is surprisingly satisfying!

IMG_5113 (1) Our beautifully decorated eggs

I had a wonderful Easter with my friends and the family we stayed with. I’m so grateful for their hospitality and how they welcomed 6 crazy Brits into their home during the holidays! I know I’ll always have somewhere to stay back in Arizona and my friends over here are always welcome in the UK.

No need to suffer: the help and support available to you at university

University is a place for you to grow. A place where you can become the person you want to be. People say that at university you can be independent but it can seem daunting at first, especially if you are living away from home for the first time. All those things that other people may have done for you in the past will now become your responsibility.

There is cooking to do, shopping, washing, studying, socialising and relaxing: in truth it does feel like you are at the deep end when it comes to being independent and looking after yourself.

But that doesn’t mean that you should face it alone. Never suffer in silence if the whole university experience or even your personal life becomes too much. There are so many services and people who can help with a wide range of issues- while this may not be representative of all universities, the information below is certainly true of Essex.

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Nightline: a confidential listening, emotional support, information and supplies service, run for students by students at the University of Essex.

It runs every night during term time from 10pm until 8am. Students can either visit in person where you can enter the Nightline flat at the back of Keynes Tower (North Towers), or you can email or give them a call.

Student Support Hub: The Silberrad Student Centre is the one-stop shop for the majority of student concerns.

Whether it is do with living in university residences; changing your course; replacement registration cards; disability support; exam extenuating circumstances; coping with stress and anxiety; counselling; immigration advice; or funding advice (phew!) the “Hub” will be able to help you.24477446640_ac9b4c7ac7_k

Personal Tutor: All students will be assigned a personal tutor within their department for the duration of their study. These are the people that you can go to with course specific questions, additionally they are also able to signpost you to other services if they feel that they cannot help you personally.

Peer Mentor: Most departments will assign first year students a peer mentor, a student normally in their second or third year. The peer mentor is able to give you honest advice and help from the student prospective. They can also direct you to the specific people or services which can help your position.

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Multi-Faith Chaplaincy: a welcoming place for staff, students and the wider community to meet, interact and engage in a positive and peaceful manner. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, the Chaplaincy and its staff are a friendly group and an oasis of calm.

Student Union: As a member of the university you are automatically a member of the student union. This is a service which runs some of the venues on campus as well as being an organisation that is centred wholly around supporting students. There are representatives who handle educational concerns, concerns with welfare and also people who help and represent groups such as BAME students, LGBT+ students, postgraduate and mature students. Their job is to listen and react to your issues.

uni-essex-student-union-ambassador-logo-400x400Health Centre: Hopefully you will never need to use it whilst you are here, but it is important to register with the on-campus health centre in case you do need it. Located behind Rayleigh Tower (North Towers) they provide NHS services from GP appointments to nurse clinics and provide help and assistance for asthma, diabetes, sexual health and contraception.

Talent Development Centre Helpdesk: Located on the ground floor of the Student Centre they offer a number of services including: 1:1 academic advising; Maths support; English language support; and advice on PhD thesis writing.

Whilst your family and friends can be the perfect shoulder to cry on if you need one, there is other help available if you need it. With so much available, never feel embarrassed to ask for more support should you ever need it.