The storm before the calm?
It had been my dream to study in England since the first time I visited ten years ago, so actually following through with my plan was nothing short of an amazing feeling.
My start to university was quite a life changing experience in itself, as it unfolded anything other than smoothly. Long story short, being an American/Austrian student with a Tier 4 visa, I struggled with the tedious (and expensive) application process, and on top of that, there were delays in the waiting times. Not only was I moving to a different country on my own, but I ended up missing the entire month of October at university. This meant that I had to make do without fresher’s week, welcome events, or any form of introductory lectures. Despite all of the difficulties I experienced, I was extremely excited and even more grateful when I finally boarded the plane to England.
Arriving to Essex late added to the stress of starting a new life chapter, resulting in me pretty much spending my first week feeling miserable in my room. However, the good thing about university is that it’s super easy to build up support networks. Settling in and making friends happened quicker than I could have imagined. Being a “people person”, the best thing about Essex for me was, and still is, the amazing relationships you can build with people. Engaging with fascinating stories of others, as well as your own, can be a quite magical experience. It may sound cheesy, but pretty much everyone that crossed my path here taught me invaluable lessons in one way or another.
Half way through my first year I was deeply unhappy with what, at the time, seemed like life in general. It took quite a while until I came to the realisation that I had chosen the wrong degree and just wasn’t being true to myself. It wasn’t only my course that sent me into a downward spiral; however it was definitely the main catalyst and intensified pre-existing issues. All my struggles up to that point forced me to rethink everything, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
I realised it was time to start thinking about what felt truly right for me and only me. I had always known that I wanted to pursue a more creative career revolving around my passions and strengths, such as writing and communication in general. What I hadn’t considered however, was the possibility that there was indeed a career out there which seemed to be made for me. I have so many different interests; however music has always been the focal point of my life. Once the penny dropped and I realised I could turn what I love into a career, it became my ultimate goal to work in the music industry. More specifically, I became focused on the public relations sector within the industry. When I came across a Music PR summer course held at the University of the Arts London, I didn’t think twice, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Crossroads and roundabouts
Despite having gained clarity on my future aspirations, I still had to decide how to proceed with my studies. As I was at first unsure about whether Essex was the right place for me, I started attending university open days in London, but to no avail. In the end, relying heavily on my intuition, I chose to stay at Essex and switch to BA Media, Culture, and Society. Looking back on the situation now, it almost seems like the course chose me. I got to start my first year over and I finally felt at home with what I was studying. My problems disappeared!
Despite having had another academically poor year, once I had changed course, I started to experience life as a student in a completely different way and felt glad I stayed at Essex. By this point, I was finally able to understand what the Essex Spirit is all about.
All about growth
Following numerous detours, by the time I finally went into my second year, I was more or less content with what I was doing and where I was going. With my regained enthusiasm and newfound confidence, I started pushing myself out of my comfort zone even more. Apart from securing a Frontrunners placement within the SU, I also took up pole dance fitness. The prior pushed me mentally, whereas the latter challenged me physically.
Now in my final year, I feel less like a completely different person, but more like myself than I ever had before. More recent developments, such as starting a Frontrunners Plus placement, and setting up the Animal Protection Society, felt like the right next steps to take. Once you start looking, you can truly find opportunities around every corner!
Overall, university started changing my life from the day I was accepted as a student. I couldn’t point to a single experience; instead coming to Essex set me off on a journey of self-discovery and growth. I believe the saying ‘university helps you become a person’ definitely rings true. Not only have I learned to embrace change and struggles as learning opportunities, but also how to find strength to pursue my dreams.