The things I wished I’d know about university before starting: Busting the four big myths about university

If you have a strong, preconceived idea about what life will be like at university then this blog may ruin that. If however, you are happy to have those ideas challenged then continue reading. Essentially this is what I wished I’d known about university all the way back when I was a young and naive fresher.mythbusting-min

Myth: Students drink and party all the time

Truth: I would be lying if I said students didn’t drink, of course they do. As someone who doesn’t drink that often, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in at university or that people would pressure me to drink. But that didn’t happen, in fact people have been very accepting. There are tons of people who don’t drink and there are tons of people who do, so there will always be people in the same position as you.

While I can’t speak for other universities, at Essex a great deal of effort goes into ensuring that there is a good mix between events that involve drinking and those that don’t. So there should be something for everyone.

Myth: You’ll meet you best friend on the first day

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Truth: Unfortunately there are no guarantees of this. University is a big place with thousands of people, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to “click” with people. I met someone who I regard as one of my closest friends during the first week of term and the rest of my friendship group evolved over a number of months.

It has certainly been romanticised that you’ll move in or arrive on your first day and meet your new best friend. Having spoken to a number of people this isn’t always the case, but don’t be disheartened as you’ll make friends eventually.

Myth: Everyone will be smarter than me

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Truth: Don’t sell yourself short. Everyone will have come from different backgrounds and will have learnt different things. As an English Literature student I’ve found that the Literature I studied at school is different from the Literature that someone else studied- yet we both have an A-level in Literature.

There will be people who have extensive knowledge in certain areas, but then you might outwit them in another area. Remember one of the points of first year is to get everyone up to the same level of knowledge.

Myth: You have to buy everything before you arrive

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Truth: No! No! No! No! Ok, so you may think that you are a whizz in the kitchen but even Gordon Ramsey doesn’t need six toasters and three kettles!

Firstly, check what the university provides (normally listed on the accommodation pages). Secondly, check if your university allows you to contact your new house/ flat mates- this is something that you can do at Essex and is a great way to make initial introductions and arrange what to bring for communal use. Thirdly, don’t forget that shops exist! So you don’t need to bring a weeks worth of food, a years supply of clothes and all the bedding to last a lifetime. Quite simply you can save space in the car by thinking ahead for the less essential things and buying them at a later date – panic over!

What is Summer Ball?

If you’re in your first year, you may have started to hear talks about an event called summer ball. Or are you a regretting not going last year and wondering if its worth it this year? Well I am here to tell you the basics.

So what is summer ball? It is the biggest event of the year at the uni! It is like the university’s answer to prom combined with a mini festival! I was very lucky that Summer Ball last year was on birthday so I had the most amazing birthday!

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When, where and how?

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When: Saturday 10th June. Summer ball starts in the evening and goes on until the early hours of the morning.

Where: On Colchester campus fields

How: Tickets go on sale on Friday 31st March. Any leftover tickets will go on sale after this. Tickets are usually around £50. They WILL sale out so don’t miss out!

What to expect

Summer ball is jam packed with lots of activities to keep you busy! There will be many different types of music acts to suit everyone’s music taste. Last year acts included headliner DJ Fresh, Hoosiers (you know the band that sang Good Bye Mr A), majestic, coffee house sessions and a steel drum band. The great thing about summer ball is you end up in a tent listening and dancing to something you never expected! This year’s acts will be announced around April!

There also lots of other entertainment. This includes a ferris wheel, dodgems, inflatables, waltzers and fireworks display. If you’re on the priority list, then this is perfect because it means you can get in early and  get on the rides before the queues start!

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There are also a lot of food stalls and bars. My favourite was the bbq chicken wraps and Nutella waffles. I am still dreaming on getting my hands of summer balls food again! Summer ball is a no cash event though, so you need to buy tokens that you pick up to exchange for drinks and food.

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5 reasons why you should get a ticket

So you know a bit more about what summer ball is why should you buy a ticket? Here is my 5 reasons why!

  1. It’s the last night out of the university year! It’s a great way to celebrate the end of the year with all your uni mates!

2. It is not like any other night out on campus. In no other night out will you get the            chance to see a variety of different music acts, entertainment and rides all at your fingertips.

3. The variety of music acts. Often sub-zero will have a DJ come and play on a Saturday night. But at summer ball you will get to see a number of DJ’s, bands and other music acts all in one place. Just like a mini festival!

4. An excuse to go all out! Everyone gets a little bit more dressed up for summer ball. It’s a great excuse to buy that new dress or the dust off the suit you never wear!

5. You get the opportunity to be a summer ball survivor. It is a sort of achievement to last right till the end of summer ball. The sun has risen, your tired, and dreaming of your bed…but who cares?! You survived summer ball!

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My verdict, don’t miss out on the biggest night on campus! Like the Summer Ball Facebook page for more updates!

5 Things Only Final Year Students Will Understand

So graduation is 4 months away…This is not a drill people! As a final year student your life and view of the world changes dramatically and you practically become a different person as you come to the realisation that, yep, you are actually about to enter the world of work as a fully-fledged adult. No more hiding in the SU for you!

Three years is a surprisingly short space of time

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When studying at university, time takes on a new meaning. The weeks go quickly, the months pass quickly and the terms pass even quicker. Suddenly you become confused that you’re in 3rd year but can still remember the first day of first year so vividly.

People start to take an overly keen interest in your life

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So you’ve gone this far without people asking about your life or future career goals. Now that people find out that you’re in your final year suddenly you must have a clear idea of your future… Let me think… No, still haven’t got a clue!

The internal struggle between a good social life and wanting to study hard 

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I want to actually get a good grade, but I don’t want to neglect socialising, but I don’t want to fail, but I want to keep my friends, but I want to do well… it is a vicious circle

People instantly expect you to be an expert

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I may have studied this subject for 3 years but that does not mean that I know everything and anything about it. I’m just as surprised as you when I know the answer.

People keep reminding you of the impending end.

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Now at first I was excited at finishing. Then I remembered that I will no longer be a student. That I will not see my friends that often. That my student discount card will run out. That I will have to start work… and there is always that one person who keeps counting down the days- who are you, the speaking clock?!

The Homesickness Feels

When you start university in October there are loads of activities to keep you occupied in Freshers’ Fortnight. You’ve got all the stuff going on in the day involving departmental welcome meetings and registering for uni, so you get that handy student loan money. Then there’s all the things happening at night, whether it’s karaoke in the SU Bar, sports fed in Sub Zero or a rock and indie night in Base. Along with your flatmates being in the same position as you in a brand new environment,there really isn’t that much time to miss home. I loved my first few weeks at uni and didn’t go home until the Christmas holidays. Coming to Essex from Manchester, it was quite an expensive and too long of a journey to take just for a weekend. I settled in really well into all of my lectures and class and got on amazingly with my flatmates.

giphy Even The Simpsons get homesick

Pretty much everyone will experience being homesick at some point during university. It can affect some people more than others and happen at any point in the year. For me, homesickness didn’t really set in until I came back after being home for a month after Christmas. I don’t think I realised how much I’d missed my family and friends or how much they had missed me until I went home. By the time I’d settled into being back at home it was time to go back to Essex again. Whilst I was looking forward to going back and catching up with all my friends, part of me just wanted to stay at home.

4gravy You don’t get this every Sunday at uni!

Back at Essex, feelings of wanting to go home would just hit me at any moment. It was never bad enough for me to want to go back home straight away but I’d just find myself cooking my fourth pasta meal of the week and really craving a roast dinner. Even watching Netflix on my laptop with my flatmates made me miss having a TV and a comfy couch to sit on. Usually when I felt like this I would give my mum a call or talk to my friends from home and immediately I would feel better. But it’s not as easy as that for everyone.

On my year abroad here in America, it’s hard not to feel homesick sometimes. The way classes are taught is different, the food is different, the sense of humour is different, even the weather sometimes makes me miss dreary old England! You never really realise how far away from home you are until you want to go back and its a plane ride rather than a train ride away. The great thing about being an international student though is that you know so many other people in the same position and you sort of bond over it. I’ve had so many discussions about the funny little differences that you only really notice living here. Dippy eggs and soldiers are not a thing here, so of course I got my family to send me some egg cups!

If you’re feeling really homesick, talk to your flatmates and friends. I can guarantee that they’ll have felt the same at some point. Call home and tell someone you’re not feeling great. It may sound counter intuitive but don’t actually go home, if you keep leaving uni then it’ll take even longer to settle in. If there is no one you know that you feel you can talk to then pop into SU Advice. You should never feel like you’re alone because there will always be someone willing to help. I promise!

Essay writing tips from a uni student

Essay writing is a huge part of university life and no one enjoys doing them. This blog is going to give you tips on how to write a good essay and avoid more stress!

Make sure you keep your work organised

Throughout the year you should create a folder for each module, so that all of your work is in one place. Lecture notes are usually really useful for writing essays, as they sometimes give you hints and tips throughout the lectures. The lecturer is likely to give extra information that you can write down, instead of just reading the lecture slides.

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Plan your essay

You can do this by first destructing the question. After this, read the recommended reading that is usually found on Moodle and pick out any key and information and quotes that are relevant to the essay question.

You can then write bullet point notes under headings. The essay should start with an introduction, outlining what the essay will be about and how it will be structured. This will be followed by the main part of the essay with your arguments. Finally, a conclusion should be made at the end, summarising your assignment and what your final answer is. However, this structure can change between departments, so make sure you double check with yours!

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Presentation

The presentation of your assignment can actually sometimes gain you marks. In your module outline it should mention how they expect you to format your essay. For example, this could include font, font size, line spacing and whether to include page numbers. Also make sure that your paragraphs make sense and always check your spelling and grammar.

References

The way you reference depends on your department, so you should check your module outline for this. Many students use Harvard referencing style, which involves in-text referencing, using the surname of the author/s, date it was published and sometimes the page number in brackets. There is also a reference list needed at the end, which includes all of your references in full. There are many website online that show you how to do this, or some even do it for you!

Time management

Many students cram writing an essay in the night before it’s due. However, this is not the best idea because if you need to find references in the library or you need to ask your lecturer or teacher a question, then it is too late! Also it is best to have time to plan your essay and have time to thoroughly look for good and valid references. By giving yourself time, you can still socialise without worrying about the 3000 word essay you have to write.

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I hope that this has helped you to understand a bit more about essay writing at Uni standard!

Making Big Life Choices: Getting Past the Fear

Leaving uni is another big step and new chapter of your life. It is moving out of your comfort zone and starting something new. Are you worried about getting a job after uni? Or wondering whether you want to do a Masters? There are many options out there for you to choose from, so it can be a bit daunting, but this blog is here to help you get over that!

Fear of losing fun.

University is possibly one of the most fun times of your life and you may feel that once you leave uni you will miss out and no longer have any fun. However, having a job means that you will have a regular income and you can save up to do fun things with your friends, such as go on exciting, exotic holidays which you may not be able to afford to do at uni!

Increase your savings

Fear of getting a job that you’re unhappy with.

This is why it is good to get an internship, frontrunner placement or part-time job whilst at uni. This way you can filter out what you like and dislike within a working environment. For example, you can find out if you hate working in an office environment, or you may love it!

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What if I don’t get a job at all?

You should start looking in to jobs at the beginning of your final year at uni. Many graduate schemes open around this time and the job usually starts in the September after you graduate. If you get a graduate scheme then this will take the pressure off you throughout the year, knowing that you have a job once you finish uni. It is also good to get an internship over the summer months. This way if employees like you they may offer you a job for when you graduate. You should sign up to job sites online and filter in your job preferences. This way they can email you any jobs that come up that they think will suit your job preferences.

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Should I do a masters?

This completely depends on what you want to do when you finish uni. For some jobs a Masters is needed, so you should look in to this. If you enjoy education and want to stay at uni longer then this could be for you. It is always worth looking in to, but you also have to consider the cost and another year or so where you won’t be in full-time work.

Your life after uni isn’t as scary as you think! Your friends around you are all in the same situation. It’s good to ask people on your course what they are thinking of doing to get some ideas on what’s out there and what might suit you.

How about a mini-trip to Wivenhoe?

A few weeks ago I realised that it’s been a while since I last went to see Wivenhoe. It may be that deadlines kept getting the best of me, but that is no excuse. So, a few days ago I decided to go on a mini-trip and see once again what the town has to offer. Wivenhoe is gorgeous and that is why I decided to share some of my love for it with you. Here are some of my favourite things about the town!

A 15-minute bus ride will take you straight to the heart of Wivenhoe, but if you really want to get the feel of the town, I highly recommend walking. There is a route you can take that just follows the river all the way to town which is absolutely beautiful! Once you get there, go for a stroll along the pier and enjoy the scenery. What I always do is stop by at one of the local cafes to grab something hot and then enjoy it near the docks. And, since the town itself is quite small, it’s always peaceful and quiet no matter when you visit it, which makes me love it even more.

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After you are done looking around the docks, I recommend heading towards the heart of the town. The streets themselves are small and quaint, leading into each other which may feel a bit a bit confusing, but don’t worry, after the first 30-minutes, you will definitely get used to it! Near the train station, an art gallery has opened less than 2 years ago. The building caused much stir for being strictly modern and their exhibitions reflected the same attitude. Their exhibitions consist of a wide range of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and pottery of East Anglian and nationally famed artists. So, if you have an interest in art, this is the right place for you!

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And if all that travelling made you hungry, I highly recommend trying out Valentino’s restaurant. This one is a family business and its main focus is Italian food. It has a very traditional look to it and the staff are very friendly. Bonus points: they also make the best lasagna I have ever tried in my life!

 

Obviously, this is just a small part of the town, but hopefully, as you explore, you will also find places that will make you fall in love with Wivenhoe! 🙂

Revision techinques

After 6 years of exams I think I have mastered revision now. I know what type of revision to do that makes it more interesting and helps me remember the most information. Often different types of exams suit different types of revision.

My biggest piece of advice for revision is to use more than one method. You could have up to 8 exams. Doing the same thing over and over will get tedious and that is no way to get the material into your brain! Switch it up and make it as fun as possible!

Lecture notes

Writing up a lecture is a great way to start your revision. It refreshes your memory about what you have learnt in your lectures and you can change it into your own words, making the notes catered to you. I like to use colour pens to make each section of information stand out. I will then use these lecture notes to revise from along with the lecture slides.

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Mind Map:

There are several ways you could use mind maps.

  1. You could write each topic in the middle and write around it the important sub headings. E.g for a mind map about Working Memory I explain the different parts such as visuospatial sketchpad, central executive etc.
  2. You could choose a sub heading and write all the information to do with that subheading e.g for a sub heading on Visuospatial sketchpad I would explain what it does and any research to do with it.
  3. You could get a bigger size paper e.g A3 and write out all the important information from one lecture.

 

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Listen Again

Listen again really is a god send. It has saved me sooo many times from when I have gaps in my notes or I didn’t understand something. It is a way of doing the lecture again in your own time! For one of my January exams I was constantly using listen again! A lot of the content was hard to get your head around, so listening to it again really helped me understand it. It also means you can sit at home with a cup of tea and feel relaxed.

Flashcards/question cards

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Once you’re been over material the best way of learning is to test your knowledge! Create flash cards with a subject on one side and the answers on the other and get someone to test you! Or create question cards and test yourself after you’ve gone over a lecture.

Essay plans

If your exam involved writing essays then making essay plans is a good idea! You might go over your lectures 10 times but when you come to your exam you need to actually be able to write an essay. Most subjects will include past papers so that you can have a look at previous exam questions and plan an essay for that question!

Practice questions

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In exams that you have short answer questions or maths questions the only way you’re really going to know if you are doing it right is by practising! If your lecturer hasn’t provided you with practice questions then ask if you can have some… practice makes perfect!

Teaching someone else

Studies have shown that one of the most productive ways to revise is to teach it to someone else. If you have a willing friend/partner/parent then try and teach them some of the material you are learning. Telling someone else the information can help you to have a better understanding of it.

Study Group

A good resource is using your fellow students! Going over and discussing information together means you can help each other and you are more likely to retain the information. It is also a great way to test each other. Get your flash cards and question cards out and learn together! It makes revision more interesting instead of being stuck staring at the same 4 walls! If you are going to use a study group make sure you are actually going to work because study groups could be a negative to studying too!

There are areas in the student centre were you can form study groups or in the orangery zone too.

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Remember to take care of yourself during exam season. Take plenty of breaks and remember you can do this!

BUCS Wednesdays!

You’ve probably heard about the Essex Blades, but have you heard of BUCS Wednesdays? BUCS stands for British Universities and Colleges Sport. This blog is going to include 5 points about what goes on on and off campus every Wednesday and how you can get involved!

Get an Essex Blades membership on the Essex SU website and become part of a sports club

Both of these have no membership fee and are completely FREE! From then on you can go to club training sessions. Whether you are new to the sport or experienced, it doesn’t matter! With some practice you could get on to one of the sports teams. For most clubs there are more than one team depending on your ability, so there is likely to be something for you.bladesroundred.png

Once you’ve done this you can start participating in BUCS Wednesdays

Here, you will play teams from other universities all around the UK. There is a BUCS league where you can earn points depending on the overall score. Obviously Essex’s aim is to get to the top! There are both home and away matches. Travel expenses to away matches are paid for by the SU, therefore you can even see other parts of the country and other universities for free!

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Don’t want to join a sports club? Then you can still get involved!

Spectators are more than welcome!

Every game on Wednesdays are free to watch. The ones on campus are easy to get to and the Essex Blades sports teams all love your support! Every game is free to watch, so if you have nothing to do then it is a fun way to do something with your friends.

So, how do you know what’s on and where?

Every week the SU updates this website https://www.essexstudent.com/ents/event/12241/ so you can see exactly what sports are playing, what time and where around campus. Also you can check out their social media pages.

How can you keep up to date with BUCS scores and news?

Essex Blades have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now they have a brand new Snapchat. All of them come under the name ‘EssexBladesSU’. Every Wednesday these are updated with what is going on in the game and scores, so make sure you give them a follow!

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I hope this encourages you to get involved with BUCS Wednesdays, as it can make your university experience even more enjoyable! Whether you want to play a sport or not, it is something fun to get involved with around campus 🙂

A student’s guide to uncovering cheap holidays!

Although deadlines and Uni life probably dominates your life at the moment (*sigh*), summer is now only a few months away!

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And if you’re anything like me then you wanna make use of the big break by going to somewhere new for a few days.

With cheap European flights and affordable accommodation aplenty, why not? It doesn’t even have to be that difficult or break the bank either…

Plan ahead!

Whilst last minute deals do exist, they’re often unreliable and very hard to come by. Therefore, book as soon as you can whilst most people haven’t even thought about booking theirs.

Having something booked now also gives you something to look forward to as well! Never underestimate the motivation that a holiday gives you to finish off your essay!

Finding a destination

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Personally, this can often be the most difficult decision! I have so many places on my “to see list” that I have trouble just picking one.

If you’re stuck for ideas, then ask your friends for recommendations. Odds are that they’ve already been to some awesome places and can give you some great tips.

But if you’re thinking, “But Perry, won’t you share some pearls of destination wisdom?” then yes, yes I will! Take a look at European city breaks like Prague, Berlin or Budapest. You can probably cover the basics in a few days and depending where you go it can be very cheap.

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The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Or if relaxing with a drink by the beach is more your thing then check out Croatia, Bulgaria or Portugal.

 

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An awesome day on the beach in Portugal

Be flexible with your dates

In terms of flights and accommodation, depending on demand, prices go up and down and can multiply during peak times. These times are typically at the weekend and in the school holidays.

Easiest way around this is to be flexible if you can and look at the prices for a range of dates.

I did hear once that Tuesday is the cheapest day to travel as it avoids people going away for the weekend or on mid-week breaks. I don’t know how true that is in this day and age, but it might be worth considering!

When looking at prices, go undercover

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Now I’m not saying go into Thomas Cook wearing a balaclava demanding cheap flights to Benidorm, but if you’re researching online then it’s important that you remain unseen.

The reason for this is that as soon as booking sites see that you’re scouting around for holidays they know that you’re hooked. Their thinking is that you’re probably going to be booking what you’re looking at or something similar eventually. Therefore, sometimes they up the prices when you go to book later on.

A bit sneaky I know! But you can prevent this super easily!

Just use the internet in your browser’s InPrivate browsing mode and clear your browser’s cookies when you’ve finished looking.

Simple.

Skyscanner is your new BFF!

skyscanner.pngSkyscanner is an absolute godsend when booking your flights and I can’t recommend it enough!

If you haven’t heard of the website before, it checks a range of websites and airlines to find the cheapest flights based on your destination and dates.

A lot of the time, the best options it comes up with come from places you wouldn’t have even thought to have looked!

Look at accommodation carefully

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Although you’re probably not going to be spending that much time in there, a good place to stay can sometimes make or break a stay.

There’s no need to be overcautious but just be sure to have a look at a few TripAdvisor reviews before you book anything. This will give you a good unbiased overview of what the place is like and whether you should book or avoid.

Give Air BnB a shout!

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A recent phenomenon in travel is staying in a stranger’s house in an Air BnB property.

Just as if you’re booking a hotel, you can go on the website and book a room or even a whole property owned by a local.

Often the owners will meet you when you arrive and can give you a local’s view of the place and some killer tips too.

Definitely something to consider if you’re up for something a little bit different!

All that remains now is get booking, get excited and go out there exploring!

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