Secrets of the University of Essex part 2

Another term and another year ends. If you’re joining us next year you may have done your research about our campus, or perhaps you’ve been here a while as a student, alumni, or staff member,  but how much do you really know about the secrets of Colchester campus?

So strap yourselves in for the second part on the lesser known facts about the university.

Read Part 1 of Secrets of University of Essex

Or click here for Secrets of Colchester

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Lets start with the Hex

The Hex was part of the original university design, where it served as the university restaurant. However, it was not designed by the main Architect Kenneth Capon, but by his assistant instead.

Which probably made Capon mad…

As the Hex was featured on a British postage stamp to mark the most iconic modern British university buildings.6de4482fdf81f82d10b6d0203d6a9c34

Essex: Rock and Roll

The Hex has hosted Pink Floyd on numerous occasions. Other campus performers included AC/DC, Blur and The Smiths. While Sub-Zero (when it was known as the ‘Dance Hall’) has previously hosted The Kinks and Iggy Pop.

Fingers crossed for the day that bands return to perform at Essex!

Concrete

The concrete used at the university was the most expensive that was available in the 1960’s.

Concrete details

Also, if you look in the Library (and also in the Student Centre where the design has been replicated) you’ll notice that the concrete inside has an effect that makes it look like wood.

DSC_0244Award Winning Buildings

Recent additions to the university campus have also been lovingly designed. In fact the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall, Student Centre, Library extension and Business School are all award winning buildings.

Colchester vs Chelmsford

When deciding where the new university should be built, several sites came into consideration. The main contenders were our own Wivenhoe Park or Hylands Park in Chelmsford. Arguably the V Fest would probably have never taken place if we occupied Hylands Park.

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The squares under construction in the early 1960’s

Funding the new university

In order to get the construction underway for the new university, it was asked if donations could be put towards developing the 200 acre site. Among the donors were Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

Royal Recognition

The Queen herself has visited the university on two occasions. Additionally,  in 2014 she appointed Professor David Sanders to be the UK’s first Regius Professor of Political Science – the youngest university to receive such an accolade. We’ve only just hit 50 after all!

Essex ghosts

We may have recently hit 50,  but there are a few stories of ghosts on campus. In the 1990’s a young boy claimed to have seen a ghostly man cycling on a penny farthing down Boundary Road. There are also reports that the Nightline flat is haunted by a running man as well!

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The confidential student run organisation now exists in over 40 universities in the UK but the whole thing started in 1970 at the University of Essex. Give them a visit between 10pm and 8am at the bottom of Keynes Tower and congratulate them for being the first of their kind!

Mapping history

When going through the maze of corridors take a second to note some of the maps of the university dotted around. In some cases these have not been updated, so show some of the original floor plans for the university. For example the space above The Extra Store used to house the physics department.

And that is just a few more of the things you may not know about the university of Essex. Do get in touch if you know anything else – who knows, there may be a part 3!

‘Gap Year’s and ‘Gap Yah’s The Pros and Cons

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It’s tempting, I know. You’ve just come back from an amazing time finding yourself in Thailand, and of course you want to tell everyone about it because ‘riding an elephant was, like, totally life changing man’.

Don’t get me wrong, as a gap year student myself,  taking a year between the end of A-Levels and starting your degree can be  invaluable. If you want to earn some cash, go on an amazing trip, or simply take some time away from education for a while, gap year-ing can really help you change your perspective and give you a well deserved break (and besides you will have been in education for a good 12/13 years non-stop!).

The Benefits of  a Gap Year

For myself, my gap year gave me a bit more time to think, I had gotten to the end of my a-levels, and as many do, freaked out because I had no idea whatsoever what I wanted to do with my life! I had already been on some open days but was still completely clueless. Taking my gap year helped me realise that I wanted to go to uni for myself and not because everyone else at sixth form was going too.

Although it is just  a year, taking that time away to gain some more experiences just living your life does make a difference and can really help you feel like you have grown up a little bit more before that scary transition to university. Even if you don’t take a spiritual trip, scootering through Vietnam, as cliche as it may seem, a gap year really can help you find yourself a little.

Making some cash before you ship off to uni can also prove to be really useful, although nowhere near as fun as my friends who went backpacking. I spent my gap year waitressing, it was kind of boring and a tad soul destroying but in terms of money, I came to university not having to rely entirely on my student loan, which was really useful when it came to boozing during freshers and making the most of the freedom of first year.

BUT

A ‘Gap year’ and a ‘Gap yah’ are two very different things.

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Perhaps I’m just envious, ( I most definitely am) of my peers who were lucky enough to experience an amazing trip, but the issue with the Gap Yah student is not the gap year, or the lengthy trip you choose to take, it’s the amount you annoy everyone else about it.  Spoiler alert: not everyone wants to hear you brag about your tales of how ‘Ollie from your hostel had the best banter’.

You know the type. You’ve just  moved into uni accommodation, you’re in the kitchen, brewing a nervous cuppa, and your new flatmate comes in, spotting the koala bear on your mug and before you know it,  they’re spouting off all about how amaaaazing Australia was before you can even tell them your name.

The issue is the pretension and the bragging when it comes to recounting your gap year odyssey. While without doubt, your gap year was probably epic, it’s the way you deliver it to other students. It’s definitely worth being aware that not everyone is able to afford a massively extravagant gap year and so hearing you bang on about it can become really grating, plus, being a fresher at uni, your new friends have probably heard 8 other stories of how wild the beach parties are in Cambodia in the past week!

And if you think it’s just me being a bitter old woman, here’s Frank Turner’s I Really Don’t Care What You Did On Your Gap Year, which isn’t really anything to do with this article in terms of lyrics, but it’s a good song with a relevant title!

Bizarre Happenings That You May Hear About At Essex

 For the most part, our beloved University of Essex can be considered pretty ready for any weird and wonderful goings on,  there still have been some… let’s say, “incidents” that have reportedly happened over the years – mostly due to the students being … creative. Here are some examples, some rumoured, some true, of the shenanigans that have taken place on our Colchester campus.

*Disclaimer, just to repeat some of these are just rumours so don’t get too worried, no ducks were harmed in the writing of this blog post.*

*Rumour* Ducking Around

Here at Essex we love the ducks, whether they’re roaming the greenery around the lakes, or on Square 3 or 4 quacking at you for food scraps, listening in to your conversation while you chat with your friends. Alongside Pebbles, we couldn’t ask for better animal ambassadors. They’re super cute seeing them waddling around and for the most part live in a happy coexistence with campus life, so it’s best to just leave them be and let them get on with their important ducky business.

BUT!

There was a rumour going around that…oh God. I can’t even write it. There was a rumour going around that one student caught a duck and then cooked it in their kitchen. Now, the validity of this story is doubtful, and our ducks are pretty feisty, so I’m unsure as to how easy a feat this would be, and besides,  look at those innocent little faces!

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*True!* Square 4 Fountain disaster

As inscribed on the plaque which can be found on the fountain base (now filled with shrubbery) reportedly, one of the students liked the fountain that was located on Square 4 SO MUCH, that he drove his Fiat 500 into it.

So now there’s this garden thing in the fountain and we have trees there that have lights on them. It’s still pretty…just in a non-fountain way. And what is best is this actually happened! As part of the revolutionary movements that famously took place in Essex in the swinging sixties, one student did in fact park his car in the fountain and if you click here you can read a little bit more about it and the revolutionary festival that took place.

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*Rumour* “Find Your Way” faux-pas

So, to give everyone a bit of context, Find Your Way is an official app of the University of Essex, that lets you input your starting point and destination and finds the best route for you. It’s like a little google maps for the Uni. It’s very handy, especially in the first few weeks when you just see the class number 5A.300 and you’re just like “What?.” To be honest, although it’s my second year here, I still use it on a weekly basis.

But getting back to what happened! Reportedly, a student was coming from the Constable Building, which is next Wivenhoe House, and they wanted to know how to get to a certain classroom. They put it in the app and it showed a straight like from their point, THROUGH THE LAKES, to the classroom. Fun stuff. Reportedly it was just a glitch and it was fixed immediately. The story remained a funny one and people still talk about it from time to time.

*True* There was one student however, who did manage to go straight through the lake (in a manner of speaking) during welcome week 2016. One student managed to bring and inflate a rubber dingy to the lake by the Silberrad centre, successfully rafting  towards the fountain before being politely asked to vacate by security!

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So I hope these stories made you laugh (or at least chuckle), because even though we seem perfect (and we actually are), we are not (that’s a lie). If you guys have any funny moments to share, leave them down below in the comment section and share them with us. I mean, what is life without a little fun 🙂

Leaving home: coping with nerves and homesickness

Leaving home is never easy. You may have spent numerous waking hours hoping to get out of the family home and live independently but that doesn’t mean that homesickness or nerves can kick in.

Homesickness is hard to define but probably affects more people than you would think. We love our homes (even when we say we don’t) and to suddenly spend time away from your comforts and the routine that you’re used to can be difficult. In fact it is estimated that nearly half of students at university will suffer from homesickness and nerves.

It is not a sign of weakness. In fact it is hugely natural and is a feeling that will pass in time.

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(c) Alamy

Firstly if you are unsure what your accommodation will be like and that makes your nervous then take a look at the website and the 360 degree room tours: http://www.essex.ac.uk/accommodation/residences/default.aspx

Next, at Essex you are able to get in contact with your future flatmates in advance of moving in day. Once you’ve got your room details you can join the accommodation’s Facebook and announce who you are and where you’re staying and let your new flatmates get in touch and introduce themselves. Follow the website, click on the accommodation then scroll down to the Facebook groups: http://www.essex.ac.uk/accommodation/residences/default.aspx

Make your new room homely. When you move in it will be a blank canvas, so consider bringing or eventually buying things that will make it feel like home to you. Of course make sure you don’t break the rules as to what you can and can’t bring to the university, but certainly try and add a touch of your personality to your room. Remember you may potentially be spending a fair amount of time in your room so make sure it feels comfortable to you.

Additionally:

  • Try talking to others about your concerns- they may be able to offer help and advice.
  • Avoid “over-contacting” home. It may be tempting to contact home but during the first few weeks when homesickness kicks in contacting home can actual make you feel worse, so try not to do it too much at first.
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Sometimes calling home is not the best option when you’re homesick (c) shmoop.com

  • Get a routine- having a new routine can help to quickly banish those nerves and feelings of homesickness.
  • Join a society- in addition to your routine, joining an on campus club or society will put you in the company of other students and is a great way to meet friends as well as taking part in the things you enjoy.

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY: remember it will eventually pass, so don’t let it ruin your experience. It is natural to be nervous of the new and the unknown but soon it will become familiar to you.

​How did I end up at University?

After reading fellow blogger, Jordan’s post a little while back about his journey to University, it got me thinking…

How did I actually end up going to Uni?

Nobody in my family had been to University before and I could have easily chosen to do an apprenticeship or get a job following school.

In fact, I don’t think I can actually pinpoint a specific “magic moment” where I suddenly thought University is where I want to go.

For some reason, like many others, it just always seemed natural for me to study at University. I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do with my life so I guess I also saw an opportunity to discover what I was passionate about and what I wasn’t, but if I had to give a definite reason then I think it would be the chance to live as a student. The adventure of moving away from home for the first time, to somewhere where there was a lot going on really appealed to me.  In particular, the opportunity to study Drama at a higher level and make use of the contacts University gives you sounded perfect.

Ultimately though, everybody has different reasons for coming University or perhaps giving it a miss. Whether it’s for a specific subject or for specific facilities, the prospect of university is often an exciting one.

But at the end of it all, it is your choice and not one which should be taken lightly.

Let’s get social: what to do and where to go!

SU Bar

The SU Bar is the Holy Grail of student life here. I feel like, in some way, it is the heart of the uni. There are times where after a lecture or an exam you just need to relax, and the SU Bar is perfect for that. It’s always nice to get a pint after a hard day of work. The comfy couches are definitely a plus! If you need something a bit more lively, you can always go to Milk It and sing karaoke with people – it is literally the most fun ever!

Sub Zero/Base

If you are a dancer or a clubber, you will love Sub Z and Base. The music is always on point and you can dance the night away. There is also an area to sit down and to have a chat, or you can even go outside and get some fresh air after dancing all night. People are very friendly here and it is easy to strike up a conversation and make new friends.

Happy Days/Frango’s/Fusion/Canteen

I literally cannot tell you how many times I have made new friends just while waiting for my food! I think I get most talkative when I am hungry and I think this is proven by the fact that I met 2 of my closest friends while waiting for food in Happy Days 😀 It was a match made in heaven (heaven = Happy Days)!

Squares

The squares are literally always buzzing with life – day and night. During the day you might join an African bongo band and play away, or at night you might join a group of people and enjoy the night with them – university makes it strangely easy to interact with people. There were numerous times when I had no plan for the night, I went to the store to get something and I ended up sitting in Square 3 with a group of people that are still, to this day, my friends!

How to Make Friends Before You Even Get to Uni

A lot of people worry about making friends at uni. Most of the time you’re moving away to a place where you know nobody and you’ll be living with people you’ve never even met before. This can seem quite scary, but there are ways to meet and chat to people before you even get to uni.

People from your sixth form

When I put Essex as my firm choice on UCAS no one else at my sixth form I knew had put it as a choice. I asked around to see if anyone I knew, knew someone that had. Eventually I found out that someone in my history class had also applied to Essex! Previously I had never even spoken to this person, but we had a chat about all things uni and Essex and now when I run into them on campus, I always make sure I say hi! It might seem like a bit of a cop out to make friends going to your uni at your sixth form, but it’s nice to know someone in a similar situation to you and of course, there are the other ways to make friends too.

The Student Room

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If you have never heard of The Student Room, it can be an extremely helpful website for all things, well, student! The University of Essex has its own forum page here. Loads of people will be posting the unis that they’re going to and asking people what courses they’re doing. The Essex forum page has threads with people asking who else will be on their course or if they’re living in the same accommodation. It’s a great place to find lots of other people going to Essex, doing your course, or living near you. It’s also very helpful for info about the social life at Essex, and things like what to bring to uni. Whilst you don’t need an account to read the forums, you do if you want to contribute to the chat.

Facebook

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The University of Essex is all over Facebook! There is the general freshers’ page which is run by the Students’ Union, there’s individual pages for each accommodation and there’s departmental pages too. The freshers page has thousands of members as most new students, as well as existing students will join it. It’s a great place to ask general questions about life at Essex, especially as you know you’ll be answered by students who have been in your position. It’s also great for meeting students who might be commuters, mature students or postgraduates.

Open days and Visit days

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When you come to our Essex open days, it’s not only useful to learn about the basics of uni life, it’s also a great opportunity to get to know some other potential students. Strike up a conversation on a tour – you might just end up going to uni with that person! Applicant days, once you have an offer from Essex, are also an excellent way to meet people who are on your course. Your future lecturers will also be giving taster sessions which will give you a chance to get a real feel for the academic side of university.

With all these ways to make friends before uni, keep in my mind that you’ll still meet plenty more people once you actually move in and start lectures, so go forth and make friends!

Brexit: What I Think About It and What It Means for Students at Essex

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Brexit, it’s the Marmite of the politics world. You either love it or hate it, there’s no in between. Unlike Marmite, however, you can’t just decide not to buy it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Brexit is happening whether we like it or not. First things first, I think it’s only right to to tell you that I voted remain. Regardless of how you voted I think it’s safe to say that no one wants Brexit to be a disaster. The only problem is that no one really knows what’s going to happen when Britain leaves the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May set out her Brexit plan in January. It emphasised regaining control of the UK’s borders and getting a good deal for British Businesses. The EU though has to agree to this plan, and that’s where things get a bit iffy. Many European countries want Britain to have a swift exit from the EU, in other words, a hard Brexit. A hard Brexit is one in which Britain severs all ties with the EU and has no special treatment. Theresa May has committed to a hard Brexit but we still don’t know exactly what that means and we probably won’t until Britain officially leaves in 2019.

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What I can say though, is that regardless of the relationship Britain ends up having with the EU, European and international students will undoubtedly always be welcome at Essex. Essex would not be same without its amazing international students. They bring so much variety and fun to our campus. Having lived in the UK all my life, I love learning about other countries and their unique cultures and customs. Without our international community, Essex would not be the same place I have made my home. For me and many of my friends, Brexit hurt. It hurt because we love Europe, we love the people and we love the opportunities that being part of the EU gives us. We are part of a community at Essex that embraces every single person, no matter where they are from. Even those I know who voted for Brexit at Essex are great people who just happen to differ from me politically.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster, has reaffirmed Essex’s commitment to our European and international students. He has spoken of how we will remain an inclusive, internationally oriented university and a university where you can find the world in one place. You can read more about what Brexit means for students here.

Brexit means change, that is inevitable. What remains the same, however, is that our international and EU students here at Essex will always be welcomed with open arms.

 

A letter to EU and International students: leaving home and arriving in Colchester

Dear EU and International students,

I am sure you are very excited to join our international family of students and staff, but there may also be some nerves kicking in at the thought of leaving your home and the country you have grown up in. It wasn’t long ago that I was getting ready to leave my home to start University here. I remember I was so scared – all the way from applying for the course to taking the bus to the University in October was terrifying. But when I actually arrived and saw all the freshers and all the people that greeted us and helped us, I felt so relieved. It may sound strange to you, but seeing all those people, all the nationalities and cultures, and all the chaos that goes along with the first day, I just felt this sense of belonging because I knew that everyone felt that the same way as I did; the university was here to help us in any way they could, so that we all felt as at home here as possible. In just the first week, we had like three international student socials! It was held in The Hex and you could meet fellow students from all over the world.

During Welcome Week, there are loads of events put on, everything from disco nights and introductory lectures to people putting stalls up in the squares to get to know the freshers.

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But the most famous of all events during Welcome Week is the Fresher’s Fair. It is THE event of the week. You go to the squares, or should I say squeeze yourself to the fresher’s fair, because there are so many people it’s unbelievable. Across the 5 squares, you will see nothing else than stalls everywhere and just loads…like LOADS of people. Each stall represents a different organisation, society or sports club. That includes stalls from, for example, the Red Cross, the Rugby Team all the way to the Romanian Society. Meaning if by any chance you are struggling to find friends, just join a society, team or organisation and there you go! 20 to 50 instant friends! Also, if you are not into any sport or activity society, you can join societies of your own nationality! And if by any chance (a very small chance I might add) there is not a society for yours, you can always create one.

If you have doubts even after all I have told you, don’t worry. I have the ultimate ace up my sleeve…we are the 15th most international university in the WORLD. Not even in England, in the whole wide WORLD!

Lastly and most importantly, please remember that if you feel anxious or even scared, there are thousands of people feeling just like you and they are heading to Essex just like you. We are here for you and ready to help you in any way, shape or form. We are all one family.

Yours truly,

Dragos

My 6 Top Places to Visit in Essex

Hello! I am originally from Chelmsford in Essex and decided to study in Colchester. This blog is going to tell you some of my favourite things to do around Essex, so you can take a break from revision, get out of Colchester and explore! I am going to include maps so you can see roughly how long it takes to get to the places from uni and also hyperlinks so you can easily access the webpages for more information on things to do, prices and times. I am going to start with my home town, Chelmsford.

  • Chelmsford

Chelmsford’s town centre is a bit bigger than Colchester, with two small shopping centres and a brand new shopping complex with John Lewis, many new restaurants and also an Everyman cinema (which has sofas, a bar and you can order food while you watch a movie). I enjoy Chelmsford for shopping and also eating out because there are lots of options.

There is also Hylands Park, which is home to V Festival that takes place every August. It is a weekend festival and I would really recommend going if you have the chance! Apart from the festival they hold regular events and also have a cafe, where you can grab lunch or an ice cream. It’s a nice place to have a picnic and chill on a hot day! Oaklands Park is another nice area to relax in and there is also a Museum, which is free to enter. They hold events occasionally, such as a Photographic Exhibition, Coins and Tokens, Social History and 1950s Fashion: A Decade of Glamour.

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  • Southend-On-Sea

Southend-On-Sea is around 1 hours drive away, or 2 hours by public transport. There is a seven mile coastline and places to get ice cream and a traditional fish and chips, a proper British experience! There is also a theme park called Adventure Island. It is not as big as other theme parks in England, however it is still a fun day out! Southend also has sea life centre close to the beach and it is home to the longest pier in the world, so it’s worth a visit!

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  • Frinton-On-Sea

This is probably my favourite beach in Essex. It has the best sand and a nice atmosphere with beach huts along the back. It is a great place to play games on the beach and has been awarded for its cleanliness, which is always a plus! There is also a grass area behind the beach that overlooks the sea, a great place for a picnic or a ball game.

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  • Dedham

Dedham is situated in the countryside and has an old traditional high street with an Arts and Craft Centre and wooden beam houses. There is an impressive 15th century Church in the middle of the village. Boats can be hired to explore the Stour River and many walks can be taken to venture into the countryside. There are restaurants to visit, which can be luxury, a traditional pub or a nice tea room. Wine tasting is also available at Dedham Vale Vineyard.

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  • Brentwood

This is the most well-known place for The Only Way is Essex TV show (TOWIE). However, you won’t walk around the streets seeing the cast! There is a main high street for shopping, but there are also activities to do just outside of the town centre. They have dry ski slopes where you can have lessons, or if you already know how to ski or snowboard then you can go to have fun. If you don’t want to face skiing or snowboarding, then they also have tubing, this is where you go down the slopes in a rubber ring, a lot of fun!  On the same complex there is also Go-Karting and a great Chinese buffet restaurant called Izumi.

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  • Saffron Walden

If you’re looking for something a bit more cultural then the English Heritage site Audley End House and Gardens might be something you enjoy. It costs £12.10 for a concession ticket or £13.40 for an adult. It is a mansion house with gardens, a stable and place to get food and drink is also available. They also hold events, so keep an eye on their website for any events coming up!

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I hope this gives you some ideas of what to do around Essex. If you don’t have a car then check out Trainline and National Express for ways to get around 🙂