My Frontrunners Experience

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So it’s coming to the end of my Frontrunners summer position in the marketing and student recruitment department. So this will be my very last post for the I AM ESSEX blog, I’m sure you’re absolutely distraught. So here’s a little rundown of my Frontrunners position, what I’ve gained from doing it and why being a frontrunner is a brilliant choice for furthering your career.

First of all, what is Frontrunners?

Frontrunners is a really great scheme at Essex, that essentially takes on students in various roles to give them an opportunity to work in a professional environment. There’s loads of useful training to be had, and a huge span of sectors to work in. For me, Frontrunners was perfect because it meant I could get some invaluable work experience in the marketing sector while still being on campus, so I could stay at our uni house, do some dissertation work in my free time (AKA dossing off and playing Xbox), and continue to go to the uni gym.

What I got up to:

Blogs

I’d say the most consistent thing I’ve done  is write these blogs, as someone who wants to follow a career in creative copywriting, it’s been super useful for coming up with content and writing for a specific audience. Actually being paid to rant about my opinion on things on the internet, that’s the dream!

Instagram

Who knew you could get paid to muck around on Instagram? Ok, it’s not just scrolling avocado toast photos but in my time as a frontrunner, I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to the Essex Instagram, in the form of new campaigns, posts and Instagram stories. I even got to spend the day getting my face glitter painted and drinking mocktails in the name of work for an open day Insta story.

Photography

As a creative person, I was really excited to get stuck in with any kind of artistic things I could. I have been able to photograph a couple of events including a PhD conference and the 2017 graduation.

So Much More

I’m so glad I applied to Frontrunners, it has given me the opportunity to give so many different things a go, from proof reading, to learning more about social media, to capturing the perfect boomerang on insta. The work is nice and varied and I have come away with a lot more understanding of the sector I want to go into. Plus (I’m not sure if this is actually a good thing) there are always great snacks in the office.

Anyway, signing out, thanks for reading!

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Xoxoxo

Choosing Modules Wisely

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The beauty of uni is the amount of choice and flexibility you have with your degree, ability to pick and choose what you want to focus on is one of the best things about the transition from sixth form to uni. However, being wise about your choice of modules will also help you structure your time and not end up with a mountain of work all at once.

Check when in the year the module is

On the Essex Module Directory you can see whether a course is full year, autumn term or spring term, it’s indicated in the module code by FY-Full Year, AU Autumn, SP Spring. In my first year I made the mistake of choosing two Autumn term modules alongside the core modules I took, meaning I had loads of coursework all at the same time, and more lectures and classes too. It was definitely still doable, but when I was new to the university and time management deal, it did become a bit much on the run up to christmas when all of the coursework started to rack up. On the other side of that though, taking my optionals in the autumn meant that my spring term was the nice and relaxed, I only had three modules in comparison to the five that I had in first term, meaning I could give more time to coursework and start revision early.

Check what the assessment style is

Some people simply suck at exams, it just isn’t their forte, alternatively, some are terrible at organising their time around coursework, taking a good amount of time to check how modules are assessed means you can potentially avoid doing too much of whatever you struggle with (this obviously depends on department.)

Don’t be afraid to go outside your department

A lot of degrees will allow you to study modules outside of your department, this can seem intimidating as it isn’t in your area, but they offer you these modules for a reason. Having interdisciplinary knowledge can be so useful in the rest of your studies. I took a psychoanalysis module in first year, despite being a lit and film student and it was so useful, I was shoving Freud in any essay I could after taking it. You can apply knowledge from those modules to coursework and your independent research project. Everyone’s degree is different, shape it around what you find interesting.

Most importantly, go for your passion

You took this degree for a reason, take a good amount of time reading over the module outline, have a look at the bibliography, if necessary contact the module leader or your department for some more info. A lot of departments have their own facebook pages, you could even post on there to see if any other students could advise you on their thoughts about the module. Think about what really peaks your interest, a boring module is the worst.

 

10 Mistakes You’ll Make as a Fresher

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Coming to uni is full of new and exciting experiences, and you’re having to navigate a load of new things, so you’re bound to make a few mistakes, here’s ten things you might want to avoid, from ‘meh, you can get away with that’ to ‘for the love of all that is holy don’t do that.’ 

1.Not exploring the local area before studying starts

This isn’t essential but it’s A) useful to know the place you’ll be living in for three years and B) a nice thing to do to get to know your new friends and flatmates. It also means you can suss out local chippys for late night sesh food and where you can go for some retail therapy when things get a little too stressful.

2.Not getting familiar with how to find references before your first coursework is due

Again, this isn’t a massive mistake, but it’s just a useful thing to do before you’re bogged down with deadlines. Get yourself familiar with how to navigate the library and ways to find research material, for a lot of departments the library will give a talk on how to use the available resources, and there is loads of useful info on the library website too.

3.Buying every course book brand new

Unless you’re on a very specific course that needs particular editions etc, don’t be a wally and go forking out all your money on brand new books, go to charity shops, Ebay, Amazon marketplace and buy them second hand, or you may be able to find them online, some older books can actually be found free on apple store and kindle. A lot of lecturers will also upload the relevant reading material on ORB or moodle, so you won’t need to have the entire book, it’s best to get in touch with your department and ask beforehand

4.Joining every society under the sun

And how do you suppose you’re going to fit in Rowing, Archery, Sci-fi, Harry Potter, Pole, and Cheese and Wine society (yes that’s a real thing) into your week? Societies are great ways of meeting people but the truth is, signing up at every stall at freshers fair, you’re never going to be able to get to all of them, and you’ll be inundated with sign up emails. The best shout is to have a think what you really fancy and sign up to a select few.

5.Ruining at least one item of clothing in the wash

I did it, despite the fact that I thought I was an adulting boss before I came to uni, and not much self-sufficiency could phase me, I still managed to forget about a delicate kimono in my first wash and turn it into a pile of threads in the machine.

6.Worrying about what people think of your parents on move in day

You’re not going to be seeing them for a really long time, give your mum a break if she’s being a little clingy, everyone will understand. There’s no rush to be hurrying your folks out of the door. If there’s no welcome event in the evening of move in day, why not have a final meal with them before they head off. Emotions will be high on your first day, consider how weird it must feel for your parents now you’re flying the nest.

7.Getting caught up in all the fun and not doing the important stuff

Welcome week is predominantly  about enjoying yourself and getting familiar with your surroundings, but in between the partying and the fun stuff, there are a few admin things that are important to do. Make sure you go to the general welcome talk, registration, departmental talks and library tours, while they may seem boring and arduous, they’re important and useful in the long run. None of them take too long so you can get right back to enjoying yourself pretty quickly.

8.Panicking about not meeting your soulmate in the first week.

Likelihood is, in first week you’ll be finding your feet and meeting loads of different people, some might stick around, some might not. But really, don’t beat yourself up if the people you meet early in the term don’t seem like best mate material, good friendships take time, so don’t panic, you can still have loads of fun with first week randoms.

9.Hiding in your room

It’s very tempting, in the first few weeks, you have a new habitat and you want to burrow in it, only sneaking out to make food for yourself at strategic times when the kitchen might be empty. But making friends with your housemates, while it isn’t always the easiest, will prove useful when you’re midway into the year and fancy some company close to home.

10.Getting with someone in your flat

Just don’t.

And if you don’t know why, then maybe you deserve to learn from that mistake.

5 Student Stereotypes You’ll Meet at Uni

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Uni is made up of a multitude of people, all different and individual…saying that you’ll definitely meet at least one of these irritating stereotypes.

Library Badger

This person basically exists to make you feel like a terrible person. They’ll constantly be on their way to the library. Spending evenings there to do some extra research, going there between lectures rather than procrastinating on social media and overspending on coffees like the rest of us normal people. They’ll probably have a spot that they regularly sit in and rant savagely about the annoying students who talk or make out between the books. This person is however a useful friend, when deadlines and exams are approaching, going to the library badger’s favorite haunt to get your study on can prove very helpful, because you know they are a pro at getting their head down and working.

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The Fluker

Opposite to the library badger, is the worst kind of person to ever exist, ever (totally not an exaggeration.) I have met so many versions of this student, and weirdly, they’ve all been guys. The Fluker is the person that always does super well, despite doing little to no work. They’re never in lectures, they leave their coursework to the day before, and can be regularly heard uttering the phrases ‘I only need 40% to pass’ or ‘lol mine was so bad I’m gonna fail’. They then proceed to get a first and a better grade than you leaving you wanting to throttle them. The fluker is the absolute worst and there is a special circle of hell reserved for them (again not overreacting.)

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The Mythical Creature

This person is amazing, slightly concerning and could well be half mythical creature. They’re a party animal, to such a degree that they have a Mick Jagger amount of ridiculous stories from their escapades. They are usually an absolute nightmare to get hold of and are definitely not the type of person you want to get stuck on a group project with, because in terms of uni, they’re probably useless and rarely sober, on the other hand, there is potential for a crossbreed of the fluker and the mythical creature, combined as one, frustrating and bewildering hybrid. They may have a tendency to be a little flakey and quite often tend to become a slight urban legend, but hold a fire enough house party, and you bet, like a bloodhound, they’ll sniff it out, making it ten times better when they arrive with their antics. 

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Mummy Daddy Privilege Kid

Depending on your uni, the concentration of these will vary. This person rocks up in daddy’s Range Rover, head to toe in Jack Wills (bonus for striped rugby style shirt with turned up collar), carrying in an entire kitchen of brand new John Lewis utensils and appliances. The irony is, they will never use any of these items as they have no idea how to cook, seeing as they have always had dinner served to them. Think JP from Fresh Meat, it’s literally him. Combine them with my gap yah student from my previous article and you have a deadly, upper middle class super power.

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LDR, Never Single Girl

Now, just because I have spent time mocking a load of other student tropes, I will bite the bullet and rip on myself as well, I am fully aware that I am this student and I’m super annoying. This person starts uni with a boyfriend at home, spends most evenings calling and pining, generally being a pain about it. They ultimately have relationship problems that they spend most nights in the kitchen whining about, and end up splitting up. Leaving them disoriented. After a while, and to your relief they resolve to have fun and be single. For a brief period, this person turns into a little party animal riot, and they prove for a lot of entertainment, especially to live vicariously through. Then, bam!  Before you can blink they have a new beau that they’re pining over and moaning about how awful and difficult relationships are, all over again. This cycle can happen anything between one and 4 times during your uni career and this person is a whiney, exasperating nightmare. The likelihood is they’re like me and are fully aware they are like this, but can’t resist being a terrible person and repeating the cycle, they are the living embodiment of this meme…

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Use this blog post like Pokemon cards, collect them all!  Learn each character’s powers and weaknesses and how to just about tolerate them.

Staying Healthy While You’re at Uni

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When I started uni, I was horrendously unhealthy. Working in a pub meant I ate rubbish food at stupid hours, fruit and veg and daylight were a fairly foreign concept to me. For me, coming to uni gave me a better routine, and feeding and shopping for myself meant I had complete control over what I ate and have managed to lose 3 and a half stone since I started in my first year. A lot of people however find uni to be the opposite. You may have heard of the ‘Freshers 15’ the trend of people coming to uni, and with the booze and change in lifestyle, they put on an average of 15Ib. So here’s a little guide to staying healthy while you’re at uni.

Don’t Get Scurvy

You’re not a sailor, there’s no excuse to be getting scurvy. Relying on dried and processed frozen food, is convenient, but not necessarily good for you, whacking some fruit and veg into your meals is always a good shout… obviously. I’m not telling you to eat a kale salad everyday, because you’ll be miserable, but for example, if you’re making a pasta (which you will, you’re a student) chuck in some peas, a bit of spinach or some peppers to give your meal a bit more substance. At Essex, we have a Thursday market and almost every week, the fruit and veg stall is there, there’s loads of stuff and the prices are really reasonable, so you have no excuse!

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Regular Routine

Uni life can be hectic and unpredictable, but for the most part, you have a fairly set schedule, sticking to it, and not staying up until ridiculous o’clock at night, can really help you in terms of eating habits and mentally. I personally feel dreadful if I get into a bad pattern of sleeping late and waking up late, less daylight and weird meal times will drain you and throw your body out.

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Daylight

You may not be able to see the sun for piles of work/ because you’re hungover and you just can’t face it, but being indoors all the time can really affect you. Vitamin D levels will affect your mood and not being outside enough can make you feel really low. It doesn’t have to be for long, just a little ten minute walk around the park will do the trick, just get yourself outside for a little while.

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Mental Health

As much as your physical health is really important, arguably, your mental health is even more so. University can be an extremely stressful time for a lot of people and according to this survey done in 2015, eight out ten students surveyed reported having mental health issues. Taking care of yourself mentally is extremely important while at uni, and here at Essex we have access to great support and counselling at the student services hub and there’s also nightline if you need a chat. A little few things you can do to keep yourself balanced are, make sure you go outside, getting regular exercise, doing something for yourself everyday (even if it’s something small like painting your nails or taking a bath) and not being too hard on yourself for the things you do, uni’s hard you’re doing great. These aren’t going to cure all mental health issues… obviously, but they’re just some little tips to brighten your mood slightly. Never feel ashamed to seek support, there will always be someone who will listen.

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Exercise

It’s gross, trust me, I know. Take this from someone who despises running, being sweaty and out of breath is a disgusting concept to me. However at the beginning of the summer, I joined the university gym, to start with I was reluctant to fork out the money for it, because I thought I’d never go, I now go for an hour at least four times a week now, and I’m all about getting swole (that’s not true, I just like to watch daytime TV on the treadmill!) Working out is really effective for a lot of people in terms of mental health too, getting your head down, blood pumping, music on and focused can really help to clear your head, even if just for a little while.

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These are just a few things you can do to be a little bit more healthy during your time at uni, comment any other tips you might have on staying physically and mentally healthy at university.

Colchester on the Cheap

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Spending money is lame and for people that have it. Here’s how to get the most out of Colchester without having to splash the cash.

Castle Park

On a nice day, Castle Park is a fab afternoon out. A good few hours can be spent, wandering around amongst the flowers, laying on the grass, hitting up the swan pedalos and admiring the roman castle walls and grounds, the castle itself costs money but for a nice lazy sunny stroll, the park itself is free and beautiful. Coming up in September, there’s also going to be outdoor movie screenings of Pulp Fiction, The Goonies and Grease.

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Walk Around the uni

While Castle Park is lovely, you really don’t have to look too far to find a lovely outdoors area to take a walk. Wivenhoe park is a beautiful area, we have the lake, the trees and the ducks to wander around, and on a nice day, the picnic tables and BBQ areas are perfect for a sunny afternoon.

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First Site

Feeling refined? Always daaarling! First Site is a really great artistic space in Colchester, housing galleries and performance and workshop space. Best of all, entry is free and there is some really great art on show there, definitely worth a trip if you feel like being cultured for an afternoon. Coming up there’s the Lubaina Himid and Ed Gold exhibitions, and a number of film screenings, which, although they aren’t free are a bit cheaper than cinema prices.

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The Minories Gallery

Another art gallery managed and run by Colchester School of Art, The Minories Gallery exhibits arts and culture artefacts, and the work and galleries of students of the school. It’s free and located right near Firstsite.

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Colchester Natural History Museum

Don’t go thinking London-scale animatronic dinosaurs, but the natural history museum provides a nice little collection of stuff to keep you entertained without having to spend any cash. It’s really easy to miss, being nestled inside a church just opposite the castle. It’s cute and free, and there’s a range of things to interact with and get nerdy over.

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HollyTrees Museum

Just near the castle, the Hollytrees museum gives a view of Colchester life from over the past 300 years, set in a beautiful Georgian house. Again, admission is free and it provides a bit of entertainment, you can even get dressed up as a servant if you fancy!

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Of course, there’s loads of other stuff in Colchester that you can get up to if you spend a bit of cash, but if you’re anything like me, there’s nothing like the triumph of a free day’s entertainment.

Thrifty Studenting AKA Improvising Plates Out of Cardboard Because You’re a Terrible Person

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Let’s set the scene, you’re a month deep into your student loan, and after buying a fresh pair of creps, an entire new wardrobe and all of the pretentious coffees ever, you’re broke. Student life can be pricey, especially when the nights out get heavier and the desire to order takeaway in place of real food gets stronger. Here’s some ways to save that dollar.

All the discounts.

There’s a huge amount of shops that offer student discount, and you don’t necessarily have to have an NUS extra card, a lot of places will take your university card, or for online, Unidays is a life saver. Everywhere I go, whenever I am spending money, I always ask if there’s student discount, even if it feels silly, sometimes you are pleasantly surprised and get a little bit off.

Shared Netflix/ whatever you watch on. 

This could be hard now Netflix are limiting the amount of people that can watch at one time, but if you live in a house with your mates, and you all watch TV together, maybe consider all going in on a collective streaming account, save paying for an individual one each.

Do you actually need that Starbucks though?

I’m totally guilty of this, you get into your routine, lecture then Starbucks, day in day out. Granted, few can resist the pull of a  pumpkin spice latte, topped with whipped cream, but yikes, how much is that costing you?! Coffee isn’t cheap when you buy it everyday, if you need your fix, go for a flask, which holds more coffee, which is a total bonus.  It may seem like a tiny amount of money to grab a cappuccino at a coffee shop, but add that up, it soon starts to mount.  

Supermarket Sweep

Those little yellow stickers are like a glowing beacon of cheap brilliance as you walk down the aisle, the supermarket reduced counter is a great source for food, the reductions are great especially for things like meat and fish, I tend to stock up on seafood and freeze it.

For food in your fridge, I’ll leave this to your judgement, but for me, sell by dates are for the weak, nose test it and you’re good to go. (I am partially joking about this!) However, if you’ve got a bag of spinach which is still perfectly crisp and fresh that went out yesterday, you’re not gonna die if you use it in your dinner.

What are you doing buying name brand anything you lunatic!?! Supermarket own brand isn’t as bad as you think (maybe not the vodka.) Seriously, name brand food is for Oxbridge students and when you go home to your parent’s house for the weekend. I’m like an own brand bloodhound, that’s how you get when you’re a thrifty student, the packaging may not be as pretty but I promise, the majority of stuff tastes the exact same! In the case of instant noodles, Tesco’s ones are actually better, I swear!

Make gifts, don’t buy them

Christmas and birthdays are so damn pricey, my personal method of avoiding this cost is by hating everyone which makes my birthday list substantially lower, but for those of you that insist on being decent human beings and upkeeping friendships, while you’re at uni, making gifts in the form of food is always a winner. This is a great way to charm elderly relatives, especially my very old-fashioned nan, who up until this point was probably losing hope in her unhomely, terrible at cookery, no desire to get married and have children granddaughter, I made her fudge, and a little piece of her faith in me as a ‘proper woman’ was restored (let’s ignore how ridiculously 1950’s and outdated that sounds.) Plus you can totally eat some as you make it. Fudge is great and really really easy, I used old coffee jars, ribbon and pieces off of Christmas cards to package and managed to make it look like it was from some fancy artisanal farm shop. For friends, who should appreciate you for your ‘quirky’ flair, wrap their gifts up in tin foil, who buys wrapping paper? I’m not in my 40’s yet, that’s far too responsible.

Being Super Tight/ I’m The Worst 

Save water and washing up time and energy

Ok get ready, because this blew my tiny mind, when you buy crisps, push the bottom of the bag up inside itself, it makes a freakin’ bowl… wuuuut?! My housemate changed my life with that, not even exaggerating.

Also, if you’re making food for yourself, why use a plate when you can just eat from the saucepan, it tastes like decadence, just put a mat down and eat that pasta straight out of the pan, like a maverick. Same applies for baking trays, chips and chicken nuggets for a naughty tea? Go on, eat it off the tray, you’re a student, you have no shame.

Re-purposed cardboard is life 

Why would you do that? How many pizzas have you had? I use a lot of cardboard because I paint a lot, rip up that pizza box, boom! You’ve got yourself a palette.

Old cereal boxes double up as plates when washing up just feels a little bit beyond your skill set (for flat, dry food like toast, nothing rolly or runny like peas or ice cream obviously, but if you can’t work that out, you probably shouldn’t be at uni.)

If you’re even more of a money scavenger and you ebay like me, buying packaging for your sells can be expensive, I once sent an order off to a buyer in a re-purposed quavers box which had blown into my garden, that’s thrift right there, I’m not paying money for cardboard!

These are just a few things that you can consider doing, if you’re willing to stoop as low as me to save a penny.

 

 

The Pains of Degree Snobs

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Ok, this is a bit of a ranty blog post, so buckle up, it’s time Chloe lays down the law on why, if you’re a degree snob, you suck.

I have always been of the persuasion that every degree is different and important in its variation from any other. I really don’t believe there is any study that you can do that is better or worse than any other, just different. There’s a really nice quote from our former chancellor Shami Chakrabarti about being ‘anyone’s equal, no one’s superior.’ To me, the beauty of being at university is learning about how many fields of interest there are, meeting people from other disciplines, and appreciating others for having different specialties from your own. But what do I know? I’m just a Film and Literature student.

A bit of background, last weekend, I was at a BBQ with a group of mechanical engineering students from another uni, and being a newcomer to the group, my degree and career path came up in conversation. Now, that’s fine, I do Film studies and Literature and love talking about my degree, everyone likes watching movies, so it’s not like people won’t understand the appeal of studying them right? However I always feel the need to self deprecate about the fact that I study film and I’m kind of bored of doing it, and it all comes from the exact reaction I received on this particular occasion, and so many others like it. If I were paid every time I had this conversation, I’d make Bill Gates look like a peasant.  When I tell people what I do, it normally goes a lot like this:

Them: So what do you study?

Me: I do lit and film at Essex, it’s great

Them: *Disapproving look* Riiight and what are you going to do with that afterwards?

Me internally: giphy fvf

Me in real life: Yeah haha I know right, what an airy fairy degree!

After this I usually politely school them on how many options I have and the very decided career path I want to take, it normally shuts their disapproval right down. What frustrated me on this occasion was the fact I was surrounded by a group of BEng students, all looking down on my BA. The feeling that people think their degree is more legit than mine boils my blood. For the reason that yes, there are some degrees that have very practical and obvious applications beyond academic study, but it in no way makes studying them any better than studying an arts, humanities or any other “less worthy” degree.

I’m an easily riled person, maybe because I’m a redhead, maybe because I’m really bored of this particular conversation, and perhaps I should just brush these encounters off, but what annoys me is how illegitimate these conversations make me feel. I’m pretty sure anyone who’s doing anything like art history, liberal arts, performing arts, sport science, criminology, sociology, or anything else that doesn’t require being a calculator monkey, will have experienced this at least once too. Being made to feel stupid or less legit, because of the thing you feel most passionate about, it feels trash. It’s like when someone slates your favourite band or TV show and you want to headbutt a wall, because of how wrong their opinion is (I am fully aware that opinions are opinions but I’m sorry, if you think my film studies and literature degree is useless, you’re just plain wrong.)

The way I see it, is without these fields, arts, humanities, sport etc. what would the world do beyond work? It feels hypocritical to sit in your Star Wars T-shirt, criticizing people that study and work in cinema. How else is that thing you love going to exist without the people who devote themselves to making it?!

So, moral of the story of my long angry rant is… don’t be a wally. Regardless of what you think about someone’s degree or passion, consider that  it’s A) fascinating to them even if it isn’t to you and B) probably very useful for what they want in the future. Even if it isn’t, there is no shame in studying something you love, and you should never ever be made to feel that there is.

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The Beauty of a Campus Uni

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Come to Essex, you need never leave *evil cackle*.

Recently I had a friend come visit me here at Essex from another university, being from a city uni, I thought I would take him on a mini tour of our campus (totally not for showing off purposes)  he was surprised and slightly envious of  all of the things we have here, and up until then I hadn’t really stopped to think about just how lucky we are to have a campus filled with so much stuff.

Now, I’m not blind, brutalist architecture is most definitely not for everybody, and the harshness of some of the 1960’s buildings is undeniable, the grey concrete, the crazy crazy room numbering, but after learning a lot from these blog posts by Jordan Welsh about some of the architectural history, I started to see the beauty and functionality in our weird concrete labyrinth.

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https://iamessex.wordpress.com/2017/06/30/secrets-of-the-university-of-essex-part-2

Aesthetically though, the pretty parts totally outweigh the concrete. As we were wandering, we went around the lakes and up to the top of the hill by the Ivor Crewe, places I may not go on a regular university day, but on a sunny day especially, our campus really does look beautiful.

On top of the aesthetic of our uni, we are so lucky to have so many amenities all in one place. As miserable as it would be to actually come to the uni and then never ever leave campus, it would almost be possible. Campus living is like having its own little mini university village. Food and groceries from the stores, a cinema, a theatre, an art gallery, a bus that serves pie , a post office and all the stationary you’d need from Everything Essex. It really is all there on your doorstep. (Although I definitely wouldn’t recommend never leaving campus, you may go a little crazy.)

Being all in one place really has its benefits when it comes to socialising too. As I learned from the blog posts I mentioned earlier, the campus is designed so that everything gravitates around the core of the squares, meaning bumping into people is always a possibility. Which is really great for impromptu drinks and catch ups, not-so great when you’re on the way home sweaty and red-faced from the gym.

We are super lucky with how much we have on campus, and sometimes it takes a poor unfortunate soul from a city uni to remind us just how much we have here.

Your First University Essay

3093588562_b255f9a2fb_zWhen I got to the end of primary school, I remember a teacher telling me that soon I’d be at big school writing these things called ‘essays’ I remember they sounded really difficult and terrifying to a 12 year old brain. When I got to secondary school, fastforwarding about 3 years, writing a two page English essay and getting A’s based on the argument that red curtains signify anger, felt really legit. Oh my sweet summer child, if only I knew…

When I came to university, I had obviously come a long way since my first essay in year 7/8 and had written loads throughout school and sixth form. But what I didn’t know is that a university essay is most definitely not the same as anything I had done before, and just like that little 12 year old  felt the fear rush over me once again, not of essays this time, but of having to think about referencing. So here’s a few things to keep in mind when you write your first university essay (note not everything applies to all degrees and some styles may vary, but you get the gist.)

Reading Around Before You Start

I can’t stress this enough, don’t just start your essay blindly without thinking about which citations you’re going to use. I made this mistake with my first essay and it’s a real struggle making a point and then trying to find a perfect supporting quote to back up your argument. You will also run the risk of making your point seem really tenuous if you do it in this order.

Don’t underestimate how long this will take! For a whole essay, during a busy term time, I usually allocate about 3 weeks per deadline, the first week and a half of that, maybe even two weeks, is reading and researching for me.

The best thing to do is to get your subject matter first, and a rough idea of your opinion on the argument and then go straight to reading up on it. I personally prefer books over the internet, probably because it makes me feel more studious sitting in the library with a big stack of books. Go for stuff that is roughly linked to the subject and then the index is king, find quotations that may be useful or connected and note them down in full, making sure you have the page number, author, chapter title, publication house, date and location. I like to do this on a word document, making sure it stays nice and organised with little line breaks as I do it.

Use Your Reading to Inform Your Argument

The reality is, you probably can never do enough reading on the subject you are writing on, but there will come a point when you’ve got to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) usually because the deadline is only a few days away and you’re starting to sweat over your empty word document. Depending on the department or task, you may need more or less, but four strong references are probably a good starting point. From these you can formulate your plan (this is where it varies from student to student, while some will plan very heavily, others -myself included- will do a rough plan knowing that eventually that will go entirely out of the window. I quite like this method because it means your essay can flow organically and your opinion can adjust as you write but you still have a framework behind it.)

Think on what the author is saying, you don’t necessarily have to agree with them, you may disagree wholeheartedly, but that can make for an even stronger argument. Then you can shape paragraphs around their point in relation to your own, either the point can heighten your argument or be used as a point of discussion.

Watch your Language

When writing your first university essay, the likelihood is you will be tempted to use all of the complexity that your capability allows. Avoid this. Just because you know the word ‘verisimilitudinous’ doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use it 12 times (although it is a great word.) Of course using the odd term, complex word, or sentence structure may benefit you occasionally, but writing like this all the time can read as confusing and may sometimes make you seem like you’re trying to hide the fact you haven’t got a clue what you are talking about behind big words. Try write clearly and fairly simplistically, essays aren’t a vocabulary test.

Taking a Step Back and Simplifying When Your Brain Feels Mushy

I’m going into my third year now, and with every essay, I still without fail, hit the wall at some point during every essay. There’s a few things you can do when this happens to keep yourself on course. First of all, if you haven’t already, write yourself a little mini thesis, this can even become a part of your introduction or conclusion, write down an extremely succinct version of what your argument is, your essay concentrated. This really helps if you are getting lost or veering off on a tangent, use it to remind yourself what your essay is about. Secondly, if you can’t quite word what you’re trying to say, I find it really useful to try and orally explain the point I am trying to make to a friend. It makes you clarify what you are trying to say and bring it back to basics away from a tangle of words.

The Dreaded Footnote

Ugggggghhhhhhhhh referencing why?! You will have heard of plagiarism and how much of a big deal it is. Plagiarism is important to be aware of, you may think that just not being an idiot and avoiding copying people is enough, but plagiarism covers incorrect referencing too. Depending on your department the referencing style you use may vary, you can easily find guides of each style on the internet, i.e. Harvard, APA, Chicago etc. However a lot of departments will have a style handbook too to help you with that. Referencing isn’t hard once you’re in the swing, but getting it in the right order and correct can be a struggle, but after a few essay’s practice, it is sort of second nature. Be aware too that footnotes and bibliographies go in different orders depending on the style.

Stickler on the Proof

Just for the love of all that is holy, proof your work. Proof read it alot, proof read it until you’re sick and tired of reading it, then, read it again. It may be a struggle for your first essay as you may still feel a little too shy to share your work, but reading and proofing each other’s work is so so useful as well in making sure your argument is clear and cogent.

People work in different ways, all of these tips may prove completely useless to you, but I hope it has dispelled just a couple of those first essay fears!