5 tips to help you study for your exams

We’ve all been there! Three days before a deadline and you need to use all your energy to focus on your coursework. More often than not, in my case, procrastination kicks in, which leads to me doing everything the night before. Now, I like to think I got better at this thing called “university” and maybe became a bit more responsible, so in the hopes that you will not go through the same struggles I did, I made a list of the things that worked for me and improved my productivity this academic year!

1. Avoid any distraction

I don’t know about you, but I get so easily distracted. Once when I was doing my reading, I stopped and messaged a friend for an hour,  then went to take shower and after that I decided I was too sleepy to do anything else and ended up going to bed. So, it should not come a surprise that my first tip for you is to just turn off your phone (or at least the wi-fi) when you study. It helps so much!

2. Make sure you eat healthily

I know we are all students and eating healthy is not very realistic over long periods of time, but it would help immensely if you do it at least during the exam period. Eating fruits and making sure you get all the right vitamins in your body helps a lot! Food like walnuts, apples, blueberries and bananas improve your ability to focus, help you to retain information and remain mentally alert.

3. Get enough sleep

I know this may seem like common knowledge, but not many people seem to do this. It is more important to sleep properly the night before an exam rather than try to cram as much information as possible. I tried the cramming a few times and, although it worked the first two times, on the third test I just crashed. I could not remember anything of what I studied the night before and I almost failed. So make sure you are well-rested!

4. Use colours to help you study

One of the techniques that I found to be very helpful was just marking every one of my subjects with a different colour whenever I took notes. That way I could memorise them much faster. Simple things life markers and post-it notes can make a big difference if you actually take the time to use them.

1. Treat yourself!

After taking an exam or just spending an entire night to finish a coursework, just take a breather! Meet one of your friends for coffee, go to the cinema, or just take a well-deserved break before studying for your next assignment. You deserve it 🙂

 

Our diversity celebrated: One World Essex

One World Essex, the week filled with our appreciation towards our varied student body and their culture. So what was it all about?

Our colourful “One World Essex” week kicked off on Monday the 27th of February, where, as most of you know, we had an amazing Parade of Flags and Carnival on Square 3 and 4 – and not just that! The Squares were filled with music and students dancing and talking and representing their nations. It was literally impossible to miss because when you heard all the music and laughter, you just had to join!

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The even-better stuff came on Tuesday, though. The International Food Festival. Let me repeat that. INTERNATIONAL. FOOD. FESTIVAL. There was food everywhere on Square 3! You didn’t even need to know that it was on Square 3, you could just navigate yourself to the food by the amazing aromas filling campus! Stepping into the Square, you could see nothing else but loads of different stalls, each of them showcasing a different type of food, culture and nation. Just walking even close to the Square made our mouths water and bellies grumble! You probably guessed by now that we visited every stall and ate until we couldn’t even stand anymore.

After the amazing food from the Festival, we needed some music of course. And that’s exactly what we got on Wednesday at the International Concert. Our wonderful ISA brought us music from around the world. It was a night filled with music and dances brought to us by none other than our amazing international students.

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We then had the Cultural Gala, on Friday the 3rd of March at the Hex. There I was able to meet our international student body and not only talked to them but also learnt a bit about their culture. And that should always come in handy, since Essex is one of the most international universities in the UK!

Last but definitely not least, our annual Essex Olympics took place! Keeping healthy is crucial and here, at our university, with all of our sports societies and Just Play sessions, you can do just that! We have a Sports Centre on campus where you can enjoy any sports you wish, and a new and improved one currently being built!

During One World Essex, we had a look at some of the most talented students that our uni has and it was amazing! It was fantastic to see our diverse, multi-cultural student body come together and celebrate each others’ heritage. Hope to see you there next year!

 

How my life has changed from college to university

I am sure I’m not the only one that is utterly shocked at the speed this academic years has flown by. Despite this being my second year here, it still doesn’t seem that long ago since I was back in college, studying a handful of A-levels and wondering what direction I wanted my life to go in! The step up to uni is one of the biggest transitions we’ve all had to make, and there were a lot of differences to college life that I certainly didn’t expect.

My constant need for extra sleep

During my A-level years, I could get up at 7 am, do a morning paper round, before completing a full 9 am to 3 pm day of classes, and still have the energy to hang out with my friends all evening. Oh, how things have changed! I have now reached a point where one to two hours of lectures leaves me yearning for my bed and a chance to recover. With the regular availability of alcohol combined with the deadlines constantly looming over your head, spending the early hours of your day productively has become more of a pipe dream!

Independent Working

No matter what A-levels you took, the style of learning and working will feel very different after experiencing those first few lectures or seminars. I realised that much of my subject knowledge was no longer understood in a classroom-style environment, but instead in my hours outside of the lecture theatres. Whether your course is mainly exam-based or filled with regular assignments, your time management and organisational skills will, eventually, reach a whole new level of ‘On Point’, even if that means occasionally working until 3 am bashing out a 2000 word essay the night before it’s due (not that I would know about that….).

Difference in Lifestyle

A big change many of us were probably preparing ourselves for well in advance was living away from home, whether it be on or off campus. I imagine many students, myself included, thought that having 3 well-balanced meals a day would be a simple part of uni life on top of the workload. And yet, I write this while planning my typical dinner of a piece of chicken with some plain rice, so clearly, I was mistaken! Add to this the need to do washing and clean up after yourself, and at times it just seems all too much! But despite it all, living with people that are going through the exact same struggles just makes it that bit more tolerable, and we find a way to survive.

Although this is just scraping the barrel when it comes to the reality of university life, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Having the opportunity to study something I love and feel the freedom that independence comes with is an experience like no other. Far gone are the monotonous days of college classes, and I’ve never been happier about it! Many of you will agree it is certainly a rollercoaster, but despite the ups and downs, you often feel like you never want it to end.

Accommodation stereotypes: What kind of person lives where!

The Towers

If I could describe our amazing Towers with one word, that would be social. The Towers, either South Towers or North Towers, are the most social type of accommodation at the university and also the most fun one! Having 16 to 13 people per flat, depending on which tower you live in, it is no surprise either.

Imagine having not only your flatmates as instant friends but the whole tower, since people tend to know each other from other flats and socialise a lot. Also, another plus would be the fact that you are bound to live with people from all around the world which means that you could get friends from all around the world, how cool is that?!

The Towers are a place for a good hangout. There is no chance you can feel alone here. There is not one day that is the same when you live here and that is why Towers are so magical.


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The houses

The Houses are housing (get it?) the forever knowledge-hungry students They are located only a few minutes away from the Student Centre and the Library, so you’re only a quick step away from all the computers and materials that are available to us students. The Houses are kind of the opposite of The Towers, but that by no means equals boring! They are centrally located, which means you’re super close to campus and there are 4 to 6 people per flat – perfect for a close-knit group of friends!

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The Quays

The Quays are next to a river and beautiful greenery, but as they’re a bit of a walk away from campus you can expect everyone to be out all the time. You will see the usual sporty people running along the river, playing badminton, enjoying a bike ride, and also just people out and about, sunbathing or just out for a picnic! The Quays are also super close to the train station, so if you fancy an impromptu weekend away or just a day trip, there is a 150% chance that you will find a minimum of 10 people going with you. The Quays are definitely for the curious adventurers who are eager to explore and be out and about!

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South Courts

South Courts, being one of the most high-end type of accommodation we have, will definitely give you what you pay for. En-suite bathrooms in each room and only a three minutes’ walk away from Square 3, you definitely get the bang for your buck. It is an ideal choice for the sports fanatic, since it is located right next to the Sports Centre and Evolve Gym. It is also our largest accommodation area, so if you are thinking of moving to South Courts, be ready to see LOAAAADS of people. Housing 4 to 6 students per flat, and in some up to 12 students, it’s a perfect balance for your academic studies and social life.

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But this is not everything the uni offers in terms of accommodation! Have a look at their website for more info on the others or if simply you want to find out more about the ones I talked about here 🙂

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! 🙂

Colchester’s hidden gems

I can’t believe it’s already been over a year since I first stepped foot in Colchester. I remember my first few days at uni, excited to explore every bit of the town. I don’t know about you, but I have always been the kind of person that loves to explore. So today I decided to give you a glimpse of the lesser-known things that I discovered and love about Colchester!

Aburi Japanese Restaurant

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This hidden gem is definitely my favourite place to eat in Colchester. If you are into sushi, ramen or anything in between then this is the perfect place for you! I am usually very picky when it comes to sushi, but this place has never disappointed me. The atmosphere is also a very relaxing one. They usually have slow paced music playing in the background and the design of the place is simply stunning. That and the friendly members of staff make this place my ‘go to’ every time I feel the need to spoil myself a bit. My recommendation for you would be the ‘teriyaki bento box’ ( which has salmon and chicken). It is a very decent price and it tastes amazing!

Layer Marney Tower

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I could bet money that most of you have never heard of this place! Although not very known to the public, I feel like this place is immensely superior to the Castle Park castle. Built around 500 years ago, this place is the tallest Tudor Gatehouse in England. The 80ft tower is well worth the climb as it offers a spectacular view of the Essex countryside. Also, the gardens around the castle are superb, which is why I think this is such a great place to visit in the company of a loved one. So if you feel like escaping from the daily routine, go ahead and try a spontaneous afternoon visit to the Tower. You will not regret it!

Hollytrees Museum

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If you are a person who loves art, the museum is one of the perfect places for this! This Georgian townhouse features over 300 years of history through hands-on exhibits and displays. Most of the displays are in regards to what family life was like for the wealthy and the penniless in Georgian and Victorian Colchester. The thing that I enjoyed the most, though, was the fact that they offer costumes to the visitors and anyone can dress up as a servant. Just imagine seeing a museum filled with people roaming around in Victorian clothes talking in a very posh British accent. And if that wasn’t enough, they offer free entry to pretty much everything – so I highly recommend giving this place a go!

 

Essex summed up in 3 photos

There are so many note-worthy places on our lovely Colchester campus that are particularly good for Instagram (I’m looking at you, No.64 bus with lakeside view), but to really sum up the Essex experience, I’ve picked these three:

The Towers

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I think that the first thing I have to mention is our Towers. Looking at the campus map, the high grey buildings are surely among the first things that you notice.

Did you know that the Towers were the highest brick buildings in the UK during the time they were constructed? How cool is that?! There are 6 towers in total, 4 North Towers and 2 South Towers. Housing 16 students per floor in South Towers and 13 students per floor in North Towers, they are definitely the most social and fun places to live at on campus! They are the most special as well, since you get 13-16 instant friends when you move in, and since 40% of our campus is international, you are bound to end up in a flat with people from all over the world!

It is true that our Towers might look a little rough around the edges, but they are so prominent at our university that it is impossible not to mention them.

Campus cat

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If there is anything ever more ICONIC to our beloved University than our Campus Cat, name it, I’ll wait. He has been roaming our campus for about 3 years now, and in 2014 we discovered that he has an owner in Greenstead and that his name is Pebbles! Fortunately, Pebbles is still blessing us with his presence and we are more than happy with that. Pebbles, being the icon that he is, is able to go anywhere in the university and none can stop him. In other words – he is our king and we serve him, because he is too cute not to be served. You are able to see him strut peacefully throughout the squares, getting all the attention like the true star that he is. I dare say Pebbles is the most loved member of staff and student body alike and I am sure many would agree with me, too. If you are lucky and fast enough, you can catch him on one of the sofas in the Tony Rich Teaching Centre and pet him or give him the occasional belly rub – he really likes those.

Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall

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Ah yes, our beautiful mirror-like Ivor Crewe Lecture Theatre. Or as Prince Charles once called it, our “dustbin” building. I know what you are thinking now – how cool is it that our Lecture Building was royally nicknamed! During your time at our lovely university, you are probably going to see a lot of this building. And not just because of its “LOOK AT ME I’M HERE” kind of appearance, but also of all the 9 am and 5 pm lectures you are going to have there. It surely is a special and nostalgic place for an Essex student. Your first time at the Ivor Crewe will be during Fresher’s week, at the Fresher’s Welcome Speech with all the first years in the same room, knowing hardly anyone, and your last time there will be during your Graduation, among all your university friends that will be more like a family by then, than just friends. That’s why the Ivor Crewe is so special, it’s your starting point, but also your finish line.

 

Sports opportunities to take on this term

I can’t believe we’re already in to our second term; this academic year has certainly been a hell of a ride for me, but looking back now, it all went by so quick! When it first started I wanted to try out so many things, I wanted to join a society and a sports club and to go travelling and so much more, but no matter how good my time management was, I couldn’t really do all of them. But what I did manage to do is have an in-depth look at the sports club that the uni offers. The number of sports clubs available right now is amazing, with over 50 categories to choose from.

Today I want to talk about some certain opportunities organised by the Just Play team, that are either around just a short while each year or they just happen to be very low key. They don’t require any sort of commitment, so I highly recommend trying at least one of them!

Ice Skating

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The SU organises sessions every year for anyone interested in Ice Skating! They will take you to Chelmsford with a minibus (so you don’t need to worry about transport!) and the sessions usually last for approximately an hour. The tickets are very cheap and it’s a lot of fun, especially if you go with a bunch of your friends. If you have never skated before, don’t be scared! I went there in December for the very first time, and although I struggled to stay on my feet for a good 10 minutes, (and fell on my booty a few times) I shortly got the hang of it and it was a lot of fun!

Tickets usually sell out a few days before the event, so if you are interested, make sure to book those tickets on SU’s website as soon as possible!

Swimming

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I don’t know about you, but swimming is my favourite sport of all time! To be honest, I can barely stay afloat, and sometimes I almost drown, but I enjoy every piece of it (ok, maybe not the drowning part). The SU currently has a partnership with Colchester Leisure World, which means you can go and swim for free between certain hours just by booking your place online. I have already gone there 4 times and the pools are amazing. I would recommend anyone to give it a go if they love water at least half as much as I do!

Have a look at SU’s website for details on how to book your ticket.

Oh, I almost forgot! If you don’t know to swim at all and you would be interested in taking some swimming lessons, the SU has you covered as well. You can sign up for a 9 week long swimming course for beginners, for only £30 ( which is just over £3 per session).

I hope this post helped and I wish you all best of luck this term!

Best places to travel to as an Essex student

We are officially into the new term and deadlines are looming. In this kind of situation, coming back to uni does not seem very appealing, and since I had an exam on one of my first few days back, I thought, what better way to cope with this than to plan a trip? So I decided to make a list of the best places that you can visit during a weekend, taking into account the distance from uni and money you’d have to spend!

Norwich

I remember going on a trip for a day to this place last winter. My RA organised this and, although the transport was quite cheap (£10 return), residence life offered to pay for it anyway. We spent the whole day running from one place to another, visiting the shopping centre and getting loads of souvenirs. We also went to see the Norwich cathedral which is absolutely gorgeous. At the end of the day, we also (somehow) ended up in a mustard shop that apparently is a popular attraction in Norwich. Tasting mustard with chocolate flavour was probably one the weirdest things I had to go through, but surprisingly, it was really nice (too bad the prices were as spicy as the mustard). They also have a big castle close to the centre of the city, where lots people seem to host weddings. As we were passing it, a bride was preparing for the ceremony and one my flatmates decided to wave at her (…I know).

So, would I recommend Norwich? Hell yeah! It’s only one hour journey by train and it has enough things in it to keep you busy for more than one day.img_20160227_120003995_hdr

Cambridge

This is one of those trips that I have always wanted to do but somehow never got around it. Thus, I currently have it as number 1 on my priority list. I have a lot of friends that have visited it and all came back saying the city is amazing. The one thing that I heard, again and again, is that the architecture is breath-taking. Just walking the streets and admiring the buildings is more than enough to make you adore the place. Besides that, the people are very warm and welcoming, and the colleges are all open to tourists, so you can always ask for a campus tour.  Additionally, if you like art, there’s the free-to-enter University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, which houses collections of art and antiquities spanning centuries, and Kettle’s Yard, one of the country’s finest galleries and contemporary art. Here you can find a wide range of artworks, sculpture trail walks and galleries.

So, if you are into pretty things, Cambridge is the best place for you. The price is around £11 (for a return), and the journey shouldn’t take more 2-3 hours.

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Paris

Oh, Paris! This one is for those that are really up for a journey and willing to spend a little bit more money. Until I got in the UK I never actually realised how easy it is to get to France. The cheapest way is to get a national express coach and pay around £50 for a return ticket. If you don’t want to stay overnight in Paris because it’s too expensive you can always get there in the morning, spend the whole day by going on a walk on Champs-Élysées and admiring the Eiffel Tower. From personal experience, I definitely recommend seeing the Arc De Triomphe. It might take you 30 minutes to get to the top, but the view is comparable to the one you get from the Eiffel tower (and it’s free!).

Also, if you are lucky enough to be from the European Union (and under 26), you get free entry to all museums and major tourist attractions on the first Sunday of each month. So, if you ever decide to go on a trip to Paris, that might be worth knowing 🙂
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There you go! Three places to visit when you aren’t revising! Paris could wait a bit, but I definitely recommend you to try out Norwich and Cambridge. I’m hoping to visit Cambridge as soon as I possibly can!

Is there life after the Christmas break?

Christmas is over and the start of term is nearly here, so I bet there are lots of us out there wondering: is there life after Christmas?

We sadly have to wake up and smell the early mornings:  the winter break is gone and now, the next term is soon to start. Time may start to go a little slower as lectures and seminars recommence and Christmas will start to become a distant memory. But are things really that bad?  For the start of a new year, I think it’s important to remember that every day can be a pleasant time if you fully concentrate on the moment making each of those moments important in our life. In the end, this is what life is about: to live and appreciate the world.

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As a student, this can feel tricky. You probably have to hand in some assignments right on the first day of the term, the first 9 am of the week is a mission impossible and you’re no Tom Cruise, and rather than enjoying some tasty home-cooked food like you’ve had for the past few weeks, you now have to actually fend for yourself and no matter how hard you try, your cooking NEVER tastes as good as your mum’s!

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It’s true, it is tricky. But all you need to do is to look at things from a different perspective. It takes just a mental effort to wake up from your melancholy.

You have the chance to come back and start your year off right. Take care of yourself;  get up a little earlier, stroll on to campus and enjoy the beauty of a winter morning; treat yourself to tasty ingredients and try a new recipe; grab a friend and go for a jog (if nothing else, it makes for a good laugh!).

There is so much fun that’s waiting for you, new challenges and so many new things to discover.

And if by chance, none of these suggestions makes you feel better, just remember, Christmas is coming anyway in approximately 50 weeks 😉