The Future Is Now – Well… After The Placement Year

The future?

Independent of the degree you choose to study at university, we all have a reason for committing to the three year struggle of deadlines and exams – even if we may not know it straight away! A major part of university is the social life, meeting new people and the overall experience, but you do have to get a job at the end (unfortunately!!). Whilst ‘The Future’ might seem a distant thought, it is vital that you plan for after you graduate. Jobs are becoming more competitive, so it’s becoming increasingly important to stand out from the crowd – especially in sport and exercise science (just my luck). Therefore, the opportunity of working in our desired industry should be considered as second nature to us and fortunately enough it is something that the University of Essex offers!


So… what exactly is a placement year?

The simplest explanation is that it is a year of working within a professional company or organisation. This might not sound as exciting as the thrills of university, but it gives you a chance to apply academic knowledge into a practical environment – whilst getting paid (hopefully)… I know the prospect of applying for these positions is daunting, however the careers team are able to support you, so it really isn’t that bad! Also, the many benefits of completing a placement year mean it would be ridiculous not to try.


Placement years – they aren’t an overnight process…

Applying for a placement year is something you do in your second year, but realistically you need to be preparing for longer. Gaining work experience is vital and fortunately for me, Essex offer work at the Human Performance Unit (HPU). During my second year, I was given the opportunity to assist with the hydration status testing and fatigue monitoring sessions, for the performance sport teams at the university. Specifically, I was responsible for analysing the osmolarity of urine samples, in order to work out personalised hydration strategies, as well as performing neuromuscular testing to ensure training load was correct. These were two weekly positions, completed alongside my studies, with the results of large implications for the sport science support provided to these athletes.


Identifying the area of work you want to go into early on is important, as it allows you time to gain the skills needed to achieve your goals. Once again, the university offers lots of support when it comes to gaining this experience, such as CareerHub and the Frontrunners scheme – the careers team are also only an email away!


Surrey Human Performance Institute – the perfect placement?

For my placement year, I work at Surrey Human Performance Institute, or SHPI for short. This is a very similar organisation to the HPU at Essex, so it was the perfect match! SHPI is an exercise physiology laboratory based at the University of Surrey, acting on the forefront of scientific research, as well as providing sport and exercise science support to external clients and delivering educational services to the local area and university students The placement wasn’t actually advertised via Career Hub, instead I proactively emailed them to find out if they were recruiting – something I would seriously recommend! When it comes to placement years, you have to ensure the position is 100% right for you, because there is no point doing it if this isn’t the case.


So… what did I get to do as a Sport Science Intern?

The job description listed above obviously sounded great on paper, but one of my concerns was “how much would I actually be allowed to do as an intern?” The unfortunate truth is that as we are still students, some placements will be limited – mine definitely is not though! Working alongside two other placement students, I have been responsible for leading many of the services provided. I’ve been able to gain experience of applying sport and exercise science in a practical environment, by carrying out various physiological tests, such as body composition assessments, as well as lactate threshold and VO2MAX tests. I have been involved in all the research projects conducted in the laboratory, with many of these working with pre-operative cancer patients – an extremely rewarding experience! To further this, I had the opportunity to work in a hospital setting, performing pre-operative exercise screening sessions for patients of all ages, as well as assisting with the delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Surrey. Finally, but by no means lastly, I was given the chance to design and conduct my own research study, which was probably the best part of the whole placement (and was fairly good practice for my dissertation…). Overall, I’ve loved every moment at SHPI; it truly is an experience I never want to end – still, I am excited for the future!


Placement years – my recommendations

I think I have made my stance on placement years pretty clear – they are the best thing you can do as a student! Therefore, my top tips are: 1) start looking early – don’t leave it until the end of second year, 2) gain relevant work experience, to increase your likelihood of getting that placement you want, 3) make sure you work alongside the careers team – their resources really are second to none and 4) be proactive – don’t settle for a placement you aren’t completely happy with, there is always a position out there to suit you!

All the best finding the perfect position and remember – your future starts now!

Written by Will Gurton, 3rd year Sport and Exercise Science Student

Will is a 3rd year Sport and Exercise Science student, currently on his placement year in Surrey. He is a keen sportsman, with Tennis being his main sport. Throughout his two previous years at Essex, he has represented us at BUCS level for Tennis, as well as being strongly involved with other sport clubs, during his position as the Sports Development Frontrunner for the SU. Away from Essex, Will enjoys travelling, most of the time within Europe, as well as comedy TV shows and of course, watching sport!

Potential work photo (3)

Christmas gifts on a budget

It’s actually snowed already, the gingerbread latte is back in the fashion and Mariah Carey plays on the radio approximately ten times a day.

Christmas is clearly approaching.

I got really excited about going back home, seeing my family and friends, and I started making a list of gifts ideas. It looked great, I had it all sorted. Then I opened my bank account…

If you are broke, like me, you might appreciate these Christmas gift ideas which will make your nearest and dearest feel special and won’t make you cry over your overdraft.




I made it a few times and it was always a total success! You can choose a template of a calendar and personalize it, or just do it all yourself, on the computer or just by hand. Choose the nicest pictures, mark important dates to remember, maybe add a nice quote for each month. It’s fun and easy to make and it will make your loved ones smile all year round!


Not a fun of calendars? How about a photo album with funny anecdotes, memories, the most beautiful moments from the past year, or years. It’s always nice to go down memory lane!


Another idea on a similar note is a personal sound journey. Once I gave my dad a CD with tracks from his childhood, young years, and important moments from his life, it triggered so many beautiful memories! He loves coming back to it a lot, it’s like a little time vehicle.



This is a classic. Imagine giving your precious person something you have knitted yourself? You might think it’s for knitting-PROs only, but this doesn’t have to be a masterpiece jumper with funky patterns, there are much easier things to do and with a little youtube tutorial I’m sure you can do it too!

If knitting is not for you, how about a personalized bag, shawl or decorative cloth to put on a table? You can get a plain linen bag or a piece of fabric from a charity shop or e-bay, and just embroider a name, a life motto, or a colourful pattern on it!


You can pamper your loved ones with a mini spa in a jar! There are loads of easy-peasy and cheap recipes for homemade make-up, make-up removers, creams, face-masks, lip balms, etc.!

How about Vanilla Coconut Sugar Scrub? All you need is 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or a different aroma, but this is optional). That’s it! You just mix it well, put a scrub in a jar and voalá!

Another easy and cheap to make present is a handmade deodorant which is also much healthier than the industrial ones. The ingredients are: coconut oil, corn starch and baking soda. You can add an aroma if you like, but to me it’s perfect just as it is. You need 6 spoons of coconut oil, 4 spoons of baking soda and 4 spoons of corn starch. Mix soda with starch and then add the oil. The oil should be liquid to mix well, if it isn’t, you can just heat it up a little bit.

You can decorate the jar with nail polish, tie up a nice ribbon, or just keep it simple.



This is a great idea for wine lovers. Now you can make a use of all these wines you drunk during the term 😊 It can become a notice board, rustic bathroom mat, kitchen board to put a hot pan on, or just a lovely decoration. You can also pin pictures or good thoughts on it. All you need is cork and glue!

I hope these ideas inspired some of you to make a gift! You really don’t need a fortune to make your very special people happy. Just get creative and enjoy this lovely season! An empty wallet cannot ruin it!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Long distance friendships and relationships

Coming to university, moving away from your loved ones, and starting this whole scary ‘long distance’ thing might be the worst nightmare for many students. It was scary for me too, but now I actually think it’s a blessing.

I left my home country a while ago, leaving all my friends behind. For the past seven years I lived in quite a few countries and, as a fairly sociable human being, I found a lovely bunch of friends in each of them and fell in love a few times. And just at the moment I would start to call that place ‘home’, it was time to make a move again… even though it was always painful (actually I don’t think I ever managed to leave without crying a river!) I learned to appreciate every different place for their own special reasons.

When I was moving around, for the first few times I was convinced I would keep in touch with all my friends and only a thought of a different scenario would make my eyes water. The truth is that it’s not always like that. You will have your life here and they will have their life there. You can drop a message sometimes, but it’s difficult to be present in everybody’s life constantly, unless you want to spend your life on Skype. The good thing about it is that it will let you identify people who really care about how you’re doing and who always will be there for you, in spite of the distance and the time passing by.

Even if it sounds harsh, I believe the same goes for amorous relationships. Sometimes being around one another constantly doesn’t give you any space to reflect upon your relationship. After moving away for a while, you will be able to look at everything from a distance and decide if it’s really right for you.

A while ago I moved to another country (again), and my boyfriend-at-the-time stayed in the country I left. We were both so in love, so of course we tried to keep it going. After I moved away, I realised that I was actually happier by myself, doing what was making ME happy and that this relationship was keeping me in stagnation, without me even realising it. I didn’t just give up, I tried to find a solution, but after a while I came to the conclusion that this was an ultimatum: my personal growth or that relationship. It sounds like the worst scenario, and I don’t wish it to happen to any of you, but I think for me I made the best decision. I looked at my relationship from a different perspective and I noticed that it just wasn’t what I wanted.

I don’t mean to scare you. It doesn’t mean that after coming to uni your relationships will fall apart. Actually, I’ve been in (another) long distance relationship for a while now and seriously, I couldn’t be happier. Ironically, the distance makes us feel even closer because now we make time for good conversations. I don’t want to sound like a relationship pro either, of course everyone is different, but just know that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing to be away from one another and if it doesn’t work, it’s for a reason.

It’s a win-win situation!

Long distance friendships and relationships at uni might be the first ‘trial’ for you and I think it will benefit you either way. If things don’t go so well and you happen to break up or stop being friends – that’s ok, honestly! It might be difficult to accept at the time, but maybe there’s some truth in the saying that everything happens for a reason. My very wise friend used to say: ”It’s always good when it’s good”. It’s so true. It’s only when obstacles such as being long distance appear that you find out if you really are meant to bein each other’s lives. And  if it does work out, that’s amazing! You guys will have a solid base to build something very valuable.

Good luck to all those who are about to embark on a new adventure, moving cities or even countries, I hope you to keep your precious friendships and establish new ones! For those who come in a ‘relationship status’, stay positive! There are so many ways to pamper your Very Special Person from far away, but that’s a topic for another post. 🙂

Why it’s great to go to University!

Going to university can seem like a pretty daunting idea, but by the time graduation comes around you’ll want to do it all again…


‘What if no one likes me? What I don’t make any friends?’ My nervous thoughts driving to Essex on arrivals day. Moving into your flat can be scary, but arm yourself with tea and biscuits and embrace the awkward hello’s. Everyone is in the same boat (I know you’ve been told this 100 times but it’s true!) You WILL make friends and you WILL have someone to hang out with. Whether you live in a flat of 4, 5, 6 or 16 people like I did, that’s a whole new group of friends you’ve made on the very first day, and that’s just the start! University gives you the chance to meet hundreds of new people from across the world and make lifetime friends. By the time Christmas rolls around (trust me it will come quicker than you think) having to spend a month apart from your new friends will seem impossible, I cried when I had to go home! So don’t worry about whether you’ll make friends, before long your flatmates will feel like family and you’ll be calling your flat home (although this will probably upset your mum).

A new flat brings new independence. Yes, it means you have to cook your own dinner, remember to buy toilet roll and wash your own socks but it’s not all boring. No longer do you have to ask your dad if your friend can come over for dinner, or let your parents know that you’ll be out past 11pm. You might feel like you’re not ready to fly the nest and leave your mums Sunday roast behind, but don’t worry, you’ve got this! Once you have that independence you’ll never want to lose it. Being independent and able to organise your own time feels great, especially when there’s so much on offer…


With over 165 sports clubs & societies at Essex you’re sure to find something you love. This year I joined the Pole Dancing club, something I’d never thought I’d do but I can’t get enough! Being a member of a sports team means you’ll have the chance to compete against our rivals UEA on Derby Day each year. Even non-members can join in on the action and cheer us on! If you’re not the sporty type then don’t worry, there’s plenty of societies to keep you entertained. From Harry Potter to Meditation there’s something for everyone. Can’t find anything to take your fancy? Why not start your own society? There’s always room for something new at Essex.

Being a stereotypical student, I spent 50% of my first year in our on-campus club Subzero. Loads of great acts; such as DJ Fresh, Lethal Bizzle and even the Chuckle Brothers! Come to Essex for really cheap prices. Base Bar host a variety of alternative nights and the SU Bar is always great for a quick drink… or 9! If you’re after something a bit quieter or more relaxed then the Lakeside Theatre is always packed with a range of events, from Comedy Central to Shakespeare.


The SU organised a whole load of events all year round, incorporating hundreds of different cultures (the colour dash and Holi festival are my favourites). Students from over 140 countries study at Essex meaning multicultural music, dancing and foods can regularly be found in squares; which is an exciting way of learning about new cultures.

University makes you a part of a whole new family. It offers the chance for you to grow as an individual and succeed at things you never thought you could. I won’t lie to you, it is a nerve-racking process… but with so many exciting new opportunities and things to love how can you really say no?

By Abby Futter

Micro Horror-story: The Beyond

Far beyond, beyond it waits

Beneath the earth, above the skies

Lock the doors and close the gates

You’ll never know, know where it hides

Just when you think, think you’ve seen it all

Behind the veil, what will you find?

Trying so desperately, trying to stand tall

Take a look inside, behind the corners of your mind

Too late, too late to see

What it is we ought to be

By Alex Kimbo

The King of Hearts

A thick fog lay across the table.
‘Put your cards down’ she hissed, barely breathing. Thick, sticky red knotted in her hair.
‘You’re going to kill yourself’ he cried, his hands bound across his chest.
The shadow walked behind him; with eyes down, they saw her approaching.
‘Put your cards down.’ Blood pumped out under her clothes. Dark violet stains, browning.
His wrists pulled and burned against the rope. He threw them down, one by one. A King, a Queen, a Spade.
‘You see?’ He pleaded. More red drizzled from her brain.
‘So who is she?’ Her eyes lifted to the shadow ‘And who is that for?’ Her head dropped to his last card.
His arms pulled until the ties loosened. She bled.
‘A spade for my queen.’ He whimpered as he smothered the shadow. His shirt did the job.
As she watched, she bled to death. He used a spade to dig her grave.

By Cate Triner.

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Micro-horror story: The Clown

Lucy and Beth stumbled up the steps, giggling as Lucy nearly fell on her face. It was 2am on Thursday morning and the girls had just had another good night out. As they started their journey home, they saw this figure start to approach them. To the girl’s surprise before them stood a clown. “A clown!” screamed Beth. Lucy started to laugh “Don’t be silly Beth, it’s just Josh trying to scare us” as she remembered Josh saying he was going to prank them. “Josh” shouted Lucy “It’s not going to work I’m not scared of clowns!”. The girls approach the clown, giggling more. But the clown didn’t say anything. It had some sort of object in its hand which was dripping. “Lucy” whispered Beth “Are you sure it’s Josh?!” But Lucy didn’t have time to reply. The last sound that was heard from the girl’s mouths were their piercing screams. And they were never seen again.

By Lauren Tribe

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Micro-horror story: A night to remember

When I was young, I used to hide behind my mother’s skirt
But mom never wore a skirt
Her last words about life were
‘Honey stop!’ But no one was there…
Just me, covered in a thick layer of dirty blood
I stopped when the screams died,
But they kept on devouring me
With thirst. Like maggots.
Whispers to my ear ‘what a childish joke!’
I put the knife down and forgive the tarot reader for making me feel insecure.

By Dragos Gruia

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Micro-horror story: The Dream

I was having a pleasant dream when what sounded like hammering woke me. After that, I could barely hear the muffled sound of dirt covering the coffin over my own screams.

“I can’t sleep,” she whispered, crawling into bed with me. I woke up cold, clutching the dress she was buried in.

By Bohua Yang

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Micro-Horror Story: Rebellion in One syllable

I wore a blood red dress.

The box with the dead old man was near and I was made to march.

The crowd left space near me, as though I was a hole in the road down which they might fall. They wore type D tops, had soft soled shoes. I tried to see a glint of joy in those hard by, but there was none.

I knew that they were close.

I made my mouth an O. “We are free,” I sang. And from the shade they came, with their sharp suits, their Style A hair, and their guns.

By Petra McQueen

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