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.

5 reasons why I love the University of Essex

As I prepare to wrap up my time at Essex *cries uncontrollably* a lot of things have been coming to mind. Three years have passed exceptionally quickly and now I’ve written my last essay (my 16th essay at Essex), sat my last exam, submitted my dissertation and ordered my gown for graduation it has now become all the more real that my time here is ending.

Looking back, these are the reasons that I fell in love with Essex in the first place and why it continues to get under my skin.

Diverse Community

Essex was recently declared the 15th most internationally diverse in the world with 44% of the student population coming from abroad. As a result there is a wonderful mix of cultures on campus, most of whom have their own society which is open to anyone wanting to learn more about their culture (and cuisine!).

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Architecture 

Ok, so it is not everyone’s taste- but come on, concrete was exceptionally fashionable in the 1960’s when the university was built. But brutalist architecture I find strangely interesting, and mix this with the other fantastic (and award winning) buildings on campus then you have some incredible buildings to study in.

Thursday Market

I blame this market for making a dent in my student finance loans! On Thursday the market is a must to pick up bargains and delicious food. Think books, bread, burgers, fruit and veg, sweets, fish, cakes, and CD’s and you’re generally in the right area of what is on offer and how lucky we are to have this on campus!

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Module Variety 

I’ve probably mentioned before that just because you study a particular degree doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same as a similar degree at another university. You have the option to pick modules that suit your interests and one of the reasons that made me choose Essex was the fantastic variety of module on offer. This meant that I could select the modules that I was interested in and wanted to know more about.

Supportive Staff

There is a greater emphasis at university for independent study and performing your own research, but that doesn’t mean that you are left on your own. The staff in your department and across the wider support network are some of the most caring, supportive and friendly people that you’ll ever meet. They are people that you can moan to, laugh and converse with- and their passion for their work is contagious.

I can’t put into words every single reason why I love Essex as much as I do – there aren’t enough hours in the day! But I will say I’m incredibly proud to be an Essex finalist and will miss this place when I’m gone!

Our Diverse campus: it’s written in the prospectus, but what does it really mean?

When it comes to universities, the word “Diverse” can be seen in use a lot, but why does it ring especially true at the University of Essex?

University itself is a great place to introduce yourself to new ideas, new people and new cultures. You’re no longer at a school where everyone who attends lives in the same town as you. The people that you meet at university will be from all across the world!

Being diverse means that there will be people of different ages, different nationalities, different faiths, different sexualities and different occupations all brought together in one safe and friendly environment.

Students from over 130 countries

With so many people from different countries, it is not surprising that Essex is the 5th most internationally diverse university in the UK. In fact, a third of students at Essex are classed as international.

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Proud Essex: Students protesting about changes to international students visas

Cultural Societies

There are 36 on-campus societies based around the cultures of different countries. These societies aim to bring together people from those respective countries/cultures as well as people interested in learning more about them.

Faith

For many, faith is an important aspect of daily life. There are 11 different chaplains and faith representatives on-campus who are able to help if you have any questions or would like someone to talk to.

LGBTQ+

The University of Essex LGBT Society is one of the biggest in the UK and has won numerous awards for their work in recent years. Essex LGBT have well over one hundred members, associates, contributors and friends from a wide range of religious, racial and social backgrounds and are able to provide a supportive network for those who would like it.

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(c) NUS.org

Mature Students

This means people who are aged 21 or over when they start their course with around 37% of the Essex student population being made up of mature students. In 2011 the University was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for providing outstanding support to mature students.

No need to suffer: the help and support available to you at university

University is a place for you to grow. A place where you can become the person you want to be. People say that at university you can be independent but it can seem daunting at first, especially if you are living away from home for the first time. All those things that other people may have done for you in the past will now become your responsibility.

There is cooking to do, shopping, washing, studying, socialising and relaxing: in truth it does feel like you are at the deep end when it comes to being independent and looking after yourself.

But that doesn’t mean that you should face it alone. Never suffer in silence if the whole university experience or even your personal life becomes too much. There are so many services and people who can help with a wide range of issues- while this may not be representative of all universities, the information below is certainly true of Essex.

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Nightline: a confidential listening, emotional support, information and supplies service, run for students by students at the University of Essex.

It runs every night during term time from 10pm until 8am. Students can either visit in person where you can enter the Nightline flat at the back of Keynes Tower (North Towers), or you can email or give them a call.

Student Support Hub: The Silberrad Student Centre is the one-stop shop for the majority of student concerns.

Whether it is do with living in university residences; changing your course; replacement registration cards; disability support; exam extenuating circumstances; coping with stress and anxiety; counselling; immigration advice; or funding advice (phew!) the “Hub” will be able to help you.24477446640_ac9b4c7ac7_k

Personal Tutor: All students will be assigned a personal tutor within their department for the duration of their study. These are the people that you can go to with course specific questions, additionally they are also able to signpost you to other services if they feel that they cannot help you personally.

Peer Mentor: Most departments will assign first year students a peer mentor, a student normally in their second or third year. The peer mentor is able to give you honest advice and help from the student prospective. They can also direct you to the specific people or services which can help your position.

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Multi-Faith Chaplaincy: a welcoming place for staff, students and the wider community to meet, interact and engage in a positive and peaceful manner. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, the Chaplaincy and its staff are a friendly group and an oasis of calm.

Student Union: As a member of the university you are automatically a member of the student union. This is a service which runs some of the venues on campus as well as being an organisation that is centred wholly around supporting students. There are representatives who handle educational concerns, concerns with welfare and also people who help and represent groups such as BAME students, LGBT+ students, postgraduate and mature students. Their job is to listen and react to your issues.

uni-essex-student-union-ambassador-logo-400x400Health Centre: Hopefully you will never need to use it whilst you are here, but it is important to register with the on-campus health centre in case you do need it. Located behind Rayleigh Tower (North Towers) they provide NHS services from GP appointments to nurse clinics and provide help and assistance for asthma, diabetes, sexual health and contraception.

Talent Development Centre Helpdesk: Located on the ground floor of the Student Centre they offer a number of services including: 1:1 academic advising; Maths support; English language support; and advice on PhD thesis writing.

Whilst your family and friends can be the perfect shoulder to cry on if you need one, there is other help available if you need it. With so much available, never feel embarrassed to ask for more support should you ever need it.

Revision tips depending on your personality

Revision is a bore! Long and tedious. Boring and dull. Did I mention it was boring? It is hard to get motivated for revising and essay writing but your success in an exam or essay could rest on how well you revise.

a14cab5a3f5402daa8014fe1340f3cb0So depending on who you are a person I have prepared some tips which might help you:

improve-memory-1-1The Meticulous planner

  • Create a Revision Timetable: Start revising several weeks before your exams are due to start. Exam timetables are normally released well in advance. Be realistic with the time you have and remember to factor in a fair amount of rest time.
  • Identify key topics: For each course, identify what you need to revise. Look back at past papers and the course content in order to work out what you should revise. An old teacher of mine used to say “Revise the trees, not the forest”- basically don’t try and revise everything as you won’t have time and you’ll start to panic.

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The Memory reviser 

Ok, so you have a great memory. You make people jealous with how well and quick you remember things. Or perhaps you struggle to remember things?

  • Don’t leave things until the last minute! Never a good idea, give yourself plenty of time to look over things.
  • Good notes taken in classes mean you can spend more time revising and less time researching.
  • If you’re struggling to remember words or terms try to associate it with an image or song to see if it makes it easier to remember.

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The Procrastinator 

“I’ll do it later” but later never comes. Those texts need checking every 10 minutes and that new series isn’t going to watch itself!

Procrastinators what you need is time. Time to revise and time to relax.

  • Set yourself small, achievable targets each day. This could be a minimum number of words to write or even how long you work. Perhaps work for 20 minutes and have a 10 minute break (just be strict with yourself)
  • Remove distractions- yes that series is good but perhaps wait until the evening before you binge. Whilst trying to revise turn off your phone/ TV/ music if they are a distraction. Additionally while you can’t simply remove that one distracting flatmate, you can find a space that you can work easily in.
  • Reward yourself- need encouragement to write? Try: http://writtenkitten.net which rewards you every 100 words with a picture of a cute cat!

Whatever your style, I hope this helps!

Opportunities Knock: An example of the possibilities open to you at university

Never let it be said that university is purely for studying. Yes, it does make up a significant proportion of it, but it is only part of the entire university experience. Previous blogs have commented on how it gets you to become more independent, to meet new and wonderful people and additionally for the vast number of opportunities that it opens for you.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that during my time at university I would meet authors and royalty or dress as a cow during welcome week complete with a rubber glove udder (thankfully no pictures survive of this particular choice of outfit!).

University is a place of opportunities that you should take up because you never know where they could lead you.

Last year I was pleased to hear that one of my friends had submitted a proposal to put on a play at the on-campus Lakeside Theatre through an open submission that the theatre regularly holds. Her proposal was accepted and so began the several months of planning and rehearsing.

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The play in question was Harold Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter”- not the easiest of plays especially for a student director and current drama students playing the only two characters in the show. Everything about this play had to be based around their studies, their weekly readings and essays!

The Dumb Waiter is a one act play and is certainly a difficult task as the only two characters in the show are, for the most part, constantly on stage. The fact that Finn Todd (Gus) and Lloyd Shankley (Ben) were able to hold the audience’s attention for nearly an hour is a testament to their acting abilities. The physicality of their performance along with Ellen Pascoe’s skilful directing meant that the show was engaging and visually stunning- who would have thought that the opening few minutes of Gus tying and re-tying his shoes  could prove so funny and watchable?

The story of two hitmen waiting in a basement for their next assignment has a great air of menace about it, with Gus questioning their work and their abilities while Ben follows orders from “above” obediently and without hesitation.

The smaller studio space at the Lakeside Theatre worked incredibly well for this performance. The intimate, black walled room made the audience feel closer to the action and easily replicated the basement room in which the play is set. Better still was the fact that the performance began the minute the audience started to enter room, with the audience having to walk across the stage and past the actors idling on their beds in order to take their seats.

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L-R: Finn Todd (Gus) and Lloyd Shankley (Ben) in The Dumb Waiter. [Photo courtesy of Rhianna Hughes]

The testament of this great show is demonstrated by the fact that the two initial performances sold out, with demand being so high that a third performance was added at short notice.

Like many things this opportunity was a risk both for my friend Ellen in proposing and directing it and also for the Lakeside Theatre for providing the venue, resources and time for the show. But it paid off spectacularly becoming a resounding success and one of the most popular student show of the year.

I started this blog by talking about the importance of taking risks and the different opportunities that are possible at university, therefore I hope that I have done The Dumb Waiter some justice whilst encouraging you to take hold of all those possibilities open to you.

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

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

Myth: Students drink and party all the time

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

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

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

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

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

Myth: Everyone will be smarter than me

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

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

Myth: You have to buy everything before you arrive

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(c) motoring.sg

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

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

5 Things Only Final Year Students Will Understand

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

Three years is a surprisingly short space of time

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

People start to take an overly keen interest in your life

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

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

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

People instantly expect you to be an expert

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

People keep reminding you of the impending end.

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

The Essex Road Trip: the best places to go around Essex

Campus is great and all but sometimes it is nice to escape and explore. Now I am not going to deny that Essex (as in the county of Essex) has a reputation, but who would have thought that there is more to Essex than fake tan and the Sugar Hut? In fact Essex is a hugely diverse place in which 90% of its residents do not conform to the typical stereotypes.

So I recommend that you get exploring this fine county to see what it really has to offer:

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So much to see in this huge county

 

History lovers- Satisfy those cravings with castles, stately homes and old buildings!

Layer Marney Tower– A short distance from Colchester, Layer Marney is the tallest gatehouse in Britain and is part of a building that was meant to rival the famous Hampton Court Palace. King Henry the 8th once stayed here.

Audley End House– On the outskirts of the historic town of Saffron Walden, this Jacobean stately home is one of the grandest in the area.

Hedingham Castle– This wonderful castle is still owned by the descendants of the original owners and is over 900 years old!

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The beautiful Layer Marney Tower

Coastal lovers- Over 350 miles of Coastline leaves you spoilt for choice

Clacton– only a short bus or train ride from campus, Clacton boasts all the things that you would associated with a typical coastal town- it even has a really cheap cinema. The nearby towns of Walton and Frinton are a short walk up the coast.

Mersea Island– Cut off from the mainland at high tide, Mersea is certainly a gem in Essex’s crown. The area is famous for its oyster fishing and restaurants with fantastic walks and beaches on the Blackwater Estuary.

Maldon– The 75 bus will take you from campus to the historic market town of Maldon filled with a great variety of shops and history, but the Promenade Park on the banks of the Blackwater Estuary is a great location for a day trip.

Southend– Any visit to Essex should include a visit to Southend. A huge amounts of shops, arcades, a planetarium, the UK’s longest pier as well as the rides and rollercoasters of Adventure Island often means that a day in Southend is not enough.

Harwich– Easily accessible by bus or train, this North Essex coastal town is probably best known for the busy international port, but is also where the pilgrims built the Mayflower in order to set sail to America. It also has one of the oldest cinemas in the UK and the famous diary writer, Samuel Pepys, was the Member of Parliament for the town.

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Coastal views at Harwich- (c) The Guardian

Countryside lovers – Over 3,500 square kilometres for you to explore!

The Essex Way– an 82 mile footpath from Epping to Harwich via the rest of the county. I’m not for a minute suggesting you should walk the whole thing, but you could do parts of it!

Hylands Park– Located on the outskirts of Chelmsford, the park is most famous for hosting the annual V-Festival. It is also a 574 acre parkland with a Neo-Classical villa in the middle (which looks a bit like the White House)

Epping Forest– the size of over 3,300 football pitches, this ancient forest covers parts of Essex and North East London and is a former royal forest before being “given” to the people by Queen Victoria. Now the largest open space in London, the forest is filled with fantastic walks and stories.

Tiptree Jam Factory– Tiptree is famous for potentially being the biggest village in the UK as well as the jam factory. The factory are the provider of jam and conserves for Her Majesty the Queen. You can visit the factory and look around the gift shop and museum before enjoying a well deserved cream scone in the tea rooms.

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Explore the depths of Epping Forest

Quirky lovers- For something a little different to the norm

Greensted Church– Not the Greensted in Colchester, but the one near the town of Ongar which is the oldest and perhaps only church in England built out of wood.

Great Dunmow– This town is home to a strange competition called the Flitch Trials. The mock trials aim to find a married couple who have not quarrelled or repented their marriage over the last year with the winners receiving a flitch of bacon!

Maldon Mud Race– Begun as pub bet in 1973, the mud race has become a huge event in which competitors must race through the muddy River Blackwater at low tide… it is very messy stuff!

To be honest what I have written does not even begin to scratch the surface of things to see and do in Essex, but it is a good place to start!

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Maldon Mud Race- (c) The Mirror News Group

From Essex with Love: Attending the University of Essex when you’re already from Essex

A lot of thought goes into choosing a university. There are simply so many options and scenarios to go through. I remember going to a UCAS convention whilst in sixth form and talking with different universities about what they had to offer then I ended up coming home with 47 prospectuses! (No word of a lie, I carried them home in four large bags that they were helpfully giving out.)

I spent a huge amount of time going through the daunting pile of information, all of which seemed to blur together after a while. I didn’t think that UCAS would have appreciated the suggestion to increase the application options from 5 to 30 (because yes I had managed to get it down but was still struggling!)

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Choosing where to go can be hard- Image courtesy of OdysseyOnline

Long story short, I finally managed to get my five choices: Essex, a London based uni, two in the midlands and one much further down south… obviously as you know from the fact that I’m writing a blog for the University of Essex, I ended up at Essex.

The thing is: I’m from Essex. I was born in Essex. Have lived all my life in Essex. And here I was applying to a university that was only 20 miles away, or three stops away on the train!

Some would think that this was too close for comfort, however the thing I learnt from that pile of prospectuses was that an “English Literature” degree can vary drastically from university to university- as is the case with most courses. Therefore not only did I have to like the university, I also needed to know what sort of things I was going to be taught and if this was what I was interested in.

23863522969_40f183ff41_oAmazingly, Essex offered this: a perfect, compacted campus; a community feeling; good facilities; and a course that taught that things that I was interested in. I could have gone hundreds of miles away but I can’t say that I would have been any happier with my choice.

The thing is many people get really excited at the prospect of moving away from home and therefore want to move as far away as possible. Evidently I found a uni I loved right on my doorstep. I lived there for the first year and then moved back home for second and third year.

My family didn’t interfere with my uni life- most people expect that they would visit all the time being that close. In truth, they have only seen the university twice: the first time was when I moved in and the second time was when I moved out. They know that university is my experience, my realm so to speak, so they would never try to turn up uninvited.

The point of my rambling is quite simply that I found my perfect uni a short distance away from me. Don’t be so quick to dismiss a university that is local to you; at the end of the day you want to make sure that you go to a university that feels like home, has that “vibe” that makes it feel right and does the course the way you want it to be. So near to home or a hundred miles away, it shouldn’t matter where the university is located as long as it works for you.

I’m from Essex and the University of Essex worked for me.