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.

How to conquer an Essex applicant day

You’ve applied to university and the offers are flooding in, so how do you decide which of the five choices to go to?

At Essex we give you an extra chance to get to know us better. If you are offered a place then you will be invited to one of our applicant days (also known as visit days) where you’ll  get a chance to explore the campus, accommodation and subject in more detail.

Here is what will happen on an applicant day and what you should do to make the most of it.

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The registration venue “The Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall,” lovingly known as The Tin Can

Know where you’re going

We don’t expect you to be an expert in navigating our campus,  but its worth familiarising yourself with maps so you know where is the best place to park closest to the venues.

Follow the signs to Valley Carpark and the registration venue is the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall (The big silver building next to the car park)

A wealth of information

The first session begins at 10am in the Ivor Crewe, which will give you a better idea of what you can experience about Essex. There will be representatives from Student Finance, Employability, Undergraduate Admissions, Accommodation, Languages for all, Student Support and Essex Abroad- so prepare to get your questions answered!

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Home away from home.

You’ll have the chance to visit our campus accommodation and if you know that you’ll be living on campus, then this is definitely worth doing. You may have seen our accommodation at an Open Day- the difference here is that it is term time, therefore students have settled into our rooms giving you a better idea as to how the accommodation works once occupied.

Talk to students

Throughout the day you’ll spot our student ambassadors who are there to answer questions, lead campus tours and help the day run smoothly. They also really enjoy talking about their experiences at Essex- so go ahead: ask them questions and get to know them.

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Never go away with questions

The worst thing you can do on a day like an applicant day is not ask that question burning deep inside. If you want to know something about the university, the course, the student way of life or local transport links then ask!

The point of this day is to answer all those questions so you can make an informed decision about where you want to go to university, so don’t go home with any questions that you could have asked.

Most importantly: Enjoy yourself

It is going to be a busy day with lots of information thrown at you, but the most important thing is to remember to enjoy yourself because who knows – this could be your future home.

Graduating in 2017: the world as I see it

27798604043_c2dbc43d4a_zI hate to say it. I even hate to think about it. I like to pretend that it isn’t going to happen. But the fact of the matter is my journey at Essex will come to end this year.

It is hard to believe that the laughs, hard work and stresses of the last three years will suddenly come to an end. No more classes, no more lectures, no more reading four books a week (I’m an English Literature student after all!), but I’ll miss it terribly.

The one thing that frightens me the most is life after university. Certainly the world of employment is experiencing difficult times and there is no guarantee of work once I’ve graduated- though I hope that the extra-curricular skills that I’ve picked up at Essex will work in my favour.

Ideally at this stage I could happily stay on at Essex until the end of the time if it meant that I didn’t have to enter into the “big, bad world.” And it is a big, bad world if we take into account the huge amount of political and financial uncertainty the country is currently in- at least at Essex the SU elections are relatively scandal free and my finances seemed to make it until the end of term successfully! Brexit, Trump and the tail end of a recession have made a number of things even more difficult compared to how it was back when I started university.

Perhaps I’m being too pessimistic, but forgive me if the thought of further “adulting” sends shivers up my spine. It could be down to the fact that I’m not actually sure what I want to do in the future, in fact I’m quite open minded at the prospect of a number of job sectors. But deep down I feel that I could go on learning and perhaps that means that further study is beckoning (what some people may think is simply prolonging not going into the world of work.)

The truth is no one can actually predict what will happen. Who knows, it could all change in the next few months! But until then I’ll continue to think mournfully of the impending closure of my time at Essex and make the most of this wonderful place whilst I’m still here!

The 5 things you need to know about mastering open days

Open days are both enjoyable and intimidating, but they are the best way to get a feel of a particular university. Sure many people apply to university without actually visiting it in person, but you will be better prepared and understand things a lot more by making a personal appearance. You have five choices to make on UCAS, so it is a good idea to have at least visited all your UCAS options at some point.

The truth is you often get a gut feeling about a university the minute you get off the bus or out of the car (or demount from your unicycle)! It is very unscientific but sometimes “you know when you know” if you like a particular place. I remember one university (which will remain nameless) gave me chills the minute I arrived and the Open Day did not improve my feelings towards it. On paper this uni seemed really good but on visiting I hated it!

Here is what you need to know to become a master at open days safe in the knowledge that you’ll make the right choice:

23104179002_dc45e2b77a_z1. Know what is going on and when.

Most universities will provide you with a programme of events either before you arrive or on the actual day. It is best to know what is going on and where because your journey will seem wasted if you miss a talk that you are interested in. So plan. Find a map and make sure you see all that you want to see before leaving.

2. Talk to current students and staff

Open days will be awash with current students (often in brightly coloured shirts so that they are easily noticeable), if you have a question ask them. They are the only people who can give you an honest answer as to what it is like to be a student… also they know the campus quite well so they can help if you are lost.

Academic staff should be about as well. They are the people who can tell you more about your course, module choices, what you need to do to get on the course and how you can make your application stand out. They’re not scary people and can often make you feel more at ease.20491298349_cac25b9529_o

3. Sounds silly, but ask questions

Open days are your chance to ask all those questions that are burning inside of you. Never walk away from a university with questions still lingering and never assume that all universities are the same – they are all unique and therefore they all do things differently.

You could ask questions about the course, nightlife, accommodation, campus facilities, the local area, public transport, laundry… the list is endless.

4. Go on tours

Most universities will run tours throughout the day and this is the perfect opportunity to explore the uni in more depth, see the main sites and facilities and hopefully see the accommodation.

You’ll want to know what is about as this could be your home for the next three or four years!open day

5. Enjoy yourself

Don’t take it too seriously. You’ll want to enjoy the day as well so set aside time to explore and have fun- most universities put on entertainment or interesting events during open days so seize them and have fun!

At Essex you can get free hot drinks and 10% off food and in the past they’ve had aqua zorbing and trampoline bungee jumping…not that I’m not biased about which university you should choose!

How to prepare for a university interview and what to expect

It’s enough to fill you with dread: the word “interview” can send shivers down even the most experienced of people’s spines.

When I applied for university I had to attend interviews at three different universities. I remember travelling to these unfamiliar places full of fear and nerves. I didn’t know what to do or even what to expect. After three interviews though, I like to think that I managed to get an insight into how interviews work.

There is truly nothing to worry about if you follow these easy steps:

What to expect:

This can vary from university to university and also different courses will have their own procedures.

An interview may include a short exam, but more often than not it will just involve a chat with one of the staff from the department. You may also be asked questions on an unseen item: for English this could be a story extract, while for Maths it could be an equation or statistics.

Normally at Essex, your interview and/or test will form part of a larger Applicant Day where you’ll be able to tour our campus, meet our students and get a feel for life at Essex.

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Preparation

Of course you won’t be able to tell what questions you’ll be asked, but it is worth thinking about “Why do you want to study this particular course?” and “Why have you applied to this university?” If you can answer these questions then you’re halfway there.

Remind yourself of what you put in your personal statement and don’t forget to be passionate. Speaking of which…

Passion

Basically you will have around 10-30 minutes to sell yourself. Your personal statement will have done some of the work for you, now you can do the rest in person.

Show that you’re passionate about your subject and feel free to talk about your interests in the subject and the areas that fascinate you about it.

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Remember the interviewer is not there to catch you out. They want to get to know you and see what you are capable of. So relax and be yourself so that the interviewer can find out the real you.

Don’t be scared to ask questions

If you don’t understand what you’re being asked, then do not hesitate to ask a question or ask for some help. The interviewer doesn’t want you to sit and squirm in silence because that will waste time, however they will be more than happy to rephrase a question or clarify what they have said.

If in doubt, ask.

Chat

The best thing you can do is chat to your interviewer. Find common ground that you can build upon so that you can continue to contribute to the conversation.

Make sure you’re aware of the latest issues in current affairs relevant to your subject and prepare a question to ask the interviewer in return. They’ll love you for it.

Most importantly:

Take a deep breath.

Don’t panic.

Take a few seconds to compose yourself before answering the question.

And most importantly…enjoy yourself!

The perks of no longer being an Essex wallflower

We all make new years resolutions, or at least try to make one (and often, as is the case with me, fail at it within the first few weeks), but two years ago I set myself a resolution that I hoped would change my life forever.

Two years in the making and now I am here to tell you if I succeeded.

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(C) HerCampus.com

This time two years ago I was returning to Essex after the Christmas break. I was a first year literature student and was rather pleased that I had succeeded at reading all the texts on my course and had handed in my first essays on time, but I had one problem: nerves. Crippling nerves in fact and a huge amount of anxiety and fear of coming out of my comfort zone or engaging with new people or putting myself in unfamiliar situations.

You see, when I applied to the University of Essex I was so excited about the prospect of studying a subject that I loved and also all the things that university life could offer. You read in books, hear from friends and family and see on the T.V. a representation of what university life would be like and I was eager to experience it myself. However, the minute I unpacked my bags on arrivals day I built a defensive wall around me and failed to really interact with any of my flatmates and classmates.

My days consisted of going to classes, making the relevant comments and noises to get through them, then returning straight to my room in South Courts where I often remained for the rest of the day. As you can imagine it was extremely isolating, but I never knew how to start conversations with new people and always feared what people would think about me. The fear was so much that I become quite passive and distant, a shadow of who I used to be.

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(C) adaa.org

Over the Christmas break I had had serious doubts about my future at Essex and even at one point contemplated leaving university all together. Perhaps I wasn’t cut out for this malarkey. It was a difficult moment in my life, but I wanted to try to turn that around so that the rest of my time at university could be significantly more enjoyable.

I set myself a new years resolution to try and be more outgoing, to put myself into more social situations and to interact and get to know my classmates.

At first it was a struggle as most things often are, but now I am beginning to feel more like a member of the university community. I started to speak to people more, I tried to get involved more with various activities and, most importantly, I tried to make every opportunity count. I even became a Student Ambassador in order to try and boost my confidence and to meet more people. I soon learnt that my fear of being judged was misinformed, in fact most people were in the same position that I was.

Two years later I can say that I am more comfortable in social situations (though large groups or unfamiliar people can still unnerve me slightly). As a Student Ambassador people have often commented that I appear outgoing and very sociable, yet they are completely  unaware of how timid and nervous I was at the beginning of my first year.

Now this isn’t meant to be a blog in which I reveal my personal growth in the hope that you all applaud and praise me. Instead I have written this blog to try and show that you can make the most of your time at university and that you can reinvent yourself. Most people set themselves a new years resolution often knowing that they won’t stick it, for me this attempt to try and be more confident and sociable was a necessity if I was to do well in the future.

In the space of two years I cannot say that I am the most confident of people, but I have come a long way and have made tons of memories throughout this momentous journey.

2017 at Essex: what to look forward to in January

You’ve survived it all. The new term excitement. Welcome week overload. Mid-term grumbles and end of term panic! (Those pesky essays!) Now you can relax, rest and enjoy the end of your Christmas break- or perhaps you have some more essays and reading to do, in which case commiserations and I completely empathise.

But exams and essays aside, there is still loads to look forward to this January:

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7th Jan- Day Trip to Cambridge: 8am

Come and book your ticket for a trip to one of the most beautiful cities in the country (perhaps the whole world)- just watch out for the millions of cyclists! https://www.essexstudent.com/ents/event/11348/

11th Jan- RSC Live The Tempest: 6:30pm, Lakeside Theatre

Want to see a play performed by the world renowned Royal Shakespeare Company and only pay the fraction of the price of a West End ticket? Then come and see Shakespeare’s The Tempest broadcast live to the Lakeside TheatreLakeside Theatre at the University of Essex

12th Jan- NT Live No Man’s Land: 7pm, Lakeside Theatre

Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart (Magneto and Professor X from X-Men) share the stage for this encore screening of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land at our very own Lakeside Theatre

14th Jan- Day Trip to Oxford: 8am

If Cambridge got your interested in sightseeing amazing cities then you’re bound to enjoy a trip to the wonderful Oxford. https://www.essexstudent.com/ents/event/11349/

19th Jan- Health and Wellness Fair 2017: 11am, Undercover Tennis Courts, Colchester Campus

Hot chocolate available, taster sessions yoga, neck/shoulders massages, free goodie bags to take away and a luxury relaxation hamper to win- whats not to love about this years Health and Wellness Fair?

20th- 23rd Jan- ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY: 6:30, Cine10

Calling Star Wars fans- I’ve been hearing good things about the next instalment and you can see at Cine10 for £3.00 for Film Society members or £3.50 for everyone else, bargain!

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25th Jan- Chinese New Year Celebrations: 12pm Onwards

From 12pm until 3 celebrate Chinese New Year in squares 3 and 4, followed by an evening of traditional Chinese entertainment in the Ivor Crewe at 7:30pm

25th Jan- THINK Debate – Refugees: 2pm, Ivor Crewe

As always challenge your perceptions and opinions by coming along to Essex’s award winning THINK debate at the Ivor Crewe. Always interesting. Always Thought provoking.