The Homesickness Feels

When you start university in October there are loads of activities to keep you occupied in Freshers’ Fortnight. You’ve got all the stuff going on in the day involving departmental welcome meetings and registering for uni, so you get that handy student loan money. Then there’s all the things happening at night, whether it’s karaoke in the SU Bar, sports fed in Sub Zero or a rock and indie night in Base. Along with your flatmates being in the same position as you in a brand new environment,there really isn’t that much time to miss home. I loved my first few weeks at uni and didn’t go home until the Christmas holidays. Coming to Essex from Manchester, it was quite an expensive and too long of a journey to take just for a weekend. I settled in really well into all of my lectures and class and got on amazingly with my flatmates.

giphy Even The Simpsons get homesick

Pretty much everyone will experience being homesick at some point during university. It can affect some people more than others and happen at any point in the year. For me, homesickness didn’t really set in until I came back after being home for a month after Christmas. I don’t think I realised how much I’d missed my family and friends or how much they had missed me until I went home. By the time I’d settled into being back at home it was time to go back to Essex again. Whilst I was looking forward to going back and catching up with all my friends, part of me just wanted to stay at home.

4gravy You don’t get this every Sunday at uni!

Back at Essex, feelings of wanting to go home would just hit me at any moment. It was never bad enough for me to want to go back home straight away but I’d just find myself cooking my fourth pasta meal of the week and really craving a roast dinner. Even watching Netflix on my laptop with my flatmates made me miss having a TV and a comfy couch to sit on. Usually when I felt like this I would give my mum a call or talk to my friends from home and immediately I would feel better. But it’s not as easy as that for everyone.

On my year abroad here in America, it’s hard not to feel homesick sometimes. The way classes are taught is different, the food is different, the sense of humour is different, even the weather sometimes makes me miss dreary old England! You never really realise how far away from home you are until you want to go back and its a plane ride rather than a train ride away. The great thing about being an international student though is that you know so many other people in the same position and you sort of bond over it. I’ve had so many discussions about the funny little differences that you only really notice living here. Dippy eggs and soldiers are not a thing here, so of course I got my family to send me some egg cups!

If you’re feeling really homesick, talk to your flatmates and friends. I can guarantee that they’ll have felt the same at some point. Call home and tell someone you’re not feeling great. It may sound counter intuitive but don’t actually go home, if you keep leaving uni then it’ll take even longer to settle in. If there is no one you know that you feel you can talk to then pop into SU Advice. You should never feel like you’re alone because there will always be someone willing to help. I promise!

The Only Way Is Essex: Why I Didn’t Choose Another Uni

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Oh Essex, the land of fake tans and stilettos, or so The Only Way is Essex would have you think. When I told people I was applying to the University of Essex, people would automatically think of the stereotypical Essex resident. I found myself explaining that Essex was much more than what a reality TV show would have you believe. Along with the four other universities I applied to through UCAS, I researched Essex in great detail. It just really stood out to me as a university and a place that was unique and somewhere I could imagine spending three years of my life.

The Course

Out of all the unis I visited and applied to, I found the politics course at Essex to be the best for me. The content sounded really interesting and introduced me to new concepts. The wide variety of things covered in first year helped me to work out what I was most interested in, allowing me to choose more concentrated modules in second year. When I visited the Department of Government on an applicant day, the staff made me feel so welcome and that I could ask them anything. After starting at Essex it turned out I was right! The Government Department also has a great reputation for it’s research, which is great when those researchers are your lecturers and you’re learning about cutting edge research as it happens!

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The Campus

Essex has a campus that really is one of a kind. Now it might not look as grand as some other universities but it had a vibe that I didn’t get when I visited the other unis I applied to. I loved that everything was so close together and it wouldn’t take ages to go between my lectures. It’s big enough not to feel claustrophobic but also small enough that you rarely make it to a lecture without running into someone you now. I was also attracted to the location of the campus. Colchester is a town with all the shops that you would need and it’s only an hour from London if you fancy a day out. The train is pretty cheap too. I thought it was great that Stansted airport was nearby too. Me and my flatmates made the most of it when we decided to go a spontaneous trip to Dublin to get away from exams!

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The Year Abroad

I’d always known I wanted to do a year abroad so that was a major part for me in choosing which university to go to. After looking at all the other universities I applied to, Essex had the best opportunities for me when it came to study abroad options. I don’t pay any tuition fees to Essex or my exchange university for my year abroad. There was also so many options of countries I could go to. Being the political nerd that I am, when I worked out the US presidential election was happening during my study abroad year I was set on going to America, but there were so many other options too. I have friends all over the world in Australia, Canada, Europe and Asia. Being on my year abroad at the moment too I have also been experiencing the great support that Essex offers to its students who are away.

If you’re thinking about where to go to uni then the best advice I can offer is think about what the most important things to you are about where you’re going to spend the next few years of your life. I know that I made the right decision. Essex is perfect for me and everything that I could want from my university experience!

Things I Couldn’t or Wouldn’t Have Done If I Hadn’t Gone to Uni

When I was back in college, deciding whether or not to go to uni was a decision a lot of people I knew were having trouble making. Although I knew I’d always wanted to go to uni, it was pretty tough for me to decide where to go and what to study. If you’re having a difficult time choosing what to do after you finish school, you’ll know that the decision is a tough one. Going to uni definitely turned out to be the right choice for me, as there are so many things that I’ve done that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. So if you’re stuck about what to do, hopefully this will show you why going to university can be a great experience!

26783552036_1261e5c830_z Government Conference 2016

Learnt what I am passionate about

This might seem really obvious, I mean you do go to uni to learn! I decided to study Politics because it was my favourite subject at A Level. I liked the subject but I never really took part in politics outside of the classroom. Coming to uni changed that. I was able to choose classes that appealed to my interests which meant that I didn’t get bored and instead I got involved. At Essex, politics isn’t just my degree, I’ve taken part in so many activities in my department such as talking to prospective students at open days, going to talks from guest lecturers and even presenting at the Government Student Conference.

12748043_10153444276971517_4988004449559743022_o.jpg The best pals!

Met some of the most amazing people

One of the reasons I love university and Essex is that our campus is a community of people of all backgrounds from all over the world. Whether they’re your flatmates, course mates or people you meet on a night out at Sub Zero, it’s so interesting to talk to people who have different perspectives on things. It also makes for great debates in class –  it’s always good to have your opinion challenged! I have made some of my best friends at uni and they’re people I would have never met if I hadn’t come here.

Work, work, work!

Now I know that you can experience the world of work without actually attending university, but for me there’s something about the employment opportunities I’ve had at Essex that I don’t think I would have got anywhere else. First off, there’s so many different types of jobs that you can do both on and off campus. I’ve had the chance to work in a variety of jobs that are really understanding of my studies. I’ve worked for both the Students’ Union and the university. The job I had in the SU store was a great opportunity to make some extra cash, whereas my Frontrunner placement in the Admissions Office gave me the chance to work in an office environment, which is something I’ve never done before. Many departments also ask current students to work at visit days where potential students will come and check out the university once they have an offer. It’s really easy to find employment at Essex and if you don’t want a job on campus then the careers centre is always ready to help you find work around Colchester.

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Bonus: The Paternoster!

This one is definitely unique to Essex. The lift in the Albert Sloman library makes even the most boring study sessions that bit more fun. Will you dare to ride the lift over the top or under the bottom?

If you’re struggling to decide whether uni is right for you or are just having trouble deciding where to go then I hope this has helped to show you why uni can be amazing!

Study Abroad: What I’ve Been up to

My first semester as an exchange student in America is officially over! I’m now on my Christmas break which is great after having two weeks of essays and final exams to do. Although I went back home to the UK for Christmas, I’ve actually spent most of my holidays travelling on the East Coast of the US, in fact I’m writing this post in Boston, Massachusetts!

DSCN2341.JPG The Library of Congress has nothing on the Albert Sloman Library!

A few hours after my last exam ended I was on a flight to Washington DC to explore the Capitol (nerdy political pun intended!). One of the great things about DC is that pretty much every attraction and museum is free. I went to the zoo and got to see some giant pandas which was pretty cool, although they were very lazy! Now being the politics student that I am, a trip to Washington wouldn’t be complete without seeing the places where the US is governed from. I visited the White House, which is much smaller than I expected, and had a tour of the US Capitol building which was really interesting. The building itself is huge and really beautiful.

dscn2406 Sunset over New York City

After a few days being in DC, I headed up to New York City. New York is a place I’ve always wanted to go to and I wasn’t disappointed! It is possibly one of the busiest places I’ve ever been to, but that’s sort of what gives the city its character. I explored Times Square and saw the School of Rock on Broadway which was amazing! I also went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where you’re served by show tune singing waiters and waitresses, something that I very much enjoyed, especially when we were given a performance of some Les Miserables. After seeing the bright lights of Broadway I headed down to the 9/11 museum which was extremely touching and a very appropriate way to end my time in New York.

img_20170107_1047204742 It might look pretty but it was also about -6!

I went back to the UK from New York for Christmas, but time flew by until I was back in the US. I visited Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania. I had returned to temperatures below freezing and some pretty heavy snow! Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States and is the city where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, so it’s full of history. It’s also a very pretty city and it made for some great photos. I also made sure to try an authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwich. It’s basically what it sounds like and it is delicious!

received_102028450956458571 Being a terrible British person and throwing tea away!

After Philadelphia, I headed up to Boston. Boston is another city that’s very significant historically and politically. My first day here I went to a really cool museum where I got to throw some tea in Boston harbour in homage to the Boston Tea Party. I also made time for some shopping, particularly because Boston has one of the very few Primarks in America and it was just as cheap! It was just like being back home!

It’s now time for me to head back to Flagstaff to begin my second semester at NAU. I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my year abroad! It’s gone so quickly but I’m looking forward to making the most of the time I have left here. Speak to you soon!

My New Year’s Resolutions

First things first, take the title of the post with a pinch of salt. I have never been very good at making or sticking to New Year’s resolutions, although to be honest, I don’t think many of us are. Take the typical examples of eating healthier and going to the gym, these might actually be beneficial if we all stuck to them (and not just for January!) but for me these are things I really don’t think I would enjoy. I can count on my fingers the amount of times I’ve entered a gym in my lifetime! I want my resolutions to be more about what I enjoy and what makes me happy and then maybe, just maybe, we can tackle the gym thing after that! I don’t really want to think of the following list as things that I will definitely stick to, rather that they are just sort of things I want to try and do in 2017.

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Read more books

I have always loved reading ever since I was little. I would sit and read for hours on end in my own world reading book after book. Although I do read a lot for my course, the books I have to read for my degree are not really what I want to relax with before bed! Recently I’ve become a person who just buys and hoards books with every intention of reading them, I just never get around to it. I have so many unread books, so hopefully 2017 will be the year that I finally read them all.

Keep in touch with people

I’m the first to admit that I’m terrible at keeping in touch with my friends from home and my friends from uni who I don’t see now I’m in America. I try to blame this on the fact that my friends are all over the world and it’s really hard to keep up with all the different time zones, although really it’s just me being lazy! I feel like this is especially important for when I go back to Essex for my final year (eeek!) and some of my friends have graduated. It won’t be as easy as just popping down to the SU bar for lunch anymore, I’ll actually have to make more of an effort!

Eat more food!

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I know the opposite of this one might be a more typical resolution, but why not go into the new year thinking of all the new culinary opportunities it will bring? Most years see their food fads (rainbow bagels, cronuts, freakshakes) but really this one is about trying new things. My friends and family know me as a notoriously fussy eater, I will admit that I don’t even like ketchup! Now I’ve been like this for a good 21 years and I don’t think I’ll be changing anytime soon, but I do want to try more food that I previously would have turned my nose up at.

Travel

Now I’m sort of cheating a bit on this one seeing as I have spent quite a bit of 2016 on my travels – I am on a year abroad after all! That, however, is no excuse not to visit new places. I would love to see more of Europe, which is particularly easy from our Colchester campus as Stansted airport is so close and offering cheap flights. Now all that’s left is convincing my friends to go on that spontaneous weekend away!

Explore where I live

This might seem a bit contradictory seeing as I’ve just said I want to travel, but there are so many things on our doorsteps to see that sometimes we don’t have to go to another country. Although it’s not the biggest town in the world, there’s plenty to see and do all over and around Colchester. After living there for two years, I don’t think I’ve made the most of it, so that’s what I’m going to do in 2017. There’s Colchester Zoo, Colchester Castle and the rest of Essex to explore. I’m slightly ashamed to say that the only other place I’ve been in Essex is Clacton!

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So there you have it, those are my sort of New Year’s resolutions. What will yours be? Will or stick to mine or not? I guess there’s only one way to find out: bring on 2017!

My First Thanksgiving in Los Angeles

Here in the US, there’s another holiday that’s celebrated just as much, if not more so, than Christmas: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a commemoration of a particularly successful harvest season during the time of the Pilgrims in the 1600s. The Pilgrims held a three day long feast and invited so Native Americans. Today Americans mention what they’re thankful for and still enjoy a feast, although it doesn’t last three days!

My university over here gave us a few days off for Thanksgiving break, so me and some friends decided to head over to Los Angeles to see what the West Coast had to offer. We hired some cars and headed off on the 7 hour journey from Flagstaff to LA. I was one of the designated drivers for our trip and at first I was a bit nervous about driving in America but once I made sure to stay on the right side of the road, everything was fine!
thanksgiving-dinner A traditional Thanksgiving dinner but we were on a student budget! Source: http://images.latintimes.com/sites/latintimes.com/files/2015/11/24/thanksgiving-dinner.jpg

Although we left Flagstaff pretty early in the morning we didn’t arrive at our apartment in LA until the evening due to all the traffic LA is famous (or infamous) for. When we eventually reached our destination we headed off to the supermarket to buy our food for our Thanksgiving  dinner the next day. Although, like Christmas, Thanksgiving involves eating much more food than you really should, the food is quite different. Turkey is the main dish, just like Christmas, but there are various side dishes. Unfortunately, as we did our shopping quite last minute there was no turkey left in the shop, so we had to buy chicken instead! We did try to make the rest of our meal pretty authentic though. I was pretty happy when I found out one of my favourite comfort foods was on the menu: macaroni and cheese. We also had stuffing, mashed potatoes, some vegetables and some sweet potato mash. Sometimes the sweet potatoes are even served with marshmallows! Dessert is always the best part of the meal in my opinion and the Thanksgiving tradition is to have pumpkin pie, which we did. I have to say, I wasn’t a huge fan, but luckily we had some back up cheesecake and chocolate cake!
15268001_10207775343001842_8297387909497081762_n It’s Hogwarts!

Americans usually eat their Thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon but we ate ours quite a bit later as we went to Universal Studios Hollywood to enjoy our Thanksgiving Day. This was what I’d been looking forward to the most about our trip. I absolutely love Harry Potter and couldn’t wait to go on one of the rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They definitely lived up to my expectations even though I go stuck on one of them for a few minutes! I really felt like I was at Hogwarts and in Hogsmeade. The rest of the day was spent going on all the other rides at Universal, I also really enjoyed the Simpsons themed area. I am a bit of a wimp but I braved the Walking Dead experience ride and came out terrified at the other end.

15230603_10154723542166407_8802024443412332291_n.jpg You could sort of tell it was going to rain!

We wrapped up our time in Los Angeles with a trip to Santa Monica. We were hoping to have a nice time on the beach and on the pier but it just so happened that as soon as we’d had a paddle in the Pacific open it began to chuck it down! This didn’t put a dampener on our last day in LA though as when we were looking for some shelter we found a British food shop. This cheered us all up as we bought a lot of the things we’d been missing. And it meant plenty of treats for the long drive home. It’s the travelling and experiences with new friends that really make my study abroad memorable for me and I can’t wait for even more next term!

The Last Minute Shopper’s Guide to Christmas

It’s coming towards the end of the first term at uni and no doubt you’re looking forward to going home and eating something that wasn’t cooked in a microwave. After all the hard work you’ve done this term you really deserve it. You’ve spent so much time writing essays, going to lectures, going out with your friends and suddenly you realise that you haven’t spent any time buying any Christmas presents. Christmas is just around the corner, how on earth are you going to be able to buy and wrap enough presents in time for the big day?! Well fear not, as a master last minute shopper myself, here are some tips to help you shop and make it seem like you’re on top of all things festive.

Shop somewhere less busy

shoppers-crowd-the-pavement-in-oxford-street-in-london Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bumper-christmas-shopping-spree-expected-9203061

Look at that crowd, that is not somewhere you want to be on Christmas Eve, not that I’ve ever left it that late… I live in quite a big city which has a pretty busy town centre almost everyday. It’s a nightmare during the week approaching Christmas. Instead of heading into the city, I go to a smaller town that’s slightly further away but is much less crowded. There are all the shops I need, minus the stress of navigating the Christmas crowds.

Make a list

There’s a reason Santa makes a list and checks it twice. Lists are the best way to keep on top of all the things you need to buy: presents, wrapping paper, Christmas cards. Without a list you’ll probably end up forgetting something, buying more than you need, or both. Before you even think about leaving the house to shop make sure you’ve written a list and double checked that it has all the things you need on it (and you haven’t forgotten anyone…that can be a little embarrassing come Christmas day!)

Food, glorious food

quality Source: https://www.silversurfers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/quality.jpg

If you’re also a person who isn’t great at thinking of gifts for people, food never fails, and it’s especially good if you’re shopping last minute. All you have to do is take a trip to your local supermarket and pick up a few things: biscuits, chocolates, any type of selection box. This sort of bulk present buying means that you can pretty much cross everyone off your Christmas list with just one shop. Who doesn’t love a good box of chocolates?

Shop online

With this one, you do need to slightly more prepared. The latest I would leave shopping online for gifts is probably about a week before Christmas. A lot of online shops will guarantee a date that your presents will be delivered by and of course there’s always that wonderful student perk of Amazon Prime delivery! Shopping online also helps to avoid all the stress of the Christmas crowds and you can do it in your pyjamas. It’s a win-win!

DIY it!

bestcard14 Source: http://www.handimania.com/uploads/bestcard14.jpg

Handmade gifts and cards really show that you’ve put some thought into your Christmas presents, even if you do make them last minute. I have always enjoyed getting creative with my presents and making cards. You’ll often find you have enough stuff lying around at home to throw a few together with so you don’t even have to leave the house. People who receive your handmade creations will be really grateful of the time you put into them. It doesn’t matter if you’re not exactly a crafting pro, it’s the thought that counts.

giphy Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/hulu-blackish-l0MYN7mdvcZBBpEly

So if you’re one of those people, like me, who do almost everything last minute, or you’ve just forgotten to buy a gift for someone, give these tips a go for a stress free Christmas. And, let’s be honest, we’ll probably end up doing it all over again next year!

The 10 Best Films to Get You in the Festive Mood

We are finally in December and edging closer and closer to the festive season! We all love a good Christmas film to get us in the mood for the holidays and if you’re wondering what to watch, then look no further. In no particular order, here’s a rundown of the films that always make my Christmas, so why not watch one (or two, or ten)?

Home Alone

homealone Source: https://www.moviefone.com/2015/12/17/home-alone-macaulay-culkin-kevin-mccallister/

If you haven’t seen this film then you really have not experienced the true joy of Christmas! Kevin McCallister’s parents forget all about him when they dash off to the airport to spend their Christmas abroad. Poor Kevin is left to fend for himself against a pair of pretty dimwitted burglars and Kevin must defend his home in any way he can.

Home Alone 2

You can’t watch Home Alone and not watch it’s sequel, which in my opinion, is the best one! This time Kevin is lost in New York after his family lose him yet again (talk about bad parenting!). His adventures take him all over the city as he tries to get away from Harry and Marv: those pesky burglars again!

Love Actually

love-actually-gallery-2 Source: https://www.uphe.com/movies/love-actually

If you’re looking for something with a bit of comedy, romance and drama then Love Actually is the film for you. It revolves around 10 stories which are all intertwined. The cast is brilliant and I always find myself tearing up at the very first scene at Heathrow Airport. Love actually is all around *cue tears*!

The Holiday

The Holiday is a bit more of a grown up Christmas film. Kate Winslet, an English journalist, and Cameron Diaz, an American advertiser, swap homes for the holidays after bad breakups. They both end up falling for someone else on the other side of the pond, but what happens when they have to come home? This is a great film to watch if you fancy something that wasn’t made for kids, plus Jude Law is in it. What more could you want?

The Grinch

dr-seuss-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-gallery-1 Source: https://www.uphe.com/movies/dr-seuss-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas

I must admit, when I was younger, the Grinch terrified me. Although that’s probably a testament to Jim Carrey’s great acting. Everyone in Whoville loves Christmas. Everyone except the Grinch, that is. The Grinch sets out to steal Christmas from the Whos but then he meets Cindy Lou who tries to help him change his ways.

Miracle on 34th Street

This one is really a classic of the festive film genre. Mara Wilson, who we all know and love from Matilda, is a little girl called Susan who doesn’t believe in the magic of Father Christmas. Susan’s mum works in a department store, whose new Santa Claus almost seems like the real thing. Will Susan come to believe in the magic of Christmas again? You’ll have to watch it to find out!

Elf

Elf.jpg Source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-reasons-why-elf-is-the-best-christmas-movie

If you haven’t seen this film, where have you been?! Elf is a film all about family. Buddy the elf has never really fitted in with the elves at the North Pole. When he learns that he’s human, he sets out to find his father in New York. Buddy’s father doesn’t have time for him, so he bonds with his half-brother. Buddy’s crazy  adventures take him all over New York and it’s all fun and games until Santa needs his help after a sleigh accident on Christmas Eve…gasp!

The Santa Clause Trilogy

Okay, this is technically three films but they’re all worth a watch. When circumstances lead Scott (Tim Allen) to accidentally become Santa Claus (as you do), he’s not really sure that he wants to take up the role but his son convinces him otherwise. The three films follow Scott’s life as he learns to become Santa, but not without a few hitches on the way.

Nativity

nativity_xlg Source: http://www.impawards.com/intl/uk/2009/nativity_xlg.html

I love Nativity! It’s a British film starring Martin Freeman as a teacher competing with another school to see which one can organise the best nativity play. Things take a turn though when he lies about how a Hollywood producer will be coming to turn his play into a movie. Obviously, much chaos and madness follows and the kids are hilarious!

The Polar Express

Who doesn’t love a good animated movie? The Polar Express is exactly that. A young boy on Christmas Eve is doubtful of Santa’s existence and the Polar Express is a train that comes along and takes him on a journey to restore his faith in Christmas. The train is heading to the North Pole with loads of children on board, what could possibly go wrong? This really is a sweet film and is pretty unique as Tom Hanks voices most of the characters

So, there we have it, ten movies to sit down and watch this Christmas! So, why not take a break from all that work that you’re not really doing, get cosy and watch a good old festive film!

How University Has Changed Me for the Better

When I received my A Level exam results and discovered I’d gotten into Essex, I was beyond excited. I thought about all these new things and experiences I’d be able to do, all the people I would meet and finally studying my favourite subject. Of course, I was also a more than a little nervous, I was moving pretty far away from home in Manchester to a place where I knew nobody. I really wasn’t sure how I’d manage to deal with so much change in such  a short time. Before I came to Essex I was quite shy, I really did not like speaking up in class and I had never used a washing machine in my life! As soon as I arrived though, I realised I just what I would get out of my time here and all the work I put into getting accepted, and I made a lot of effort to really enjoy myself!

Moving in and making friends

10377177_10153588209084141_8793010084931571372_nWho wouldn’t love throwing paint at their best friend?

In my first year I lived in Towers. Moving in and living with 12 other people seemed fairly daunting at first, especially when my parents left and I was all alone, but living in Towers was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I made efforts to overcome my initial shyness and the instinct to just hide in my room. In the kitchen I met a girl who later became my best friend, we bonded over both coming from the North down to Essex and a shared love for gravy. Kirsty was really outgoing and fun and brought me out of my shell. At the end of first year the two of us had somehow managed to amass a huge group of friends, most of them we probably met on a night out in Sub Zero! We did pretty much everything together and after living with her in second year, I’ve still not had enough of her crazy antics. I have so many stories to tell from living in Towers and something I didn’t think I was going to enjoy at first ended up giving me some of the best times and friends at uni.

Learning those life skills

10402707_10203082511564371_7025515205000319400_n We successfully made a Christmas dinner for 13!

The only sense in which I was familiar with a washing machine before I came to uni was knowing that we had one at home and my mum was the only person that used it. As a flat, most of us were in the same situation! The first time we used the washing machines we marched on down as a group to the launderette to work out how to use these mysterious machines. It was a great success, nothing had shrunk and what was white remained white!  We basically all came to university with academic skills but not many life skills. So we tackled it head on together!

At Christmas we all came together and made a giant roast dinner. As a person who eats chicken nuggets much more than they should, I never thought I’d be able to do this! Being at uni has meant that I have had to become much more reliant on myself. Now I actually don’t mind washing my clothes and cooking. Doing the dishes however, will always be the bane of my life!

12028824_913237812086616_2498726382580423333_o.jpg The best pals!

Without coming to Essex I don’t think I’d be the person that I am today. I don’t think I’d ever have been brave enough to go and live in another country for a year, like I’m doing now (I’m currently on a Study Abroad year in America). The people I’ve met and the experiences that I’ve had really improved my confidence and ability to go out and try new things. Before uni I would never have dreamed that I would have had four jobs in one year, but I went out there and grabbed every opportunity I could. I am no longer the shy and quiet fresher I was back in 2014 and, you know what, I’m good with that.

Will America Be Great Again?

104091942-gettyimages-621866218-600x400 Source: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/09/donald-trump-wins-the-presidency-nbc-projects.html

On  election day on the 8th November, America was hopeful. It was finally time for the people to go to the polls and vote for the next President of the United States: to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, whoever they felt would change America for the better. On the 9th November, America and the world woke up to what has always seemed like an impossibility: a Trump victory. Of course, those in the Trump camp were ecstatic at the news, but for many Clinton supporters, the news was heartbreaking.

Flagstaff, where I’m spending my exchange year, is quite a liberal part of conservative Arizona. The city itself and Coconino County, within which it lies, voted Democrat. In the days since Trump’s win, there has been a despondent atmosphere around my university. Many people, both teachers and students alike, are shocked at the news and some have spoken of their disappointment in their country. In my classes and around campus the election is the main topic of discussion. On some occasions I have seen tears being shed for fear of what will happen to America and the minorities who now feel threatened by what a Trump presidency means for them. Already protests have begun in major cities all over the country, even closing freeways in Los Angeles. This is not the America I flew into when I began my year here.

la-na-new-york-trump-protest-20161109 Source: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-york-trump-protest-20161109-story.html

I myself, although I am not an American citizen, had a personal stake in the election, as I volunteered with the Arizona Democratic Party. I worked with people who strongly believed that Hillary Clinton was the best person for the job. They put their heart into her campaign and worked themselves to the bone for months. Whilst understandably surprised and disheartened, the effort put into the Clinton campaign did not go to waste. Whilst all the votes have still yet to be counted as I am writing, Clinton leads Trump in the popular vote. More people actually voted for her than Trump. The reason that Trump still won is down to a system known as the Electoral College. This system assigns 538 electoral college votes to the states. The higher a state’s population, the more votes it gets, for example, California gets 55 whilst Wyoming gets 3. Trump received the majority of Electoral College votes meaning that he won the presidency. As president, Trump must remember that not all Americans voted for him; that whilst he won the Electoral College, he did not win the popular vote. More people voted against him than for him.

Trump’s rhetoric throughout his campaign did not paint a picture of him a president who would govern in the interests of everyone. His dislike for Mexican immigrants and his promise to build a wall were vehemently and constantly spoken of throughout the campaign. He is a man who has brushed off sexual harassment allegations and endorsed banning Muslims from the United States. Yet, in Trump’s victory speech, he spoke of working together with Democrats, Republicans and Independents, to be a president for all of the American people. Trump has a challenge before him; America is a divided country after this election. To bring people from all walks of life together after his divisive and fear mongering campaign will be an enormous challenge. We can only hope that he succeeds, and today, America remains hopeful.