How to Make Friends Before You Even Get to Uni

A lot of people worry about making friends at uni. Most of the time you’re moving away to a place where you know nobody and you’ll be living with people you’ve never even met before. This can seem quite scary, but there are ways to meet and chat to people before you even get to uni.

People from your sixth form

When I put Essex as my firm choice on UCAS no one else at my sixth form I knew had put it as a choice. I asked around to see if anyone I knew, knew someone that had. Eventually I found out that someone in my history class had also applied to Essex! Previously I had never even spoken to this person, but we had a chat about all things uni and Essex and now when I run into them on campus, I always make sure I say hi! It might seem like a bit of a cop out to make friends going to your uni at your sixth form, but it’s nice to know someone in a similar situation to you and of course, there are the other ways to make friends too.

The Student Room

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If you have never heard of The Student Room, it can be an extremely helpful website for all things, well, student! The University of Essex has its own forum page here. Loads of people will be posting the unis that they’re going to and asking people what courses they’re doing. The Essex forum page has threads with people asking who else will be on their course or if they’re living in the same accommodation. It’s a great place to find lots of other people going to Essex, doing your course, or living near you. It’s also very helpful for info about the social life at Essex, and things like what to bring to uni. Whilst you don’t need an account to read the forums, you do if you want to contribute to the chat.

Facebook

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The University of Essex is all over Facebook! There is the general freshers’ page which is run by the Students’ Union, there’s individual pages for each accommodation and there’s departmental pages too. The freshers page has thousands of members as most new students, as well as existing students will join it. It’s a great place to ask general questions about life at Essex, especially as you know you’ll be answered by students who have been in your position. It’s also great for meeting students who might be commuters, mature students or postgraduates.

Open days and Visit days

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When you come to our Essex open days, it’s not only useful to learn about the basics of uni life, it’s also a great opportunity to get to know some other potential students. Strike up a conversation on a tour – you might just end up going to uni with that person! Applicant days, once you have an offer from Essex, are also an excellent way to meet people who are on your course. Your future lecturers will also be giving taster sessions which will give you a chance to get a real feel for the academic side of university.

With all these ways to make friends before uni, keep in my mind that you’ll still meet plenty more people once you actually move in and start lectures, so go forth and make friends!

Brexit: What I Think About It and What It Means for Students at Essex

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Brexit, it’s the Marmite of the politics world. You either love it or hate it, there’s no in between. Unlike Marmite, however, you can’t just decide not to buy it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Brexit is happening whether we like it or not. First things first, I think it’s only right to to tell you that I voted remain. Regardless of how you voted I think it’s safe to say that no one wants Brexit to be a disaster. The only problem is that no one really knows what’s going to happen when Britain leaves the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May set out her Brexit plan in January. It emphasised regaining control of the UK’s borders and getting a good deal for British Businesses. The EU though has to agree to this plan, and that’s where things get a bit iffy. Many European countries want Britain to have a swift exit from the EU, in other words, a hard Brexit. A hard Brexit is one in which Britain severs all ties with the EU and has no special treatment. Theresa May has committed to a hard Brexit but we still don’t know exactly what that means and we probably won’t until Britain officially leaves in 2019.

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What I can say though, is that regardless of the relationship Britain ends up having with the EU, European and international students will undoubtedly always be welcome at Essex. Essex would not be same without its amazing international students. They bring so much variety and fun to our campus. Having lived in the UK all my life, I love learning about other countries and their unique cultures and customs. Without our international community, Essex would not be the same place I have made my home. For me and many of my friends, Brexit hurt. It hurt because we love Europe, we love the people and we love the opportunities that being part of the EU gives us. We are part of a community at Essex that embraces every single person, no matter where they are from. Even those I know who voted for Brexit at Essex are great people who just happen to differ from me politically.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster, has reaffirmed Essex’s commitment to our European and international students. He has spoken of how we will remain an inclusive, internationally oriented university and a university where you can find the world in one place. You can read more about what Brexit means for students here.

Brexit means change, that is inevitable. What remains the same, however, is that our international and EU students here at Essex will always be welcomed with open arms.

 

What I’m Looking Forward to After My Year Abroad

I can’t believe how quick time has passed whilst I’ve been on my year abroad. I have next to no time left before my summer holiday starts! I have loved my time here in America but I really can’t wait to get back to Essex. There’s so many things I’m looking forward to, but here a few things I’m looking forward to most.

1. The Essex campus

IMG_20160831_175718385_HDR I’ll miss this view on my walk to class

My university campus in Arizona is tiny by American standards, but huge in comparison to Essex. I have to get a bus from one end of it to the other. Whilst it is a really beautiful campus surrounded by amazing views, it can be a bit of a pain walking up loads of hills and taking a bus to get to class or go to the union. At Essex, I know where I’m going, I always end up bumping into people I know, and you don’t have to do a full trek just to get to a lecture!

2. Seeing my friends!

DSCN1720 Summer Ball was probably the last time we were all in the same country!

I guess this one sort of goes without saying! I left for my year abroad in August and whilst I saw a few of my friends from home over Christmas in Manchester, most of my friends are in various corners of the globe. I haven’t seen some of my friends in Australia since June and although we talk a lot and Skype pretty often, it’s definitely not the same as seeing them in person and I can’t wait to have a massive catch up.

3. Going out

12695038_10153345971436517_2657461725610478521_o Got to love dressing up for Fed!

Whilst there are parties and a fair few bars in downtown Flagstaff, there are no clubs and even to just go in a bar you have to be 21. A lot of my friends here aren’t old enough to go out and really miss a night out in Sub Zero or a bit of karaoke at Milk It. I can’t wait for freshers which is pretty much non existent in America!

4. The Food

English crumpets with butter close up You can’t beat a good crumpet

Whilst America is known for its huge portions and its fast food (which can be delicious) there are very few British foods available so I’ve had to learn to live without them. I’m lucky enough to have a family who understands my food needs and sends me some care packages including chocolate and gravy granules which, as a northerner, I cannot live without. However, I can’t wait until I can pick up some crumpets from Tesco or grab a sausage roll from Greggs.

5. Being a final year

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This one I think I’m half looking forward to and half dreading! I can’t get my head around the fact that my time at uni is almost over but being a final year means that I’ll have to make the most of every minute of it and even more so because I don’t have a dissertation to do!

I’m going to miss Arizona but I know that I’ll always be able to take a break from England and hop back over to the other side of the pond and visit. For now though, I have a whole year at Essex to look forward to!

 

 

Getting Uni Ready

Getting ready to move out of home and into uni can be pretty daunting. I know for me moving out of the home I’d lived in for 18 years was pretty scary. I had never really cooked anything and left all the washing up to my mum. I pretty much had no idea how to fend for myself, but despite this I adapted really quickly to my new environment – though that’s not to say I ever became a Gordon Ramsay level chef (pasta was my speciality)! So to save you the pain of scrubbing burnt rice off the bottom of a pan, or accidentally dying your white clothes grey in the wash, here are  a few things you can do to help with the transition to uni before you even get there!

Learn to cook a few recipes

As easy as it is, you can’t live off chips and chicken nuggets forever (sadly). Making your own meals can be really satisfying; I felt quite proud of myself the first time I successfully made a roast dinner! Before you go to uni, it can be quite helpful to learn some cheap recipes and there’s loads of student cookbooks out there to help. My favourite meals to make have to be spaghetti bolognese and cottage pie. They can be pretty easy to make and if you cook them in bulk too then you can portion them out to save time and money later on. You might have a few mishaps on the way to becoming a culinary master, I dropped my delicious looking cottage pie on the floor the first time I made it, but don’t let that put you off from cooking from scratch! Take a look here for some recipe inspiration!

spaghetti-bolognese Easy and delicious

Think about budgeting

Odds are that if you’ve lived with your family all your life you’ve never really had to budget. It does seem quite nice at the beginning of term to have that student loan money appear in your bank account and often it can be hard to resist the temptation to treat yourself to those new shoes or clothes you wanted. By all means, treat yourself, but budget responsibly to make sure you have enough money for the essentials. There are a lot of expenses to think about such as your rent, food shopping, and let’s be realistic, the inevitable nights out. It can initially be quite difficult to balance the essential expenses with the things that you want. After a few food shops though, you’ll probably end up realising the things that you are spending on that you don’t really need. I couldn’t believe how expensive some foods were that I always just taken for granted (I’m looking at you, cheese!)

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Read clothes labels!

This one might seem a bit trivial but clothes labels are there for a reason. If you don’t wash your own clothes at home then you’re probably not familiar with what those weird little symbols mean. There were quite a few times in my first year that my flatmates would come back from the launderette with shrunken jeans and pink tops that used to be white. These mishaps can usually be avoided if you know how to wash your clothes. Take note of the  picture below. After shrinking some of my favourite clothes, I found out where I was going wrong!

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These tips aren’t the be all and end all of what you need to know for uni. You will find yourself learning from experience and work out what’s best to do once you get there, but hopefully this blog will just help you on your way! Good luck 🙂

Easter Fun in America

I love Easter. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s chocolate galore!

Here in the USA, my university doesn’t have an Easter holiday, but I still had an amazing Easter weekend full of fun. Me and some friends went to stay with one of our lovely American pals in Phoenix, Arizona. We were looking forward to experiencing the 30 degree weather in Phoenix and finally going to a water park.

You might think that Easter in America is pretty similar to Easter in the UK, but there’s actually a lot of things that are quite different. First off, and I was extremely devastated to discover this, chocolate Easter eggs aren’t very popular here at all. Instead, there is a tradition of Easter baskets. The family we were staying with were kind enough to give us one. It was full of American candy and chocolates. We were also given a jar of over 1000 jelly beans!

18010386_1665677296780365_3201051392254263424_n Four Brits very happy with their Easter basket!

Taking advantage of the very hot weather we went to Wet n Wild Phoenix which is a massive water park in the middle of the desert. It was a welcome break from all the work I’ve been doing! I had a go on a water coaster which went much faster than I thought it would. There was also a slide that 6 people could go on together and so we all squeezed on but I did bang the head of one of my pals on the bumpy ride down! After our ordeal we decided to cool down with a snow cone. They were much bigger than I expected and I think I went slightly overboard on the syrup flavours as they all seemed to merge into one!

IMG_20170421_133450 Enjoying some huge snow cones!

Our hosts were cooking us all a special Easter dinner, so it was only right to share some classic British food with our American friends. We made a Victoria Sponge! It went down a great hit as our dessert after our American Easter dinner. It’s traditional in America to have a ham at Easter, which we did, we also had a croissant, some stuffed baked potatoes and a delicious pineapple bread dish. I’m very fussy so I was concerned I wouldn’t like a lot of the food but I tried quite a lot of new things and found myself enjoying them!

IMG_20170421_134750 Sharing some delicious British desserts!

After dinner we took part in some fun Easter activities. We had a very competitive Easter egg hunt in the garden with everyone hurrying to find as many eggs as they could. Although there was no overall prize, each egg had a dollar in and there was a special golden egg with five dollars. We also took part in some art and dyed some eggs. Watching the eggs change colour is surprisingly satisfying!

IMG_5113 (1) Our beautifully decorated eggs

I had a wonderful Easter with my friends and the family we stayed with. I’m so grateful for their hospitality and how they welcomed 6 crazy Brits into their home during the holidays! I know I’ll always have somewhere to stay back in Arizona and my friends over here are always welcome in the UK.

Nights out in Essex: a guide to every night of the week

Being a student is tough; all those lectures, classes and essays we have to  do. Sometimes you just want to have break, go out and enjoy yourself. Well, the Essex campus has got you covered for a great night out. There’s something to do everyday of the week, so here’s a rundown of what’s on offer:

Monday – Milk It

1910069_10153320828371517_2839205340251488959_n Can’t go to Milk It without doing some karaoke!

If there was ever a way to cure those Monday blues then Milk It is it. Karaoke and cheesy tunes all night long and it’s in the SU Bar, so it’s free! Take a trip to the SU, sign up for karaoke (all singing abilities welcome), then dance the night away to the tunes from your childhood and get all nostalgic. I miss S Club 7 so much.

Tuesday – Town

With no official night out on campus on a Tuesday, take a trip to Colchester town. Colchester has some great bars that you wouldn’t get to visit if you only stayed on campus. Of course there’s the old favourite; Wetherspoons, but bars like Twisters, V Bar and Three Wise Monkeys offer something a little different with more alternative music and live music nights. There’s also the new Atik club which you can head to if you fancy a change from Sub Zero.

Wednesday – Sports Fed

12695038_10153345971436517_2657461725610478521_o Dressing up as the girls from St. Trinians for our hockey social

Whilst Sports Fed is the night all the sports teams on campus have their socials and head out, anyone is welcome and it’s a great night out. If you’re on a sports team, expect to be all dressed up in costume. If you’re not on a sports team, why not dress up anyway?! Fed is a good laugh and it can be really funny seeing what themes the teams come up with every week. I have seen some very strange outfits down in Sub Zero

Thursday – Quiz

Thursday night is quiz night in the SU Bar. Head down with a team ready  to have your pointless knowledge put to the test. Every participant pays £1 to enter with the winning team sharing the prize money. 2nd and 3rd prize are free drinks from the bar. Don’t be thinking you can get away with looking up a sneaky few answers on your phone though, they’re very strict on that!

Friday – Friday Night Project

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The Friday Night Project offers all your favourite chart tunes with some others thrown in for good measure. Friday nights are often themed, in the past there’s been a pizza party where free pizza is given out, masquerade night and zoo nights so you can dress up as any kind of animal you fancy!

Saturday – Special events

Who doesn’t love a good Saturday night out? Saturdays at Essex often mean a special guest, in the past we’ve had Mistajam, Conor Maynard, Beat a Maxx, Tom Zanetti and Zane Lowe, among many others. Saturday can also bring some one off events like the Easter Ball (complete with chocolate fountain) and paint and foam parties.

Sunday – Night in?

Okay, hear me out. It’s pretty hard to go out every night of the week and still make to the Monday ready to begin lectures! So why not have a night in with flatmates instead?! Sometimes a night in can be even better than a night out. Squeeze into someone’s room and watch a film, play a few games or take part in Nerf gun wars. I can definitely vouch for how much fun the latter is!

So there you have it, something to do every night of the week! This list is by no means exhaustive so get out there and give it all a go!

Campus Boredom Busters

Every so often we all get a little bit bored. Maybe it’s the weekend, you actually have no work to do for once and you’ve watched enough Netflix to last you at least a week. Or maybe you are just plain old bored. It happens to everyone. But with a campus like Essex where there’s always something going on, that doesn’t have to be the way. Take at look at this list of six boredom busters on campus.

1. Play some disc golf

basket-871276857848l3st Ever wondered what this is?

You’ve probably seen those strange metal basket things dotted around campus and absentmindedly wondered what they were. They’re actually holes on the frisbee golf course at Essex. You can get a disc and a score sheet from the reception desk at the gym, it’s only 50p. I can tell you from experience that it’s not exactly easy but it is very fun!

2. Go and see a Cine10 film

Going all the way to the cinema in town can be expensive and a bit of a trek, especially considering we have one right on campus. Cine10 movies are shown in the lecture theatre building and are a great chance to see the latest films without paying top dollar. Recent films include La La Land, T2 Trainspotting and The Lego Batman Movie.

3. Discover a new sport through Just Play

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Just Play is a great chance to try out a new sport or play one just for fun. There are loads of sports you can do for free or a small fee including swimming, ice skating and baseball and more. Just play is how I got into playing hockey and went on to play in BUCS games. It’s also great to go to with friends to see how competitive you can get! Have a look at the timetable here.

4. Visit ESCALA

You are probably wondering what on earth ESCALA is. It stands for Essex Collection of Art from Latin America. The majority of the artwork is housed in a special space in the Constable Building up by Wivenhoe House and you can go and visit it when there are exhibitions and events on. At other times though the art that is in the Silberrad Student Centre is part of ESCALA.

5. Go for afternoon tea at Wivenhoe House

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If you’re feeling fancy, head over to Wivenhoe House for some afternoon tea. Be quintessentially British and treat yourself some scones, finger sandwiches and some pastries. And, of course, they also have a huge variety of tea. If you fancy anything else they’ve also got you covered for dinner!

6. Take a fitness class

I really am not a fan of the gym but I do really enjoy going to fitness classes. Essex has loads of them at the gym. If you’re a member of the gym then they’re free but for all other students they’re £3.50. My favourite has to be yoga but there are loads more like zumba, insanity and dance classes.

So if you’re ever bored on campus or just itching for something new to try why not give this list a go!

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!

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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!