A student’s guide to uncovering cheap holidays!

Although deadlines and Uni life probably dominates your life at the moment (*sigh*), summer is now only a few months away!

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And if you’re anything like me then you wanna make use of the big break by going to somewhere new for a few days.

With cheap European flights and affordable accommodation aplenty, why not? It doesn’t even have to be that difficult or break the bank either…

Plan ahead!

Whilst last minute deals do exist, they’re often unreliable and very hard to come by. Therefore, book as soon as you can whilst most people haven’t even thought about booking theirs.

Having something booked now also gives you something to look forward to as well! Never underestimate the motivation that a holiday gives you to finish off your essay!

Finding a destination

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Personally, this can often be the most difficult decision! I have so many places on my “to see list” that I have trouble just picking one.

If you’re stuck for ideas, then ask your friends for recommendations. Odds are that they’ve already been to some awesome places and can give you some great tips.

But if you’re thinking, “But Perry, won’t you share some pearls of destination wisdom?” then yes, yes I will! Take a look at European city breaks like Prague, Berlin or Budapest. You can probably cover the basics in a few days and depending where you go it can be very cheap.

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The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Or if relaxing with a drink by the beach is more your thing then check out Croatia, Bulgaria or Portugal.

 

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An awesome day on the beach in Portugal

Be flexible with your dates

In terms of flights and accommodation, depending on demand, prices go up and down and can multiply during peak times. These times are typically at the weekend and in the school holidays.

Easiest way around this is to be flexible if you can and look at the prices for a range of dates.

I did hear once that Tuesday is the cheapest day to travel as it avoids people going away for the weekend or on mid-week breaks. I don’t know how true that is in this day and age, but it might be worth considering!

When looking at prices, go undercover

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Now I’m not saying go into Thomas Cook wearing a balaclava demanding cheap flights to Benidorm, but if you’re researching online then it’s important that you remain unseen.

The reason for this is that as soon as booking sites see that you’re scouting around for holidays they know that you’re hooked. Their thinking is that you’re probably going to be booking what you’re looking at or something similar eventually. Therefore, sometimes they up the prices when you go to book later on.

A bit sneaky I know! But you can prevent this super easily!

Just use the internet in your browser’s InPrivate browsing mode and clear your browser’s cookies when you’ve finished looking.

Simple.

Skyscanner is your new BFF!

skyscanner.pngSkyscanner is an absolute godsend when booking your flights and I can’t recommend it enough!

If you haven’t heard of the website before, it checks a range of websites and airlines to find the cheapest flights based on your destination and dates.

A lot of the time, the best options it comes up with come from places you wouldn’t have even thought to have looked!

Look at accommodation carefully

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Although you’re probably not going to be spending that much time in there, a good place to stay can sometimes make or break a stay.

There’s no need to be overcautious but just be sure to have a look at a few TripAdvisor reviews before you book anything. This will give you a good unbiased overview of what the place is like and whether you should book or avoid.

Give Air BnB a shout!

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A recent phenomenon in travel is staying in a stranger’s house in an Air BnB property.

Just as if you’re booking a hotel, you can go on the website and book a room or even a whole property owned by a local.

Often the owners will meet you when you arrive and can give you a local’s view of the place and some killer tips too.

Definitely something to consider if you’re up for something a little bit different!

All that remains now is get booking, get excited and go out there exploring!

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Signs I’ve made the transition from student to traveller

Currently on my year abroad, I’ve been making the most of the Australian university summer holidays. In fact I’m coming to the end of a travelling trip lasting almost 2 and a half months!

During this once in a lifetime trip, I’ve noticed my slow transition from a student to a traveller.

Here are the signs that I’ve noticed that I’ve made the switch…

Making the most of samples at duty free.

Being low on space in my rucksack, I only have room for the essentials. This doesn’t include aftershave unfortunately… so a quick dash and a spray at duty free has been a must! In fact, if I had a pound for every time I sprayed myself with free samples from duty free, I might be close to actually affording a bottle! Actually probably not though on second thoughts…

Air conditioning is the one

Nobody likes a humid, hot room at night when it’s 30 degrees. Especially so in Fiji, we only had a small fan to cool 10 of us…Therefore, the sight of air conditioning now in a room is always a godsend!

The rush for a bottom bunk in a hostel is intense

Nobody likes top bunks. Fact. The ladders are annoying, it’s far away from all of your stuff and clamouring down for a wee in the night is a task in itself.  Therefore, the pursuit for a good bed in a room can be rife! The feeling of disappointment to find only top bunks left in a room is just heartbreaking it really is…

Free WiFi is your friend

Sitting in a cafe on the wifi with no intention of buying anything has suddenly become totally justified and normal. How else are you going to upload all your amazing new pictures to Instagram?!

Limited wardrobe

Like the aftershave, living out of a backpack means that space is always at a minimum. This means that the clothes you do have get used a lot and annoyingly they need washing a lot too…

Never being in the same place for very long.

The beauty of travelling is that if you don’t like one place then another is only a few days away at most.

Being in one place one day and another the next has become the norm.


Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my transition from student to traveller. Keep a look out for more posts about my travels soon!

Choosing your year abroad location

If you’re planning to study abroad during the next academic year, you’ll probably already know that you won’t just have uni work to do over the Christmas break.

You’ll also have the tricky dilemma of shortlisting 3 choices to put on your study abroad application. It will likely take hours of scrawling through university websites and countless Google searches before the deadline at the end of January.

With hundreds of choices available, at first it can be a bit confusing on what to look out for.

As someone who went through the process last year, here are a few of my top tips for choosing a location for your year abroad!

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1. Creating your own personal criteria: what do I want to get out of this?

Study abroad is an amazing opportunity. However in order to get the most from it, you need to know exactly what you want.

Depending on the location, partner university and personal preference, this will change.

For example, if you want to study abroad in order to practice your German, then you’re not exactly going to be keen on going to Mexico.

Personally, I wanted to go an English speaking area which had good travelling opportunities. This was so I could study Drama easily and also travel during my time off.

2. Going through all of your options

With hundreds of universities to choose from, it can be hard to shortlist them down to your top three.

What I did was to copy and paste all of Essex’s’ partner universities from the University website into a word document. Then, as I researched them one by one, I highlighted them either green, yellow or red…

Green: one of my top choices

Yellow: I’m not sure yet/possibly?

Red: Not suitable/I don’t want to go there

I personally trawled through all of the American, Canadian and Australian partners that Essex has, as well as a lot of others to find a Uni for me.

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3. Researching: What modules are available?

It’s worth having a look at what modules each university offers in terms of content when you’re researching.

Often a good point about studying abroad is the option to study topics that aren’t available at Essex.

For example, during my first term in Australia I studied modules in Entertainment and event/festival management.

3. Shortlisting: Is this actually somewhere where I want to live for a whole term/year?

Once you’ve discarded all of your irrelevant universities, you’ve now got to think about whether you would be happy going there or not.

It’s just like when you were picking universities for UCAS.

Can I imagine myself actually living there once the honeymoon period rubs off?

4. Remember: Don’t get your hopes up on a location until it is confirmed.

Things change and partners are removed and added all the time. So until it’s confirmed, don’t rest your hopes on one single place.

This happened to me, when I found out that a university in Lousiana was now unavailable for exchange. It’s the worst thing is to be let down by something that is out of your control, so always have a few options!

I won’t lie to you, it’s a difficult decision and it won’t happen overnight. However good decisions and some good picks now will make it all worthwhile!

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Undecided about studying abroad?

At the moment, my life consists of travelling across Oceania and Asia during the summer break on my year abroad.
In fact right now, I’m writing this blog post whilst waiting to fly to New Zealand!
It’s weird to think that this time last year I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do a year abroad or not.
I signed up to have a year abroad included with my course all the way back when I did my UCAS, and to be honest it just sounded like a cool idea.
I didn’t really think too much of it, I just thought I would add it onto my course because it sounded exciting. Going away and living somewhere completely new for a year sounded perfect after growing up in a sleepy English village.

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However around this time last year, I had to decide whether I was actually going to do this or not.
In making my decision, what frustrated me the most is that you mainly only hear about the good side about doing a year abroad. It’s the stuff people want to shout about. Everyone tells you the best things but it’s often difficult to get the full picture.
But it’s a daunting choice to make no matter what way you look at it. There’s so much uncertainty and deliberation involved: it shouldn’t be a decision that is made lightly…

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I for one wasn’t 100% sure about doing a year abroad until around December in my second year. I had to choose between staying in my student house for another year or taking the plunge and commit to a year away.
A good thing which helped me with my decision was a pro and con list about doing a year abroad.
One of the main things I found from this was the people that I would be leaving behind. Apart from saying goodbye to my family and friends, I thought that if I did a year abroad then I would be returning without all of my graduating friends. I felt as if I needed to complete my university journey with the people I started it with.
However, I looked at the pro side and it was just too tempting to resist. I would never have such an easy opportunity to drop everything and just experience something completely insane.

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It’s a tough decision and it’s not something that you can just decide overnight. But consider the chances you’ll have to do something similar again.
If you can live with missing out on the chance, then go ahead and give it a miss.
But if you can’t resist a chance to see the world for yourself and take a risk then you better start researching!

Do’s and dont’s for when you go home this Christmas

After a few weeks of non stop assignments and long days in the library, the end of term is finally in sight!

4 weeks await of awkward family interaction and Christmas film watching! Sounds great right?! However it’ll all be over before you can finish the “falalala’s” in deck the halls.

So here are my do’s and don’ts to make the most of the Christmas break…

Do organise your work and don’t leave things to the last minute.

Whilst they officially call it a vacation, it’s extremely likely that you’ll have assignments to do and exams to revise for.

Therefore it’s a good idea to make a schedule before you do anything. If you’re not sure where to start then plan when you’re going to do all of your fun stuff and go from there!

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Do some paid work

Whilst ideally you actually do want some rest, see if you can get your old part time job back for a few weeks whilst you’re in the area. It might make next term’s budget a tad easier!

Don’t lock yourself in your room for a few weeks. Spend time with family and friends!

Probably the most important thing to do if you’re lucky enough to go home for the festive season is to see all of the people you don’t see at University. Whilst it may be annoying to be living under Mum’s rules again, having meals cooked for you and not paying bills is surely a massive plus!

Do the traditions you do every year

Whether it’s a Christmas day walk or a pre Christmas trip to town, make sure you do all of the traditions which make you feel Christmassy. If you don’t have any traditions then you could always start some this year!

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Do buy your presents early!

If you’re unorganised then you should really get this done soon. You’ve probably looked at gift ideas whilst procrastinating anyway, so it surely won’t take too long!

Do make some goals for the new year.

Although your resolutions from this year probably didn’t last beyond January 4th, try making some goals for the new year that you think you could actually achieve. Whether it’s joining a society, or going on holiday, it’s good to have an idea about what you want before the year begins.

Or if making goals isn’t your thing then make some predictions for 2017. Seal it in an envelope and put them in with your Christmas decorations so that this time next year, you can see how many of them you got right and how many you weren’t even close to achieving.

Have fun, do some studying and get in the festive spirit!

My Christmas Studying Abroad

Cold weather. Warming up with hot drinks by the fire place. Venturing out to pick a Christmas tree.

When you think of Christmas you often think of these seasonal traits.

But without the cold weather and excuse to wrap up warm, Christmas would be quite different.

Out here in Australia, the Christmas trees are now going up, shop windows are full of Christmas displays but it’s not “beginning to feel like Christmas” as per usual. With the 30 degree summer heat and different traditions, the festive season so far does seem a bit odd.

One of Brisbane’s attempts of “Christmas in the sun”: an oversized Christmas decoration
Normally in the UK, I would have already been playing Michael Bublé’s Christmas album on repeat for the past few weeks, but out here it just seems a bit odd… Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not enjoying being in Australia, it’s just interesting seeing how different Christmas is down under.
As its currently the Summer break in Australia, I’m  currently doing a bit of travelling over the Christmas break so for the big day itself, I’ll actually be in Queenstown, New Zealand this year.
I haven’t got anything planned for the big day in particular yet but from the looks of it, a BBQ by the lake in the summer heat seems likely!

Whilst I know this Christmas won’t be the same as usual this year, it’ll be exciting and definitely one to remember.

Going to University at Essex is more than just a degree…

One of the main things that I love about Essex is that an equal importance is given to both academic studies and your student experience. Whilst getting a good degree is important, University is much more than that. The amount of opportunities and experiences that are open to you because you are a University student is wide ranging and immense.

Here are three of my personal favourites…

Societies and Sports Teams

A week at Essex rarely goes by where you don’t see society stalls on Square 3, or sports teams in weird and wonderful costumes off to Fed (a night out in the Student Union). The hundreds of societies and sports teams are integral to the Essex experience, as they give students the chance to take part in a range of activities and meet like-minded people at the same time.

Not only can you take part in the stuff you already enjoy, it’s so great knowing that you have loads of opportunity to try something completely new, that you might never have thought of before. Ranging from Origami, to Harry Potter, to Animal Protection, there’s no end to the different societies available and new people that you can meet!

During my first two years at Essex, I was an active member of the Theatre Arts Society, where I took part in various productions, events and socials. One of my favourite moments was being a part of the yearly Pantomime in my first year. Although I was just in the chorus, I had such a great laugh taking part and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had taking part in a show!

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Employment

Although studying has to be everyone’s main priority at Uni, there are loads of opportunities to get some part time employment and earn some pocket money too! Both the Student’s Union and the University offer a variety of frontrunner and part time roles on campus throughout the year, so it’s worth keeping your eyes out for when applications open. Also, the Employability and Careers centre are brilliant if you need your CV looked over or need any help applying for jobs.

I’ve taken on a range of paid on campus work whilst I’ve been at University, from being a Student Ambassador to working on Clearing during the Summer break. What I’ve loved most about my jobs at Essex is that I could pick and choose which hours I could do, to fit around around my studies. This means that if I know I have a big assignment coming up, I can stop working for a bit whilst I catch up with my studies.

Through working, I’ve also been able to improve my skill set. My role as a Student Ambassador has allowed me to improve my communication skills, engage with a diverse range of people and it has encouraged me to regularly use my initiative. One of the best parts of the job is seeing the people that you spoke to at Open Days months later on campus as fully fledged students. It’s a good feeling to know that your work contributed to someone’s decision to come here!

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Study Abroad

Whether it’s a summer, a term or an entire year, the Essex Abroad team are awesome in offering all students the chance to spend time studying or working abroad.

I couldn’t say no to this opportunity and currently I’m in Brisbane, Australia, studying abroad for a year! This has given me the chance to experience so much, travel the world and most importantly, challenge myself on a whole new level that I didn’t even think was possible.

If you did need more convincing, then Essex is also one of the only Universities in the country not to charge tuition fees for students on a year abroad!

 

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Just Play, Sub Zero, Lakeside Theatre, Socialising, I could go on and on about what else makes student life at Essex so great, but you get the idea!

University is much more than a degree; it’s an experience, so don’t get to the end of your final year regretting the things you didn’t do.

Get involved!

To see more of Perry’s adventures in Brisbane and beyond, check out his vlog here:

How Essex are you?

Do you think you know Essex? Can you tell the Hex apart from Happy Days? Blues from Base bar? Well let’s put it to the test to see how much Essex you really are…


1. Who is this little bundle of joy who has over 6,000 likes on their Facebook page?

Campus Cat

 

2. Which local painter famously painted Wivenhoe Park, the location of the now Colchester Campus?

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3. How many years old is the University of Essex?

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4. Which square is the psychology building on?

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5. Which University is considered to be Essex’s main rivals?

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6. How many towers were originally meant to be built on the Colchester Campus 

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A) 0-3

B) 4-6

C) More than 10

 

7. What is the University of Essex’s official university motto?

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8. At Essex, we’re proud of being a University which welcomes students from over 100 countries. But what is the percentage between international and domestic students at the University?

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9. A snakebite is a uniquely popular beverage for students at Essex. How much is a snakebite in the SU bar?

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10. Our Loughton and Southend Campuses are home to which world-leading drama school?

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A)West 16

B) East 15

C) North 17

 

11. What are these things around the Colchester campus? (Clue: there are 18 of them in total)

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12: Which of these is not a catering outlet on the Colchester Campus?

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A) Frango’s

B) Refresh

C) No.66

 

13: In 1970, Essex was the first University to create Nightline. Between which hours every night during term time is the service open to students?

 

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14: The Safety bus is a popular and safe way to get home late at night. But how much does a single journey cost?

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15: Prince Charles once called the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall ‘a dustbin’. What is the capacity of this shiny silver building?

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16: Which collection of art, based at Essex, is the only collection of its type in Europe?

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17: Over the years Essex has been visited by many great bands and music artists including Pink Floyd. However which one of these bands has not played at the University?

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A) The Kinks

B) The Smiths

C) Rolling Stones

 

18: The Albert Sloman Library is home to these unusual looking lifts, which have both puzzled and excited students for decades. What is the correct term for them?

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19: On the Colchester Campus, it’s pretty easy to get lost trying to find your seminar room. So which App do students use to discover a room’s location?

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20: The new home to the Essex Business school was built last year. But what is so special about the building?

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A) The building’s wood was imported from Norway especially for the building

B) It’s the first Zero Carbon Business School in the UK

C) It was designed by a current Essex student

 

ANSWERS

1: Campus cat

2: John Constable

3: 52 years (formed in 1964)

4: Square 1

5: UEA

6: C) More than 10

7: Thought the harder, heart the keener

8: 40% international / 60% domestic

9: £2.80

10:B) East 15

11: Frisbee golf holes

12: C) No. 66 (No.64 is the correct alternative)

13: 10pm-8am

14: £1

15: 1000 people

16: Latin American

17: The Rolling Stones

18: Paternoster lift

19: Find your way

20: B) It’s the first Zero Carbon Business School in the UK

 

So… How did you do?

0-9: Do you even know where Greenstead is? Looks like you’re just a UEA student in disguise…

10-14: Looks like you must be a fresher…. You may know a bit from reading the prospectus from cover to cover but you have a lot to learn yet…

15-20: Your blood must be red and purple because you’re Essex through and through! Celebrate by grabbing a drink in the SU bar or by taking a visit to Blues Bar!

 

 

7 ways to save money on a student budget

There’s nothing worse than being a few weeks into the term and realising that you’re bank account is already severely lacking in funds. All of those nights out, takeaways and shopping trips have finally caught up with you and now entering your overdraft seems like more of a certainty than a possibility.

But before you make that awkward phone call to Mum and Dad to ask for some extra money, have a look at some of these easy ways to save money at University…

“Do I really need this?”

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Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/one-direction-harry-styles-hmm-LrRcT6zYxAMRW

This one question “do I really need this?” is what always goes through my mind when I buy stuff. Could I get a cheaper alternative or could I survive without it? You soon realise that you probably don’t need to buy as much stuff as you realise. It only takes a few seconds to stop and think about what you’re spending your money on and it could potentially save you a lot of money over time.

Cheap lunches!

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Source: http://www.holycitysinner.com/2016/07/13/leftovers-tidbits-from-the-food-bev-community-71316/

Whilst buying lunch on campus is okay once in a while, spending money on food every day easily adds up. Therefore, investing in a plastic container for bringing your lunch into Uni could be very useful.

Also, I personally find it quite hard to cook for one, so I often store my leftovers in the fridge and have them for lunch the next day. It depends on what I cooked, but if there’s not enough for a full lunch, I often make it into a sandwich or add some pasta/rice to it to bulk it up a bit! This way, you get two meals for the price of one! What’s not to love?!

Make your food shop go further

This is probably the part of your outcome that you can influence the most. It’s easy to let go a bit when you get distracted in the supermarket but if you go in with a plan and don’t get tempted by all the offers then you’ll probably save a lot… If you don’t already then make a list of meals which you’re going to cook over the next weeks before you go shopping. From this, you should know exactly what you need to buy and what you don’t.

Student discount

Whilst it lasts, utilise your status as a student to get as much discount as possible. A lot of places offer 10/20% for showing a valid student card at the checkout, so it’s always worth asking the person behind the till whether or not they do a student discount.

Also, a hub for all things student discount is the mobile app/website Unidays which offers exclusive discounts for signing up for free!

Pre-owned Textbooks

Likelihood is that you’re only going to be using the majority of your books a few times before you try and sell it on for a few pounds. So why buy them  brand new? Sites like Ebay and abe books sell books that are second hand for a fraction of the price. If you have friends that have already done your modules then ask them if they’re willing to sell theirs too. Yes, buy them brand new if you must, but consider it as a last resort if you can’t find a book anywhere else. I’ve bought quite a few books second hand in the past and they have ended up being brand new and still in its cellophane. Needless to say, it’s well worth having a bit of a search online before you get your books…

Find your own ways to cut the pennies!

Over time, you’ll eventually find your own easy ways to save a little bit of cash here and there as you become a seasoned student. For example, I’m a fan of getting a lime and soda at the SU bar for 30p instead of spending £1.40 for a pint of coke. Going to the supermarket in the evening is also a good idea as they try to sell their fresh goods off by offering massive discounts before they become unsellable.

Make your own money

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If you find that you have a go at all of these tips and you still find yourself strapped for cash, then it might be worth trying to get a part time job alongside your studies. There are various part time roles and frontrunner placements available on campus through the University and the SU, so make sure you keep your eyes out for when they advertise. Also, keep an eye on career hub, an online vacancy board run by the university, to keep updated with what the wonderful people at the employability and careers centre are doing.

 

7 things to do with your new flatmates

Chances are, if you’re a first year then you’ve just moved in with a bunch of strangers into University accommodation. Whilst it seems like it might just look like a few people shoved into a room to live together, these people may well go on to become your best friends over the next few years. After living in Towers during my first year, here’s a few of my favourite things to do with your new housemates…

Talk in the kitchen

It may sound simple but it’s the oldest trick in the book! By just sitting in the kitchen and talking to whoever is in there can be a great way to get to know people and create the best memories. Before you know it, it’ll be a few hours later and a few world topics conquered!

Do something random. e.g. make up a game

Me and my flatmates invented tea pong when I lived in Towers. It was basically like beer pong but using tea bags and mugs instead of ping pong balls and beer. This might sound a bit weird and wacky but after a few hours in the kitchen, I’m sure you’ll be up to something similar!

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Pranks

When our flat mate Rhys was away for the weekend and left his door unlocked, a few of us couldn’t resist taking advantage of the situation… So we cling filmed his mattress, stuck toilet paper to his ceiling and generally created a lot of mess. It was all in good spirit though and we knew he would find it funny. Well… eventually!

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Sorry (not sorry) Rhys…

Celebrating birthdays

If you live in Towers, then chances are there’s always going to be a birthday coming up and with it a reason to celebrate. Let your mind run wild, think of a theme, bake a cake (from all of your experience of watching bake off) and get everyone all of your friends round for a “social gathering”.

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Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/party-excited-birthday-YTbZzCkRQCEJa

Take advantage of free sport at Essex.

Everyone loves free stuff? Well, sport at Essex costs you absolutely nothing. Just play sessions are particularly good as they don’t require any continued commitment. It’s a perfect opportunity to try something new, get out of the flat, get active! Whether its Hockey, Tennis, Basketball or Korfball, there’s a just play session for everyone!

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Baking followed by bake off.

Something that always unites a lot of students at this time of year is the magic that is the Great British Bake off. It’s something that I’m still carrying on now in Australia. Having a baking session and then watching bake off whilst eating your treats sounds like the perfect night in if you ask me…

Grab a drink at the SU bar

If you just need to get out of the flat and do something, then just head down to the SU bar. Play game of pool, make a classic SU order of a snakebite and some mozzarella sticks and just have a chilled evening.

Go out for dinner at Frango’s; catch a film at cine 10; see a show at the Lakeside Theatre; explore the town of Colchester; navigate your way to Tesco and just have a walk around the aisles at 1am… the list is endless. Just don’t just squander all of your time in your room or in lectures all day!