Getting a Part Time Job at Uni

Whether you’re after a bit of work experience or a little boost in your bank balance, a part time job can be a pretty valuable thing to have. Not only does it look great on your CV, but a part time job gives you a bit of a break from studying with the added bonus of a bit of extra money every month!

Whilst sometimes the struggle to get a part time job can be relentless, if you know what to do and where to look it doesn’t have to be that bad!

From job hunting in the past, here are some of my top tips in securing that perfect part time job…

Tidy up your CV!

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Before you look for any jobs, you need to make sure that your CV is up to scratch. Although it may seem like an insignificant piece of paper, it is really valuable for an employer to see what kind of a person you are.

If you haven’t updated your CV for a while or if you’ve never written one before, then check out the Essex CV pack. This is a brilliant resource with everything you need to ace your CV. If you’re still struggling then go and visit the wonderful people at the Employability and Careers centre and they look through your CV with you!

 

Keep an eye out for things

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Some jobs like Student Ambassador and ones offered by the SU are only recruited for at certain times of the year. Therefore, you only have a small window of opportunity where you can apply for them. If you don’t necessarily need a job straight away then the best thing is to keep your wits about for when opportunities open.

 

Look at your options

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Ask yourself what you want to get out of a job. Is it just a few hours to make a few quid to go out with, or do you need something a bit more to help with living costs? There are a lot of jobs out there and they are all looking for something completely different. Have a think at what this might be as this will probably influence what you apply for. Also remember that it’s as much as finding a perfect job for you as an employer finding an ideal employee for their business!

 

Ask your mates about how they got their jobs

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One of the hardest things about getting a part time job is getting yourself in the door, but if you know someone that already works there, it can make your job a whole lot easier. Whilst they probably won’t be able to give their mates a job on the spot, they will probably have some useful advice about what the employer is looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky then they might even be able to put a good word in for you to their employers!

 

Check online (Careers Hub/SU website)

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Another great resource offered by the Employability and Careers centre is Careers Hub. This is an online resource which has loads of part time jobs on there in the local area. This is where all the Frontrunner and UROP placements are advertised too! If you’re on the lookout for a job then this is a great place to start looking; jobs appear all the time on there.

Finally, above all don’t be disheartened if you don’t find something straight away! It might not happen straight away, but you’ll get there in the end with the right mindset! Things like always asking for feedback if you don’t get a job and getting careers advice from someone will help you in the long run.

Happy job hunting 😊

The Choccie Connoisseur

I don’t know about you, but during the chilly winter I find that a nice Hot Chocolate can make things seem that little bit better. But with so many food outlets around the Colchester campus, it’s often difficult choosing where to go.

So, without further or do let me, The Choccie Connoisseur, show you the best hot chocolates that the University of Essex has to offer!

I’ll be comparing each Hot Chocolate on its cost and its taste to find out whether these hot chocolates are a hot delight or a hot mess.

To make it fair, I’ll be reviewing a standard small sized Hot Chocolate to take away from each outlet. In my testing, I’ll be looking for perfection; a rich chocolatey taste, a milky texture and some good froth on top.

Let the best beverage win!

 

No.64/ Canteen/ Buffalo Joe’s/Refresh

The reason that these outlets are grouped together is that they all use the same automated machine. Therefore, they’re all pretty much the same!

Cost: £1.50 (Refresh)

Taste: Looking at the cup, it seems simple. There’s a little froth and a very sweet taste that definitely stays in my mouth afterwards. It does the job in warming me up in my 9am class but it wasn’t quite what I was after!

Rating: 2/5

Good for: If you’re running a bit late for class but you still need a little pick me up!

 

SU bar (Starbucks)

This outlet often has a busy queue in the middle of the day but you know what they say… don’t judge a Hot Chocolate by its queue!

Cost: £2.15

Taste: Interestingly, this was the only hot chocolate on my test to use a syrup instead of powder. Controversial… Thankfully, the syrup worked and it had a lovely milky, smooth texture. Really felt like a hug in a cardboard cup. Just what I needed, although I did feel a bit sleepy afterwards. Not what I needed just before a study session…

It was a bit pricy but I felt like I was getting my money’s worth!

Rating: 4/5

Good for: If you need something to calm you down if you’re having a stressful day!

 

Blues Bar (Lavazza)

I had to go a bit out of my way to get this one as I don’t really go to Blues Bar that often. The fact that they use Lavazza products was promising.

Cost: £1.85

Taste: Beyond the foam on top, there was quite a subtle chocolatey taste to the drink which was nice. Overall a decent option, especially considering it was machine made. However, I do feel duped that the cup that I was given was significantly smaller than all of the others that I’ve tried?

Rating: 3/5

Good for: If you need a little pick me up, ready to go again!

 

Union

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never actually stepped foot in this funny compact coffee shop before. But what does this new kid on the block have to offer?

Cost: £1.85

Taste: Frothy milk, chocolatey taste barista made. Whisk and all behind the desk. Cup was as small as the offering from Blues Bar but in this case, good things come in small packages. There was an option to get a larger size and I kind of wished I got that one now!

Rating: 5/5

Good for: If you want a scientifically precise hot chocolate that tastes amazing!

 

Zest/Bonds (Costa)

These outlets are paired together because they use identical Costa Coffee products using a barista machine. Both of them are cool cafés with a wide food selection.

Cost: £2.25

Taste: There’s a lot of foam on this one, it’s as if it’s trying to hide something… If you don’t have too much of a sweet tooth then this one is for you! There is a chocolatey taste there but it’s not as strong as some of the other ones! This was the most expensive hot chocolate on the test.

Rating: 2.5/5

Good for: Those who prefer a slightly subtler hot chocolate.

 

Lakeside Café

I’m in this building a lot for classes and to see shows, so I am already well accustomed to their Hot Chocolate. But how does their offering compare in light of the competition?

Cost: £1.40

Taste: A great cup of hot chocolate there. A good foamy top and a good substantial chocolatey taste with some sweet after tones. The barista really looked like they knew what they were doing as well. All the things you expect from a hot chocolate really!

Rating: 4.5/5

Good for: Getting a reliable hot chocolate that ticks all the boxes!

 

The Kitchen

Tucked away next to the SU bar on Square 3, The Kitchen is a hideaway designed so that you can grab a hot drink quickly in between lectures. All of the hot beverages are made by a machine, so that the service is super quick!

Cost: £1.35

Taste: Nice bit of foam on the top which eases you into the dulcet tones of the chocolate. I found this one very easy to drink for some reason; one sip just made me want another!

Rating: 4/5

Good for: A quick hot chocolate that will keep you satisfied

 

OVERALL WINNER – Union

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Although all of the hot chocolates impressed, the best hot chocolate has to go to Union! Whilst the others were all different in their own way, the offering from Union was faultless. The Lakeside Theatre Café’s option was close but Union just pipped it to the post! This little hideaway on Square 3 is nothing to laugh about, it’s full of top quality hot beverages.

So next time you’re on campus feeling indecisive about your hot chocolate options, give another outlet a try. You may be pleasantly surprised like I was 😊

 

Disclaimer: Although I am employed by the University and the Student’s Union, this is my own independent, non-biased taste test. This has been undertaken in a personal capacity and does not reflect my view of either organisation.

 

Best deals you can get as a student!

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One of the best things about being a student, is the world of discounts that you can get a hold of. You may have heard that you can get free McFlurry’s and Cheeseburgers in McDonalds, but that is only where the discounts start my friend! Often all it takes is one quick show of your student card to get a reasonable discount to your bill. Result!

Here’s my guide to finding the very best of deals on the market…

Theatre tickets

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Theatre’s often have a reputation for being expensive, but a lot of the time they offer a sizeable discount for students. One of the biggest theatre discounts I’ve seen is through being a member of the National Theatre’s Entry Pass scheme. If you’re aged between 16 and 25 then you can get yourself £5 tickets that usually cost more than 8 times as much!

Music Streaming

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I really don’t know what I’d do without my music streaming! I don’t know how I survived before! Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean that you need to scrimp back on your music! Spotify and Apple Music both offer half price subscriptions for students at £4.99 per month.

Prime Student

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This is probably one of the most convenient things ever. By signing up to Amazon’s paid membership scheme you get access to several different features, most of which to be honest I don’t even use! But for last minute shopping and for getting things in a hurry, its one-day delivery service is a godsend! The video streaming service is also quite good too! After a generous 6 month free trail, Student membership is £49 a year. This may seem like a lot of money to pay, but if you shop online a lot then it’s well worth the investment.

Bank Accounts

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Banks love to rope students in when they go to Uni as people rarely switch bank accounts when they have graduated. This means that they pull out all the stops to lure you in to a potential lifetime of banking with them. Whether it’s overdrafts than can stretch to £3,000 or a 4 year railcard, it’s well worth checking out your options.

BOB

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Whilst this might not look like a discount, it’s still an awesome way to use your student status to save a bit of money. Box of broadcasts (or BOB for short) is an online portal of on demand TV and radio from the past 10/15 years. Okay, so here’s where the discount comes in… because it’s a learning resource you don’t even need a TV licence to use it!

NUS

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The National Union of Students (NUS), famously sell student discount cards that can be used at various retailers up and down the country including the Co-Op. It’s £12 a year to have a card and it’s well worth it if you shop regularly at the places where they accept the card.

Unidays

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Unidays is NUS’ main rival in offering a one stop shop for student discounts. You can set up an account on the app for free and then you have access to loads of offers including ASOS and Missguided. A lot of NUS’ discounts are also available on Unidays but the main difference is that you Unidays doesn’t offer an option to get a physical membership card. Instead you have to enter a unique code every time you want to use a discount. A brilliant option for those who don’t shop too often.

Many more to discover

These suggestions are only the start of the discounts you could make! Normally shops publicise if they offer a discount or not, but there is no harm in just asking at the checkout if they offer one. You never know how much you could get off! Even if it’s just a few quid, it all adds up! So next time you’re out shopping, it’s worth having your student card in your wallet just in case!

 

New Year’s Resolutions never work! So why bother?

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It’s funny to think we’re coming to the end of 2017! For me this year has been an eventful and rewarding one for a lot of different reasons. My time abroad has been a massive part of that, but a lot of it is down to the goals that I set down at the start of this year…

If you’re ever in the very specific situation of being in Brisbane as a student, be aware that there are hardly any part time jobs! I spent months looking for a way to get some extra cash for my travels with limited success. Strangely enough I ended up working on several what I like to call “Rockstar jobs” whilst I was away. These were one-off jobs where companies just needed people to work for a day or so and that’s it. From supervising a cheese board in a penthouse hotel room, to giving away free frozen desserts, I found myself working at a lot of eventful (and random) places.

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One of the most memorable jobs I had was working for a sales company. The company specialised in face to face sales and I was allocated to work in the car wax department, selling products on petrol garage forecourts. I only ended up being in the job for a few days but I learnt a lot during that time. One of the main things I noticed was how positive and driven everybody was. People would arrive at work early and leave way after they were supposed to. They were all desperate to succeed by learning about how they could improve the following day.

An example of this was when I was in a session of theirs about making goals for next year. I was there around mid-November time 2016 and they were already planning for 2017!

This got me thinking.

Like most other people I made New Year’s resolutions. Something we all do every year as a withering self-promise that we can pick up our act over the next year and make some changes. For me at least, these never seemed to last and most of the time they went back to being idealistic, unresolved ideas within a few weeks.

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I was encouraged by one of my colleagues to not set up any resolutions for next year but make some realistic goals that I could achieve.

Whilst I didn’t achieve many goals involving selling car wax (sorry!), I really latched onto the rest of them. As a result I achieved the majority of the other goals I set. Here are a few highlights…

To act in a theatre production

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When I was studying abroad, my course didn’t involve much practical theatre work. So, I made sure that in 2017 I went for every show that I could.

I ended up acting in a show called “Dream a House”, which took an audience member on a journey through a dreamlike world. As a company, we made the show from scratch and it was an amazing experience.

I got to meet lots of local theatre makers and make some contacts who I’m still in contact with now! There’s constant talk of them reviving the show, but I’m not sure if I can let them seeing as I’m no longer in Australia…

To earn back the money I spent travelling

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Okay so it turns out that living and travelling around the world does cost a lot of money (who knew?!). So much so that at some point I knew that I had to face the music and get some money in. I got a bit of work in Australia, but my big break came when I got home. I got a Frontrunners Plus placement working at the Lakeside Theatre over the summer holidays. Not only was this brilliant to get some experience, but I also worked hard and earned a big chunk of my money back.

To be more fit

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This has always been one of those resolutions that I used to make and never tackle. It’s just always too cold in January to suddenly get up and go for a run…

So, with no running experience before, I impulsively signed up to a 5km fun run. This meant that I actually had to up my game.

I dedicated myself to 9 weeks training which was tough. I would often stalk my fan for 10 minutes when I got home to recover!

It all worked out in the end though as I ended up running the race in a respectable 26 minutes, which for a first timer I’m quite happy with! I would like to say that I’m now a keen runner but I’ve let myself go since I got back to chilly England. Perhaps this should be one of my 2018 goals?!

So on the 31st December this year I encourage you to do the following…

Forget the resolutions that you know you’ll never stick to and pick some things that you actually want to achieve in 2018. Then set them as your goals. It doesn’t matter if you don’t achieve all of them, just have something to work towards. You’ll thank yourself this time next year for it when you see what you’ve achieved!

 

​How did I end up at University?

After reading fellow blogger, Jordan’s post a little while back about his journey to University, it got me thinking…

How did I actually end up going to Uni?

Nobody in my family had been to University before and I could have easily chosen to do an apprenticeship or get a job following school.

In fact, I don’t think I can actually pinpoint a specific “magic moment” where I suddenly thought University is where I want to go.

For some reason, like many others, it just always seemed natural for me to study at University. I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do with my life so I guess I also saw an opportunity to discover what I was passionate about and what I wasn’t, but if I had to give a definite reason then I think it would be the chance to live as a student. The adventure of moving away from home for the first time, to somewhere where there was a lot going on really appealed to me.  In particular, the opportunity to study Drama at a higher level and make use of the contacts University gives you sounded perfect.

Ultimately though, everybody has different reasons for coming University or perhaps giving it a miss. Whether it’s for a specific subject or for specific facilities, the prospect of university is often an exciting one.

But at the end of it all, it is your choice and not one which should be taken lightly.

Trying to make the work/life balancing act work… I still don’t know the answer!

When I was in first year, a course mate in the year above me described how “second year is just like riding a bicycle’…

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Looking back as a (not so) wise third year, whilst I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was hell, it’s a pretty accurate description!

University life can be difficult to manage. This is especially true, considering that just studying for your degree isn’t the only thing on your mind. A vast majority of students are part of something at University, whether it be a part time job, sports teams, societies, volunteering etc.Then on top of that you need to socialise, eat, sleep and perhaps the occasional alcoholic beverage just to keep you sane!

In the end, it kind of just looks like this…

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Resulting in you looking a little like this…

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Now don’t get me wrong, a rare breed of student can balance it all successfully…

And to those people I salute you and give you a gold star.

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But for the average student, it’s just not possible to do it all. You can try to, but you’ll probably soon see that the “bicycle” is catching fire a little bit quicker than you think when deadlines come around.

Going from a calm relaxing week to one where you’ll have 4 deadlines due, 2 social events on and millions of other things on, is not uncommon.

Now I still haven’t mastered this and I don’t think anyone can really to an extent but here are my tips in trying to reach that elusive perfect balance…

Do something not nothing!

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Now I’m not saying don’t do anything. In fact that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. Doing something as well as your degree is always better than nothing. No matter how tempting it is to spend your days locked up in your room watching Netflix!

Don’t be afraid to get the balance wrong

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It’s okay to mess up and get the balance wrong every once in a while. You’re only human! If you feel like you’re not doing enough or you’re doing too much then remember that you always have a choice in doing what you want to do!

It’s physically impossible to do everything

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I definitely feel like I’ve learnt this the hard way.

See, I’m the kind of positive, go getting person who just goes for everything. Coming from a tiny village with little opportunities looking back to my first year as an eager eyed fresher, I was amazed by everything that I could do at Uni.

I’ve been part of societies, peer mentoring, course representatives, volunteering at the Lakeside Theatre, the list goes on. I would exhaust and stretch myself so much that I would have such little time off. Whilst I enjoyed what I was doing, in hindsight it probably wasn’t worth the stress!

Organise AND prioritise   

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This is probably what I’ve learnt from trying to do everything…

I thought that because I was organised with my diary to keep up to date with my life that I was doing everything right. In hindsight that was only half of the battle. I just wasn’t prioritising the stuff that I wanted to do!

By organising everything that you want to do and picking the things you want to prioritise, you soon start to see what’s important. If you’re truly passionate about something, then the choice should make sense in the long run.

So, whilst it may seem that the uncontrollable “burning bicycle” might be taking over your life, there are ways to deal with getting the balance right. It will be impossible to get the balance right all the time.

But by making a conscious effort, you can make things a whole lot better for yourself!

 

Top 10 places to visit in Essex

Being born and bred in the county, I am proud to say that I’m an Essex lad through and through. In fact up until this year, I have always lived in Essex!

From growing up around beautiful countryside and exciting towns, I can tell you first hand that there are loads of wonderful places to see in Essex.

So let me show you my top 10 Essex highlights, which you should definitely visit, if you haven’t already. (A.K.A. the places where I was dragged along to for days out as a kid, but have grown to love over the years!)

1) Finchingfield

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This adorable little place has often been described as “a chocolate box village”. It’s a great example of a traditional English village with a backdrop to match. The peaceful lake and green fields in the centre of the village makes this the perfect spot for afternoon tea in the Summer!

 

2) Hedingham Castle

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This traditional Norman keep is just down the road from where I grew up and I have lots of fond memories of going to its regular jousting days and exploring the different floors of the castle.

However, one of my favourite things about the castle is that the Globe Theatre visits the attraction each year. The company puts on a production of a different Shakespeare play each summer with the Castle acting as a stunning backdrop!

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3) Lakeside Shopping Centre and Retail Park

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Being the biggest shopping centre in the Essex, Lakeside is the perfect place for your inner shopaholic! There are countless shops and restaurants here to enjoy, with a wide choice to choose from.

 

4) Southend-on-Sea 

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Home to the University of Essex’s second biggest campus, Southend-on-Sea is the perfect place for a trip to the seaside.

It’s also home to the longest pleasure pier in the world. It’s so long in fact that there is actually a purpose-built railway which takes people to the pier head and back. However, there is also the option to walk the 1.34 miles if you prefer!

 

5) Walton-on-the-Naze

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Speaking of Essex’s beautiful coastline, Walton-on-the-Naze is another pristine example! In particular, the coastal walk from the Naze Tower to the town itself is well worth a wander.

Don’t forget to treat yourself to the seaside tradition of a 99 flake from the ice cream van when you’ve finished the walk!

 

6) Olympic Mountain Biking Track

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When London hosted the Summer Olympics in 2012, Essex played its part by hosting the Mountain biking event. Based in Hadleigh, the track is still there for the public to visit and try for themselves on the same track where Olympians pushed for glory a few years previous.

 

7) Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

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Despite the place being not so secret these days, the bunker was originally designed during the cold war when the threat of nuclear war was high. Now open as a museum, you can now explore the whole bunker where the government planned to be based in the Southeast in the event of an attack.

This attraction is also quite interesting in getting an insight into what life looked like 20/30 years ago. This is due to the bunker’s appearance not changing since it being decommissioned in the early 1990’s.

 

8) Tiptree Jam Factory

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Home to the famous English jam, the Tiptree Jam Factory is the perfect place to see how this famous English staple is created!

The museum, based in the original factory where the jam is still made to this day, shows you how its popular preserves have been made since 1865.

However, no visit is complete without a trip to the factory’s tearooms and trying out the jam for yourself!

 

9) Colchester Zoo

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Specialising in endangered animals, Colchester Zoo is ranked as one of the best Zoo’s in the country. With the opportunity to see some of the animals up close and feed them, the short trip from the Colchester campus is most definitely worth it!

 

10) Mercury Theatre

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One of my personal Essex favourites is Colchester’s Mercury Theatre. The venue puts on several of its own shoes each year whilst also regularly attracting visiting professional companies as well. There’s always something different on, whether it be theatre, dance or stand up comedy, there’s bound to be something on that’s worth seeing!

So…

if you feel inspired to visit the places I’ve recommended (and fancy winning up to £500 of summer days out), make sure you take some photos of your visit. Essex Business School is giving you the chance to bag entry to top London and Essex attractions for you and a friend in their Instagram competition to find Essex’s Best Youth Tourist Attraction.

To enter, post a pic of your favourite place to visit in Essex on your Instagram, name the attraction in your comment and use #essexyouthtourism for your chance to win. Make sure you tag @essexebs and follow them to find out the winner. You must be aged 16 to 25 to enter and you have until 18 May to post your pic.

The most photographed attraction will be crowned Essex’s Best Youth Tourist Attraction 2017. The most creative, inspirational or just plain pretty photo will win the summer prize package.

The competition celebrates the launch of the new BSc Tourism Management degree at the Southend Campus, which is open for 2017 entries.

Why Summer Term at Essex is the best time of the year!

Despite the constant dread of exams, summer term is probably the best time of the year! Gone is the threat of frost and freezing winds as Essex welcomes in sunshine and longer nights.

Here are a few things which make Summer term at Essex special…

Chilling by the lakes

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One of my favourite places on campus during the summer months is the lakes! This probably has something to do with memories of post exam chills by the lakes. Something which kind of became a tradition with my friends on my course. There’s nothing better than relaxing with your mates in the sun congratulating yourselves on an exam well done or getting your spirits back up after getting some bad questions!

 

Awards season

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Whether you’re part of sports, societies, volunteering, the ISA or work for the SU, the summer term has a host of different awards evenings. These are all held to celebrate the hard work and achievements of the past year and are a really nice way to finish the year in style.

Last year, I went to the Society awards and the SU staff awards and I had a really good time!

Eurovision

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One of my guilty pleasures is watching the Eurovision Song Contest every year. Its combination of catchy songs, witty commentary and nail biting voting make it something to look forward to when revising!

Each year, a hoard of students pile into the SU bar for the show. The bar also makes a real effort in decorating the everywhere with flags, free face painting and special drinks from each of the participating countries. Combined with students from all over the world rooting for their home countries, it’s always a night to remember (even if the UK’s entry flops every year!)

You tend to make the most of things!

If you’ve been itching to go to have a go at Frisbee golf or make an effort for the weekly SU quiz, then Summer term is the time to do so! Before all your friends either go home for the summer or graduate, this term is your opportunity to make the most of things! So, go for it!

Essex’s Got Talent

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Ran every year by the Theatre Arts Society, Essex’s Got Talent is pretty much everything that you expect! Not too dissimilar to its national counterpart, whether you’re a stand-up comedian or a street dancer, the competition is the chance for anyone to show off their talents. This is all set  in front of dozens of people on the squares on a summer’s day. The top 3 entries also win prizes, so it’s well worth having a go! Keep an eye out for dates soon!

End of the year celebrations

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Some of the major highlights of the Essex academic year are right at the end of the year; The End and Summer Ball. Both are strong Essex traditions and are well worth the wait! The relaxed nature of The End, quickly followed by the sophistication of Summer Ball, make for the perfect send off before the reality of normal life outside of University hits!

I hope this has got you excited to come back to Essex and has inspired you to make the most of some of the best weeks of the University calendar!

Why Essex was my first choice

If you’re familiar to the Harry Potter film series, then I liken finding the right University to finding the right wand for yourself. You may think that you know what you want but ultimately “the wand chooses the wizard”.

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I’ve got to be honest, Essex was not initially my first choice when I was looking at Universities. In fact, it was not even on my radar as somewhere where I wanted to study. It was too close to home and I was dead set on studying Drama somewhere like London, where there are countless theatres and loads of things to do.

However, I went on a day trip with my Sixth Form to the Colchester campus and it was surprisingly good. Me and my mates had a really cool day looking around the place, seeing what University life had to offer.

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So, when it came to organising Open Days, I just put Essex on the to visit list on a whim. It was quite a cool campus and I thought that it would be a decent benchmark to compare other universities to.

It ended up not only setting the benchmark for me but actually setting it so damn high that I couldn’t top it. No matter how hard I tried to find faults in the University….

However, despite my reluctance, my little brother always knew where I should go. He always loves coming to visit me at Uni because he got given a free bag of popcorn from the SU on the open day. I often remind him that it was only for the open day and we don’t get free popcorn all the time at Uni!

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Little by little, as I came for my interview for Essex, my dream of studying in London started to crumble as I fell in love with the idea of campus life at Essex. Suddenly, it’s distance from home and the fact that it was a train ride to London didn’t matter anymore.

Essex had the right course for me, good theatres on its doorstep and an irresistibly good feel to the place. In better words, it felt like somewhere where I could actually imagine spending the next few years of my life.

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While Essex may not be everybody’s first choice, there’s one thing which remains the same: choosing your first-choice University is always a big commitment and a big decision to make. It will most likely take a lot of time, thought and effort. But in the end, the choice will be obvious once you realise that your first choice is somewhere where you will be happy.

That’s when, like the wands, the “University chooses the student”.

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Perry’s Essex Abroad travelling experience

So for the past few months, some could say that I was living the dream. If studying abroad in Brisbane wasn’t enough, a three month University summer break from November to February meant that I could travel across Oceania and Asia.

It was kind of like a mini-gap year experience as I visited 7 countries and spent 79 days on the road.

And if you’re wondering what that would look like, well it looks a little like this…

Now if that was all a bit quick then let me tell you about each stop of my journey…

Sydney

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The first stop on my journey was a hop down the coast to Sydney. Here me and my friends did the obvious tourist attractions, went to Bondi Beach and hung out in cool secret bars.

Fun fact: I have now been to the Sydney Opera House more times than the man who designed it. Jørn Utzon, the designer of the Sydney Opera House, never actually visited the finished building after falling out with the government at the time over escalating costs.

South East Coast Road Trip!

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Instead of flying straight down to Melbourne, we took the long way down taking the time to over 1,000 km in the space of just over a week.

So we hired cars and camped along the way as we saw the Blue Mountains, Wilson’s Prom and The Great Ocean Road. We also conquered (the almost impossible to pronounce) Mount Kosciuszko, the tallest mountain in Australia.

Fun Fact: Wilson’s Prom, a beautiful national park on a peninsula is the southernmost point of mainland Australia. It was here where we bumped into a womenswear photo shoot on a deserted beach and unintentionally got used for a few practice shots!

Melbourne

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Melbourne is probably one of my favourite cities in Australia. Although this time around we were only there for a few days, its street art and alleyways were enchanting!

Here we stayed in an apartment in the city centre for a few days which was perfect! One day we even had a mini Christmas day where we cooked a roast dinner, played games and watched movies. It may have been 6th December but we had to make use of having a place to ourselves in the festive period!

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Fun Fact: We were lucky enough to have our apartment overlooking one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, Hosier Lane. Whilst we were there, we saw a new piece of art being created in the pouring rain. This may be Banksy or some other big name street artist but we’ll never know!

Tasmania

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I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Tasmania before I went. I wasn’t that fussed about going but my friends dragged me along and I was so glad that I went!

This Australian state isn’t massive compared to its mainland counterparts but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up in terms of beauty!

We took a week to explore this marvellous landscape in two groovy camper vans…

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Fun Fact: Whilst in Tasmania, we spent the day scaling Cradle Mountain, ranked as one of Australia’s most beautiful places by Lonely Planet.

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This was an exciting stop on our trip as it was the first time that we had left Australia!

Here we spent 3 weeks exploring the whole country on the Kiwi experience tour bus, spending a day or two in each town along the way.

It was a jam packed few weeks full of bungee jumping, street luging, lakes, mountains, Lord of the Rings, Maori Culture, hiking… I could go on!

This was also our destination for the festive season including Christmas Day and New Years which was exciting and very different to back home! I don’t think Christmas day barbecues on the beach will be much of a feature in many more Christmases to come!

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Fun Fact: One of the last attractions that we visited in New Zealand was the Hobbiton movie sets which were used in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. There are 44 hobbit holes dug into the side of the hill and you walk exactly the same steps that the characters made in the film. Even though I have yet to see any of the films it was used for (pathetic really I know), it’s amazing to see the lengths movies go to to create their sets.

Fiji

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Fiji was a welcome rest from the exhausting action packed New Zealand. Days generally consisted of exploring tiny little islands, laying in a hammock, going snorkelling in the reef and playing Beach Volleyball.

It was a struggle, it really was.

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Fun fact: The above picture was taken on the island where the Tom Hanks film Castaway was filmed. Despite it being another film which I have not yet seen (I should really watch some more films…), the ocean views more than made up for it!

Australian Open (Melbourne)

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With a few days before the Asia leg of my trip, I couldn’t resist going to back to Melbourne for a few days for the Australian Open whilst the others recuperated back in Brisbane!

If you haven’t heard of it, the Australian Open is one of the biggest and most important Tennis tournaments in the world! It’s basically Australia’s version of Wimbledon!

I had a ground pass for the first three days of the tournament, which allowed me to see players like Kei Nishikori, Gael Monflis and Alexander Zverv amongst others.

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Fun fact: The last match I saw, I had front row seats for the Brit Dan Evans and his win against world no.7 Marin Cilic. The win which was very unexpected for Evans and played a massive part in the player’s best ever run in a Grand Slam.

Vietnam

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Vietnam was definitely something else! It was my first time in Asia and it was probably unlike anywhere where I had been before with crazy moped drivers and a unrecognisable language to deal with!

We only had 10 days in the country, so we didn’t have much time to waste! We visited the two main cities; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and visited congested alleyways, beautiful bays, peaceful villages and some really interesting war museums!

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Fun fact: We were lucky enough for our visit to the country  to coincide with the Lunar New Year celebrations. When we explored Hanoi in particular, we witnessed a lot of traditions which take place at this time of year. One of which is burning fake money for good luck. Unfortunately some of these notes don’t get burnt and get taken by the wind, leaving them on the pavement somewhere! The amount of times I thought that I had found some money on the floor only for it to be fake was heartbreaking!

Cambodia

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If you thought that we rushing through Vietnam in 10 days was bad enough then we (somehow) managed to squeeze Cambodia into 4! It took a lot of precision and planning to get it right but we did it with time to spare!

We spent one day in the capital Phonm Penh learning about the country’s devastating recent history and the rest of the time at Siem Reap where the famous Angkor Wat Temple complex is located.

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(Not so) fun fact: During the genocides in the country throughout the 1970’s, it is estimated that around 2 million people died. That’s around a quarter of the country’s population. Seeing the prisons and the fields in Phonm Penh where these people were killed was incredibly powerful and touching.

Malaysia

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Malaysia was kind of an unintentional stop on our journey as we were only there for a few hours whilst waiting for our connecting flight. However, this didn’t stop us from getting out and about and exploring the wonderful city of Kuala Lumpur.

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Fun Fact: The Petronas towers are the tallest twin skyscrapers in the world and it was cool to see them right up close! Even if the observation deck was closed on the day that we visited!

And that’s it for the quick whistle stop tour of my travels!

It was a great experience and I would encourage everyone to take the time to do a trip like this if you can!

Thank you to all of the brilliant people that I travelled with and everyone who I met along the way 🙂