Leaving home: coping with nerves and homesickness

Leaving home is never easy. You may have spent numerous waking hours hoping to get out of the family home and live independently but that doesn’t mean that homesickness or nerves can kick in.

Homesickness is hard to define but probably affects more people than you would think. We love our homes (even when we say we don’t) and to suddenly spend time away from your comforts and the routine that you’re used to can be difficult. In fact it is estimated that nearly half of students at university will suffer from homesickness and nerves.

It is not a sign of weakness. In fact it is hugely natural and is a feeling that will pass in time.

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(c) Alamy

Firstly if you are unsure what your accommodation will be like and that makes your nervous then take a look at the website and the 360 degree room tours: http://www.essex.ac.uk/accommodation/residences/default.aspx

Next, at Essex you are able to get in contact with your future flatmates in advance of moving in day. Once you’ve got your room details you can join the accommodation’s Facebook and announce who you are and where you’re staying and let your new flatmates get in touch and introduce themselves. Follow the website, click on the accommodation then scroll down to the Facebook groups: http://www.essex.ac.uk/accommodation/residences/default.aspx

Make your new room homely. When you move in it will be a blank canvas, so consider bringing or eventually buying things that will make it feel like home to you. Of course make sure you don’t break the rules as to what you can and can’t bring to the university, but certainly try and add a touch of your personality to your room. Remember you may potentially be spending a fair amount of time in your room so make sure it feels comfortable to you.

Additionally:

  • Try talking to others about your concerns- they may be able to offer help and advice.
  • Avoid “over-contacting” home. It may be tempting to contact home but during the first few weeks when homesickness kicks in contacting home can actual make you feel worse, so try not to do it too much at first.
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Sometimes calling home is not the best option when you’re homesick (c) shmoop.com

  • Get a routine- having a new routine can help to quickly banish those nerves and feelings of homesickness.
  • Join a society- in addition to your routine, joining an on campus club or society will put you in the company of other students and is a great way to meet friends as well as taking part in the things you enjoy.

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY: remember it will eventually pass, so don’t let it ruin your experience. It is natural to be nervous of the new and the unknown but soon it will become familiar to you.

Let’s get social: what to do and where to go!

SU Bar

The SU Bar is the Holy Grail of student life here. I feel like, in some way, it is the heart of the uni. There are times where after a lecture or an exam you just need to relax, and the SU Bar is perfect for that. It’s always nice to get a pint after a hard day of work. The comfy couches are definitely a plus! If you need something a bit more lively, you can always go to Milk It and sing karaoke with people – it is literally the most fun ever!

Sub Zero/Base

If you are a dancer or a clubber, you will love Sub Z and Base. The music is always on point and you can dance the night away. There is also an area to sit down and to have a chat, or you can even go outside and get some fresh air after dancing all night. People are very friendly here and it is easy to strike up a conversation and make new friends.

Happy Days/Frango’s/Fusion/Canteen

I literally cannot tell you how many times I have made new friends just while waiting for my food! I think I get most talkative when I am hungry and I think this is proven by the fact that I met 2 of my closest friends while waiting for food in Happy Days 😀 It was a match made in heaven (heaven = Happy Days)!

Squares

The squares are literally always buzzing with life – day and night. During the day you might join an African bongo band and play away, or at night you might join a group of people and enjoy the night with them – university makes it strangely easy to interact with people. There were numerous times when I had no plan for the night, I went to the store to get something and I ended up sitting in Square 3 with a group of people that are still, to this day, my friends!

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!

A letter to EU and International students: leaving home and arriving in Colchester

Dear EU and International students,

I am sure you are very excited to join our international family of students and staff, but there may also be some nerves kicking in at the thought of leaving your home and the country you have grown up in. It wasn’t long ago that I was getting ready to leave my home to start University here. I remember I was so scared – all the way from applying for the course to taking the bus to the University in October was terrifying. But when I actually arrived and saw all the freshers and all the people that greeted us and helped us, I felt so relieved. It may sound strange to you, but seeing all those people, all the nationalities and cultures, and all the chaos that goes along with the first day, I just felt this sense of belonging because I knew that everyone felt that the same way as I did; the university was here to help us in any way they could, so that we all felt as at home here as possible. In just the first week, we had like three international student socials! It was held in The Hex and you could meet fellow students from all over the world.

During Welcome Week, there are loads of events put on, everything from disco nights and introductory lectures to people putting stalls up in the squares to get to know the freshers.

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But the most famous of all events during Welcome Week is the Fresher’s Fair. It is THE event of the week. You go to the squares, or should I say squeeze yourself to the fresher’s fair, because there are so many people it’s unbelievable. Across the 5 squares, you will see nothing else than stalls everywhere and just loads…like LOADS of people. Each stall represents a different organisation, society or sports club. That includes stalls from, for example, the Red Cross, the Rugby Team all the way to the Romanian Society. Meaning if by any chance you are struggling to find friends, just join a society, team or organisation and there you go! 20 to 50 instant friends! Also, if you are not into any sport or activity society, you can join societies of your own nationality! And if by any chance (a very small chance I might add) there is not a society for yours, you can always create one.

If you have doubts even after all I have told you, don’t worry. I have the ultimate ace up my sleeve…we are the 15th most international university in the WORLD. Not even in England, in the whole wide WORLD!

Lastly and most importantly, please remember that if you feel anxious or even scared, there are thousands of people feeling just like you and they are heading to Essex just like you. We are here for you and ready to help you in any way, shape or form. We are all one family.

Yours truly,

Dragos

My 6 Top Places to Visit in Essex

Hello! I am originally from Chelmsford in Essex and decided to study in Colchester. This blog is going to tell you some of my favourite things to do around Essex, so you can take a break from revision, get out of Colchester and explore! I am going to include maps so you can see roughly how long it takes to get to the places from uni and also hyperlinks so you can easily access the webpages for more information on things to do, prices and times. I am going to start with my home town, Chelmsford.

  • Chelmsford

Chelmsford’s town centre is a bit bigger than Colchester, with two small shopping centres and a brand new shopping complex with John Lewis, many new restaurants and also an Everyman cinema (which has sofas, a bar and you can order food while you watch a movie). I enjoy Chelmsford for shopping and also eating out because there are lots of options.

There is also Hylands Park, which is home to V Festival that takes place every August. It is a weekend festival and I would really recommend going if you have the chance! Apart from the festival they hold regular events and also have a cafe, where you can grab lunch or an ice cream. It’s a nice place to have a picnic and chill on a hot day! Oaklands Park is another nice area to relax in and there is also a Museum, which is free to enter. They hold events occasionally, such as a Photographic Exhibition, Coins and Tokens, Social History and 1950s Fashion: A Decade of Glamour.

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  • Southend-On-Sea

Southend-On-Sea is around 1 hours drive away, or 2 hours by public transport. There is a seven mile coastline and places to get ice cream and a traditional fish and chips, a proper British experience! There is also a theme park called Adventure Island. It is not as big as other theme parks in England, however it is still a fun day out! Southend also has sea life centre close to the beach and it is home to the longest pier in the world, so it’s worth a visit!

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  • Frinton-On-Sea

This is probably my favourite beach in Essex. It has the best sand and a nice atmosphere with beach huts along the back. It is a great place to play games on the beach and has been awarded for its cleanliness, which is always a plus! There is also a grass area behind the beach that overlooks the sea, a great place for a picnic or a ball game.

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  • Dedham

Dedham is situated in the countryside and has an old traditional high street with an Arts and Craft Centre and wooden beam houses. There is an impressive 15th century Church in the middle of the village. Boats can be hired to explore the Stour River and many walks can be taken to venture into the countryside. There are restaurants to visit, which can be luxury, a traditional pub or a nice tea room. Wine tasting is also available at Dedham Vale Vineyard.

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  • Brentwood

This is the most well-known place for The Only Way is Essex TV show (TOWIE). However, you won’t walk around the streets seeing the cast! There is a main high street for shopping, but there are also activities to do just outside of the town centre. They have dry ski slopes where you can have lessons, or if you already know how to ski or snowboard then you can go to have fun. If you don’t want to face skiing or snowboarding, then they also have tubing, this is where you go down the slopes in a rubber ring, a lot of fun!  On the same complex there is also Go-Karting and a great Chinese buffet restaurant called Izumi.

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  • Saffron Walden

If you’re looking for something a bit more cultural then the English Heritage site Audley End House and Gardens might be something you enjoy. It costs £12.10 for a concession ticket or £13.40 for an adult. It is a mansion house with gardens, a stable and place to get food and drink is also available. They also hold events, so keep an eye on their website for any events coming up!

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I hope this gives you some ideas of what to do around Essex. If you don’t have a car then check out Trainline and National Express for ways to get around 🙂

Best places to study on campus

Ah yes, the student life. Studying day and night. And since you can’t be locked up in your room all the time, you need a good place to study!

Of course, there is the Library, where you might spend most of your time. I sure do – all day, every day. Don’t get me wrong, our library is great – 5 floors of pure goodness + undergraduate and postgraduate reading rooms; but it does get boring and repetitive sometimes. So here are a few alternative places where you might enjoy studying instead

Student Centre

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Our new Student Centre is amazing. Truly. It is open 24/7 and there for the taking. That means that you can go there at 4 am like it’s no big deal (not that you would…).

On the ground floor, it’s full of computers and study pods with projectors, where you might enjoy studying with friends. The pods are also separated by plastic walls you can draw on! How cool is that?! On the second floor there are loads of computers, but also individual study spaces for you to use and enjoy. If you do not like sitting at a desk, don’t worry; there are a bunch of sofas there as well for us lazy ones.

Zest/Orangery

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Located on Square 3, Zest is a vibrant and stylish café and is a great place to visit during the day with your friends. They offer breakfast, cakes, Costa coffee (the best), tea and loads of other drinks ranging from presses to bottled drinks.

Adjoining Zest is the very-helpful Orangery, which features study pods just like in the Student Centre. What is different about these pods, though, is the fact that you can enjoy all the beverages and food that you buy at Zest, right in your pod! So if you fancy a coffee or tea, want to study but you’re not really feeling the SC or the Library – pop in here and enjoy the café vibes while you study. You won’t regret it!

North Teaching Centre

Our new North Teaching Centre is located right in between the North Towers, therefore it is very easily accessible by people who live in the North Towers or Houses. There are a bunch of classrooms there and while you might not be able to access them while there is a lecture, you can always be in the hallway. Yep. You read that right. Right as you go up the stairs, on whichever floor, there are big tables next to the wall with screens mounted on the wall so you may use them as you wish. They are great for a group study session or if you just need more space for your materials. And as I mentioned, they are located right in BETWEEN North Towers, so if you are going to live there next year, you can just pop down there in your pyjamas and study (we don’t judge).

Squares

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Ah yes, the ever-so-busy squares. There have been multiple times where I have seen people sitting on the benches on Square 3, or sitting on the ex-fountain-garden top on Square 4 and studied, especially when it’s very sunny outside. Truth to be told, I would not be able to study there since it very busy and I can’t even hear a fly when I am studying, but hey – different strokes for different folks, as they say.

SU Bar

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Our beloved SU Bar is always full on action. Whether it’s a lazy Saturday morning and they have live music sessions, or if it is a wild karaoke night, you can always count on the SU Bar. Some people, after they are done with their classes, go to the Bar, get a coffee and work on their writing while watching a football match on TV or something of that sort. I have to say, it is quite calming to know that coffee is literally five steps away from where you work.

Now that I have mentioned just a few places to study at our University, I hope all of you will be motivated to work even more and make your uni family proud! Now go and get those firsts!

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 🙂

5 reasons why I love the University of Essex

As I prepare to wrap up my time at Essex *cries uncontrollably* a lot of things have been coming to mind. Three years have passed exceptionally quickly and now I’ve written my last essay (my 16th essay at Essex), sat my last exam, submitted my dissertation and ordered my gown for graduation it has now become all the more real that my time here is ending.

Looking back, these are the reasons that I fell in love with Essex in the first place and why it continues to get under my skin.

Diverse Community

Essex was recently declared the 15th most internationally diverse in the world with 44% of the student population coming from abroad. As a result there is a wonderful mix of cultures on campus, most of whom have their own society which is open to anyone wanting to learn more about their culture (and cuisine!).

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Architecture 

Ok, so it is not everyone’s taste- but come on, concrete was exceptionally fashionable in the 1960’s when the university was built. But brutalist architecture I find strangely interesting, and mix this with the other fantastic (and award winning) buildings on campus then you have some incredible buildings to study in.

Thursday Market

I blame this market for making a dent in my student finance loans! On Thursday the market is a must to pick up bargains and delicious food. Think books, bread, burgers, fruit and veg, sweets, fish, cakes, and CD’s and you’re generally in the right area of what is on offer and how lucky we are to have this on campus!

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Module Variety 

I’ve probably mentioned before that just because you study a particular degree doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same as a similar degree at another university. You have the option to pick modules that suit your interests and one of the reasons that made me choose Essex was the fantastic variety of module on offer. This meant that I could select the modules that I was interested in and wanted to know more about.

Supportive Staff

There is a greater emphasis at university for independent study and performing your own research, but that doesn’t mean that you are left on your own. The staff in your department and across the wider support network are some of the most caring, supportive and friendly people that you’ll ever meet. They are people that you can moan to, laugh and converse with- and their passion for their work is contagious.

I can’t put into words every single reason why I love Essex as much as I do – there aren’t enough hours in the day! But I will say I’m incredibly proud to be an Essex finalist and will miss this place when I’m gone!

Living in halls after your first year

Oh, our lovely campus!

Our uni offers a wide range of accommodation, aiming to match any taste. It is common knowledge that all first-year undergraduates get campus accommodation and following that most just choose to move off campus. But what happens with those that wish to stay?

Under specific circumstances, the uni still offers priority to you. Are you an international student? You are in luck! You will get priority and will have high chances of staying on campus for your second/final year. Additionally, if you are coming back from a year abroad, you still benefit from this priority.

Don’t seem to have any of the above traits? Have no fear, there is still a chance for you! Although first years have absolute priority, the uni holds a certain number of rooms for second/final year students and postgraduates. Sadly, the applications for next year have closed, but, for future reference, it is a very good idea to sign up as soon as the applications start. The system works on a first come first serve basis, so don’t wait for too long if you wish to secure your room!

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Phew! We got that one covered. What’s left now is, well, what to expect. I know most of you are thinking: “Ugh, am I gonna have to live with freshers again?” Thankfully, no! The uni does everything possible so that freshers and ‘non-freshers’ do not share the same flat.

“Ok, well what about the atmosphere?”

I happen to know a lot of second and third years that still stay on campus, and it is always fun to hear their stories. Most say that the flats are very quiet as most give up the nightlife for extra study time, or extra sleep (yes, I am talking about you postgraduates). Likewise, many others say they love it because it is ridiculously close to everything on campus.

For me, this is the second year I’ve spent in Towers, and so far, it has been a unique experience! It has had its ups and downs for sure, but looking back on it, I don’t regret a thing.  What do you think? Would you consider staying on campus for another year? Let me know in the comments below!

 

The Essex student experience and how you can make the most of it

There are so many reasons why Essex has given me an amazing student experience, but here are just a few things available that can help your time here to be as good as you’d hoped!

  • The Clubs and Societies

This is a huge part of the Essex experience and the majority of students are signed up to at least one. From the Cheese and Wine Society to the Harry Potter Society, there are loads of societies to try out and get involved in – you may even surprise yourself with what you end up really enjoying! Meanwhile, sports clubs range from things like Ultimate Frisbee to Cheerleading, so there really is something for everyone. Whether you have played before,  or you want to try something completely new, clubs are open to all levels and abilities! Societies are currently £5 to join and it is completely free to join a sports club, so you might as well give something a go! Not only is this a great opportunity to try something totally new, joining clubs and societies is also the perfect way to make friends with similar interests to you – and what would your uni experience be without a huge group of friends to enjoy it with?!

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  • Jobs on campus

Whilst some people don’t really want extra work on top of their studies, earning extra pennies does help you in lots of other areas of student life. Whilst the thought of a job might turn your stomach now, the feeling of not having enough money for food or a night out with your friends is even worse, so it’s something to consider! In your first year you may not hear a lot about jobs on campus, however if you are interested I would recommend you looking online  before you arrive; the Employability and Careers centre is a good place to start! http://www.essex.ac.uk/life/facilities/careers.aspx.

The campus itself has a range of student jobs available; from Frontrunner positions, Student Ambassador roles, internships, bar staff jobs, to retail assistant jobs and many more! The applications for these generally open before the beginning of each term, however occasionally they pop up throughout the term too.

Not only does a job get you that much needed extra cash to do more fun things in your free time, you are also adding to your CV and therefore making yourself more employable. Essex has really helped to build my CV and now I am close to graduating I realise how much the jobs I’ve had here have helped me to develop my skills.

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  • Living in Student Accommodation

As I am from Chelmsford, I was able to live at home and commute to university. However, in my first year I chose to live on campus in South Courts and I am now living in North Towers for my final year. I am so glad that I didn’t just live at home throughout my time here! Living in accommodation introduced me to so many new friends, as well as helping me to become so much more independent. Living on campus means that you don’t miss out on the crazy stories or deep chats that only happen at 3am when you’ve just got back from Sub Zero; it means that you can form proper friendships and don’t have to plan in advance if you want to spend time together after a lecture! The awful cooking experiments, getting ready for a night out all together, and hanging out until the early hours of the morning are some of the best and most memorable times you will have at uni – they are not to be missed!

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  • Sub Zero

Sub Zero is a big part of the Essex experience for many students. It is the club on campus that is generally open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Sports Fed is a big event that takes place there every Wednesday and I feel like that has been a huge part of my experience at Essex. It is a great way to get away from studying, do some crazy dancing, and have a fun night with your friends.

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  • Year Abroad

If it wasn’t for Essex I wouldn’t have been able to go to Australia on my year abroad. The Essex Abroad team were a great help and Essex offering free tuition for that year made it really affordable to go.

I can’t tell you how amazing and life-changing this experience is – just go and experience it for yourself! You’ll thank me later!

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  • Being so international

With students from over 140 different countries studying at Essex, all students benefit from a really diverse environment. I have met people from all over the world, who I know I will stay in contact with and would love to visit in the future. It has made me more culturally aware and I have learnt a lot about different languages and different ways of living. Embracing this diversity just broadens your mind and your knowledge. My experience here at Essex wouldn’t have been the same and I would have never learnt so much about the world if it wasn’t for how wonderfully cultural the campus is.

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I could go on forever, but these are just a few things that make the Essex experience so great!