The things I wished I’d know about university before starting: Busting the four big myths about university

If you have a strong, preconceived idea about what life will be like at university then this blog may ruin that. If however, you are happy to have those ideas challenged then continue reading. Essentially this is what I wished I’d known about university all the way back when I was a young and naive fresher.mythbusting-min

Myth: Students drink and party all the time

Truth: I would be lying if I said students didn’t drink, of course they do. As someone who doesn’t drink that often, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in at university or that people would pressure me to drink. But that didn’t happen, in fact people have been very accepting. There are tons of people who don’t drink and there are tons of people who do, so there will always be people in the same position as you.

While I can’t speak for other universities, at Essex a great deal of effort goes into ensuring that there is a good mix between events that involve drinking and those that don’t. So there should be something for everyone.

Myth: You’ll meet you best friend on the first day

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Truth: Unfortunately there are no guarantees of this. University is a big place with thousands of people, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to “click” with people. I met someone who I regard as one of my closest friends during the first week of term and the rest of my friendship group evolved over a number of months.

It has certainly been romanticised that you’ll move in or arrive on your first day and meet your new best friend. Having spoken to a number of people this isn’t always the case, but don’t be disheartened as you’ll make friends eventually.

Myth: Everyone will be smarter than me

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Truth: Don’t sell yourself short. Everyone will have come from different backgrounds and will have learnt different things. As an English Literature student I’ve found that the Literature I studied at school is different from the Literature that someone else studied- yet we both have an A-level in Literature.

There will be people who have extensive knowledge in certain areas, but then you might outwit them in another area. Remember one of the points of first year is to get everyone up to the same level of knowledge.

Myth: You have to buy everything before you arrive

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Truth: No! No! No! No! Ok, so you may think that you are a whizz in the kitchen but even Gordon Ramsey doesn’t need six toasters and three kettles!

Firstly, check what the university provides (normally listed on the accommodation pages). Secondly, check if your university allows you to contact your new house/ flat mates- this is something that you can do at Essex and is a great way to make initial introductions and arrange what to bring for communal use. Thirdly, don’t forget that shops exist! So you don’t need to bring a weeks worth of food, a years supply of clothes and all the bedding to last a lifetime. Quite simply you can save space in the car by thinking ahead for the less essential things and buying them at a later date – panic over!

Essay writing tips from a uni student

Essay writing is a huge part of university life and no one enjoys doing them. This blog is going to give you tips on how to write a good essay and avoid more stress!

Make sure you keep your work organised

Throughout the year you should create a folder for each module, so that all of your work is in one place. Lecture notes are usually really useful for writing essays, as they sometimes give you hints and tips throughout the lectures. The lecturer is likely to give extra information that you can write down, instead of just reading the lecture slides.

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Plan your essay

You can do this by first destructing the question. After this, read the recommended reading that is usually found on Moodle and pick out any key and information and quotes that are relevant to the essay question.

You can then write bullet point notes under headings. The essay should start with an introduction, outlining what the essay will be about and how it will be structured. This will be followed by the main part of the essay with your arguments. Finally, a conclusion should be made at the end, summarising your assignment and what your final answer is. However, this structure can change between departments, so make sure you double check with yours!

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Presentation

The presentation of your assignment can actually sometimes gain you marks. In your module outline it should mention how they expect you to format your essay. For example, this could include font, font size, line spacing and whether to include page numbers. Also make sure that your paragraphs make sense and always check your spelling and grammar.

References

The way you reference depends on your department, so you should check your module outline for this. Many students use Harvard referencing style, which involves in-text referencing, using the surname of the author/s, date it was published and sometimes the page number in brackets. There is also a reference list needed at the end, which includes all of your references in full. There are many website online that show you how to do this, or some even do it for you!

Time management

Many students cram writing an essay in the night before it’s due. However, this is not the best idea because if you need to find references in the library or you need to ask your lecturer or teacher a question, then it is too late! Also it is best to have time to plan your essay and have time to thoroughly look for good and valid references. By giving yourself time, you can still socialise without worrying about the 3000 word essay you have to write.

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I hope that this has helped you to understand a bit more about essay writing at Uni standard!

Making Big Life Choices: Getting Past the Fear

Leaving uni is another big step and new chapter of your life. It is moving out of your comfort zone and starting something new. Are you worried about getting a job after uni? Or wondering whether you want to do a Masters? There are many options out there for you to choose from, so it can be a bit daunting, but this blog is here to help you get over that!

Fear of losing fun.

University is possibly one of the most fun times of your life and you may feel that once you leave uni you will miss out and no longer have any fun. However, having a job means that you will have a regular income and you can save up to do fun things with your friends, such as go on exciting, exotic holidays which you may not be able to afford to do at uni!

Increase your savings

Fear of getting a job that you’re unhappy with.

This is why it is good to get an internship, frontrunner placement or part-time job whilst at uni. This way you can filter out what you like and dislike within a working environment. For example, you can find out if you hate working in an office environment, or you may love it!

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What if I don’t get a job at all?

You should start looking in to jobs at the beginning of your final year at uni. Many graduate schemes open around this time and the job usually starts in the September after you graduate. If you get a graduate scheme then this will take the pressure off you throughout the year, knowing that you have a job once you finish uni. It is also good to get an internship over the summer months. This way if employees like you they may offer you a job for when you graduate. You should sign up to job sites online and filter in your job preferences. This way they can email you any jobs that come up that they think will suit your job preferences.

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Should I do a masters?

This completely depends on what you want to do when you finish uni. For some jobs a Masters is needed, so you should look in to this. If you enjoy education and want to stay at uni longer then this could be for you. It is always worth looking in to, but you also have to consider the cost and another year or so where you won’t be in full-time work.

Your life after uni isn’t as scary as you think! Your friends around you are all in the same situation. It’s good to ask people on your course what they are thinking of doing to get some ideas on what’s out there and what might suit you.

Revision techinques

After 6 years of exams I think I have mastered revision now. I know what type of revision to do that makes it more interesting and helps me remember the most information. Often different types of exams suit different types of revision.

My biggest piece of advice for revision is to use more than one method. You could have up to 8 exams. Doing the same thing over and over will get tedious and that is no way to get the material into your brain! Switch it up and make it as fun as possible!

Lecture notes

Writing up a lecture is a great way to start your revision. It refreshes your memory about what you have learnt in your lectures and you can change it into your own words, making the notes catered to you. I like to use colour pens to make each section of information stand out. I will then use these lecture notes to revise from along with the lecture slides.

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Mind Map:

There are several ways you could use mind maps.

  1. You could write each topic in the middle and write around it the important sub headings. E.g for a mind map about Working Memory I explain the different parts such as visuospatial sketchpad, central executive etc.
  2. You could choose a sub heading and write all the information to do with that subheading e.g for a sub heading on Visuospatial sketchpad I would explain what it does and any research to do with it.
  3. You could get a bigger size paper e.g A3 and write out all the important information from one lecture.

 

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Listen Again

Listen again really is a god send. It has saved me sooo many times from when I have gaps in my notes or I didn’t understand something. It is a way of doing the lecture again in your own time! For one of my January exams I was constantly using listen again! A lot of the content was hard to get your head around, so listening to it again really helped me understand it. It also means you can sit at home with a cup of tea and feel relaxed.

Flashcards/question cards

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Once you’re been over material the best way of learning is to test your knowledge! Create flash cards with a subject on one side and the answers on the other and get someone to test you! Or create question cards and test yourself after you’ve gone over a lecture.

Essay plans

If your exam involved writing essays then making essay plans is a good idea! You might go over your lectures 10 times but when you come to your exam you need to actually be able to write an essay. Most subjects will include past papers so that you can have a look at previous exam questions and plan an essay for that question!

Practice questions

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In exams that you have short answer questions or maths questions the only way you’re really going to know if you are doing it right is by practising! If your lecturer hasn’t provided you with practice questions then ask if you can have some… practice makes perfect!

Teaching someone else

Studies have shown that one of the most productive ways to revise is to teach it to someone else. If you have a willing friend/partner/parent then try and teach them some of the material you are learning. Telling someone else the information can help you to have a better understanding of it.

Study Group

A good resource is using your fellow students! Going over and discussing information together means you can help each other and you are more likely to retain the information. It is also a great way to test each other. Get your flash cards and question cards out and learn together! It makes revision more interesting instead of being stuck staring at the same 4 walls! If you are going to use a study group make sure you are actually going to work because study groups could be a negative to studying too!

There are areas in the student centre were you can form study groups or in the orangery zone too.

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Remember to take care of yourself during exam season. Take plenty of breaks and remember you can do this!

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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Student saver tips

Over the years I have learnt many ways to get the best deal and how to save money! Being a student there are never ending deals to persuade us to spend our money (and we often give in). It’s not just student discounts that can get you money off either.. so I here to show you ways you can save your pennies!

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Sign up to Unidays

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For those who don’t know about unidays it is a way of getting student discounts for many different websites/shops. Whenever you’re doing some online shopping check unidays for any deals they might have at that time. It is often not even just 10% often 20% and 25% deals too! Don’t waste this amazing platform for student discounts!

Get an NUS card

An NUS card is a well-known student card that can get you a lot of great discounts! They cost £12 so it’s a choice whether it is worth it for you. With my Essex student card I can get student discount in high street shops and get a student ticket at cineworld, but this card is recognised by all retailers so it might be worth investing in a NUS card! Having this you can 25% of national express, £3 for 3 months for now TV movies and 40% of pizza express. Sign up for your NUS card here

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Sign up to notifications from websites

As annoying as company emails can be, they are really helpful for finding deals! They will often email you letting you know about sales or money off events! Why miss out?!

Write a complaint

 I know that to a lot of people writing a complaint is daunting. But if you general have an issue about something then writing a complaint can lead to you getting a good deal. Once I hadn’t received a refund from Newlook for something I had returned over a month ago. I rang up and asked what had happened to my refund and they gave me 20% ff my next purchase for the delay!

Wait for offers

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 You have seen that skirt that you desperately need or that hoodie you love? If you can hold on that little bit longer you might be able to find a good deal! If the shop you want to buy from isn’t currently doing a deal wait until they are. There may be a sale or a money off event just around the corner!

Get a loyalty card:

They may mean you can’t shut your purse but they are totally worth it! If you’re going to spend the money you might as well get something back for it right?!

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If you’re doing your shopping at the local Tesco this is one of the places you should get a card for! If you spend enough money you get clubcard vouchers. This goes on both food and petrol. These can then be spent on days at such as Colchester zoo (£7.50 in clubcard vouchers per ticket), voucher for restaurants such as pizza express (£2.50 in clubcard= £10 pizza express) and you can even get cinema tickets.

Recently I signed up for a body shop card. Even if you hardly spend money in there you get a voucher on your birthday so it’s win win. But if you do shop in their regularly, for every £1 you spend you get 10 points which is a really good deal! Once you have collected 500 points ( Spent £50) then you get a £5 voucher.

Boots have a different system. You get points for every purchase you make which you can then spend in store. So if you have 400 points and buy a £3.29 meal deal you can pay with your points!

Download Apps

Downloading apps for different companies can save you money and the great thing is you can just delete them after! Often they might do discounts like ‘10% of your first purchase using the app’ which I just used on a quiz app. The apps will also send you notifications on when they have sales and money off events so a great way to keep up to date with all the deals!

Yeah my brain hurts too.. so many ways to save money! Happy shopping!

Derby Day is approaching! How to prepare.

Derby Day is soon approaching on Saturday 11th March! This blog is going to explain what it is all about and how to prepare. It is a really fun day out and I would recommend going if you can!

So what exactly is Derby Day?

It is a sporting event against UEA (our main rival university). Each year our university and UEA take turns to host, this year it is at UEA. If you want to spectate the day then you can purchase a ticket from the Essex SU Derby Day website for £15. This will give you a return coach trip. All sports that can take place on their campus will and a few will take place off campus, such as Water Polo or Equestrian.

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How can I prepare? 

  • Get yourself a Derby Day t-shirt

These are available in red or black and cost £6. They have now stopped selling them online, but if there’s any spares made then they will be selling them closer to the time, so keep an eye out!

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  • Get a coach ticket

These are now available from this website https://www.essexstudent.com/derbyday/ for £15 return. You can go with your friends and they will drop you off at UEA and then back at uni once the day is over. It is cheaper than getting the train and less hassle than driving, so it’s worth it!

  • Some face paint would be good

To support the Blades some people bring red and black face paint along to draw red and black stripes on their cheeks, or anything else red and black that you wish. It is important that we have as much support for the Blades as possible!

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  • Sub Zero tickets for after Derby Day are available now

Also on the website above are the Sub Zero tickets for the Saturday night. Once the coach drops you off back at uni, there will be a night out in Sub Zero. Charlie Hedges from Kiss FM and YouTube star Jack Maynard will make an appearance. Tickets are available now, so get yours quick before they sell out!

 

Follow Essex Blades SU on Twitter and Snapchat for updates throughout the day. Also there’s usually a lot of banter going on between Essex and UEA, so keep retweeting Essex and backing the Blades! We hope to see you there on Derby Day 🙂

Making the most of your time at Essex

The first few weeks of university can be quite daunting and demanding. We all know the journey: new town, campus, people and the list goes on…but don’t think for a second that this can stop you from making the best out of each day at Essex! Remember you are not alone; everyone else is going through the same stages.

As a first-year student living off-campus I remember perfectly well the number of times I used to get lost both on campus and in town, missing everyone back home and feeling that I might have made the wrong decision moving so far away from the ones I care about. You may probably wonder how I managed to overcome these overwhelming feelings. Well, there are so many activities out there to get involved in which will not only distract you for a while, but also help you meet other students with similar interests, make new friends and unforgettable memories.

Volunteering

Nightline was the first of my many volunteering experiences. As I was passing through North Towers one evening the Nightline banner caught my attention. First of all, what does Nightline do? It is a support service run by students for Essex students and the only student support facility opened during the night, which makes it unique.

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Together with your team you will have lots of fun talking to other students, providing customer service, emotional support and information on different academic and social matters, as well as playing games and doing karaoke during quieter shifts!

But Nightline isn’t the only volunteering opportunity you can get involved with!

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VTeam is another great opportunity to have fun while getting to familiarised with both Colchester and the campus. There are over 20 regular projects to choose from, but if you feel like trying something different every week one-off projects are exactly what you are looking for.

Just Play Sessions

Being a huge fan of sweets and never good at cooking, moving close to Tesco and the regular bus service, I kept avoiding anything which required much physical activity.

Getting rapidly out of shape, I started looking for quick solutions, for example, sports which would not require much commitment or experience. Fortunately, the Student’s Union had exactly what I needed and after a while I found myself going to Squash weekly not matter how tired I felt. Not only did I get fit, I made new friends and had such a good time!

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Therefore, if you want to try a sport but you are unsure whether the chosen one is not suitable for you, Just Play sessions are the first thing to go to. Why should you choose Just Play? Besides keeping you fit, meeting new people and having lots of fun, it is free, all the equipment is provided and all abilities are welcomed. What else could you wish for?

 Sport Clubs

 Do you want to challenge yourself with something new?

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Besides Just Play sessions, Student’s Union provides over 45 Sports Clubs through Essex Blades teams. All of them are free and students can join as many clubs as they want to. Even if you are like me, generally not very passionate about sports, among those provided there will be at least one that you will enjoy.

There was for me. Who would have imagined that I would enjoy boxing?! After trying Lacrosse, Rounders, Basketball and many others without much success I finally found Boxing, a great way to relieve stress and to keep yourself fit!

 

 

The ultimate guide to pancake day

This year it falls on Tuesday 28th February. Households everywhere will do some flipping, frying and tucking into delicious pancakes! Don’t know how to do your own pancake day? Fear not, I am here with all you need to know! I use this blog to show you how to make your own, topping choices and recipe ideas!

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History of pancake day

Pancake day actually have a religious background and comes from Anglo-Saxon Christians. People would use up all their ingredients so they could fast for 40 days before Easter. The ingredients made pancakes.. and that’s why we now have pancake day! Pancake day changes every year but is always on a Tuesday. It is dependent on when Easter is!

How to make a pancake

So option 1 of is to make your pancake from scratch. They are easy to make.

You’ll need

  • 100g of plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 300ml of milk
  • Some sort of oil
  • Frying pan
  • Toppings of choice (see below for topping ideas!)

Mix the flour, eggs and milk together until smooth. Put some oil in a frying pan. Remember the size of the frying pan will be the size of the pancake! When the frying pan is hot pour some of the mixture into it. Cook each side of pancake till it’s golden brown (should take 1 or 2 minutes each side).  To turn the pancake over you could have a go at flipping the pancake!

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Option 2 for pancake day is using a ready made mix. Pancake day is completely student friendly because supermarkets sell ready-made pancake mix with instructions of what to do! Bonus: they’re only £1 in Tesco and make up to 6 pancakes! All you need is this mix, oil and a frying pan!

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Popular Pancake toppings

Pancake is all about experimenting and finding out what makes the perfect pancake topping for you! Here are some ideas of toppings that are popular on sweet and savoury pancakes!

  • Lemon Juice
  • Syrup
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate- Nutella, melted chocolate, chocolate chips
  • Fresh fruit- strawberries, bananas, raspberries blueberries ect
  • Dried Fruit- Sultanas, bananas, apple, apricots ect
  • Cream
  • Honey
  • Caramel sauce
  • Soft cheese
  • Jam
  • Ice Cream
  • Nuts
  • Yogurt

Pancake Ideas

Can’t decide from that long list of what to put on your pancake? Here are some ideas of toppings mixes you could have!

The Traditional

When I was growing up the traditional toppings for a pancake would be lemon juice, syrup and sugar! If you are looking for something lighter and less sickly then this is the perfect topping combination for you!

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The Nutella Filled

My favourite pancake is a Nutella pancake with strawberries and banana! To make a Nutella filled pancake fill the pan with a layer of pancake mix, then add ½ a teaspoon of Nutella and spread this around. Then add another layer of pancake mix and start cooking! Cut up some strawberries and bananas and you have my perfect pancake!

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Banoffee Pancake

Another idea is a banoffee pancake. For a banoffee pancake you’ll need bananas, caramel sauce, whipping cream and roasted pecans.

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Millionaire Shortbread Pancake

What about a millionaires shortbread pancake? Sprinkle shortbread over the pancake and put some caramel sauce over the top. Melt some chocolate, Nutella or chocolate sauce over the pancake and you’ve got a millionaire shortbread pancake!

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The healthier option

If you still want to enjoy pancake day, but don’t want to completely ruin your diet, a healthier option for pancake day would be to top the pancake with your favourite fruit! Berries such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries add a great flavour to the pancake. Adding dried fruit and nuts would be a good mix too!

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Now you’re all set to have the perfect pancake day! Remember 28th of February is pancake day – don’t miss it!

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

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

The Course

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

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The Campus

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

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The Year Abroad

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

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