Things to consider before studying in the UK: an EU student’s perspective

There are certain moments in your life where you’re quite clueless when it comes to making big decisions. You don’t really know what the outcome will turn out to be. When you’re a teenager, even though you’re not allowed to go to the toilet without asking the teacher, you are put in a position where you need to decide the path of your entire life; you have to ask yourself, should I go to university or not? Then, more difficult questions start coming; what kind of university should I choose? Should I base my decision on university rankings, or will that confuse me more? What kind of degree should I study? And, in my case, I had to answer another difficult question: do I stay in Romania, or apply to the UK? Ultimately I chose to study in the UK, but there were a lot of things I needed to think about before I made my choice.

Fees

I’d heard stories about the cost of studying in the UK being expensive, or it not being within reach for me, but I’m here in my final year and I could afford it! The tuition fees when I enrolled were £ 9,000 per year, and the average cost of accommodation here is between £3,000- £7,000 per year. Ideally, after that you’d be able to live on around £4,000 for things like food, going out, clothes etc. I know that’s a lot of numbers and you might be thinking, how could I possibly afford that? Don’t worry! I  went through that as well, but it is possible.

The most expensive thing to pay for are the tuition fees, which could be either paid in 3 instalments, or, the choice I opted for, the UK government tuition fee loan, which I will need to give back after I graduate and once I’m earning over a certain amount. If you haven’t been able to earn more than that per year within 30 years, your loan will be erased. If you decide that you don’t want to continue to live in the UK after you graduate, the loan will vary  based on the salary in the country in which you are planning to live.

Luckily for me, my rent was  covered by my parents in my first year and they contributed to my spending habits, as well. I would certainly advise you to take in account every penny you spend and before arriving here. You can’t presume that you’ll get a part time job right away and get enough money to sustain your living. Take every aspect into account and that way there’ll be no nasty surprises. I got my first proper job in my second year and therefore had a little extra spending money for food and going out. It is quite tricky combining working with studying, but it has offered me a new outlook and opportunities to look forward to.

Homesickness

I have battled feeling homesick just like everyone else I know. Regardless of being an EU, UK or International student, everyone has it at some point. It’s normal. But it will pass, trust me. In fact, you’ll get to a stage where you’ll wish you could stay at uni forever!

Extra-Curricular opportunities

In UK universities, there is a lot of independent study, rather than being spoon-fed by your teachers. This means that you get to spend more time doing extra curricular things, as well as just studying! But, if you do need or want a bit more time with your academics, they have on-to-one office hours available to book.

The one extra-curricular activity that everyone should get involved in are the SOCIETIES! Yes! How else could you spend your free time if not being part of a society or being a volunteer?! Here at Essex, I have found that there seems to be a society for everything! Imagine the most obscure, unknown thing on the planet and there probably is a society for it here, but even if there isn’t you can set your own up. Just think about all the possibilities! They are unlimited!

Plus there are Sports clubs and teams, exercise classes, on-campus jobs and volunteering opportunities to get involved in.

Life after graduation

Wouldn’t it be great if your uni could offer you life time support when it comes to finding a career, or perfecting your cv and job applications? Well guess what…it exists! Essex has a Careers Centre to help you find a job, tailor your CV and help you with mock interviews! And it truly helps you feel prepared and prepare yourself for any kind of challenge. On top of that, you’ll receive emails with job opportunities, as well as a portal through which you can check job offers, which can be aimed specifically at students at a certain University.

All in all, there is one thing that you should be certain about: here, in the UK everything, and I mean everything, has been thought through to help students evolve and learn in a setting which tries to go beyond comfortable, something that will enhance your experiences and aims to get you that career that you always wanted!

Until the next time,

Mimi.

 

Essex Bucket List

Probably the most important thing on your TO DO LIST while at the university is to graduate at the end of it, but in the meantime there is so much to explore and experience! Here are a few things every student should do at least one during the time at Essex:

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1. Join a Club or Society
Whether it’s acro-yoga, meditation, origami, or philosophy society, it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests, improve your skills and just be a part of something great! Trips, events and themed socials will make your time at the university unforgettable!

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2. Perform at the Open Mic
Every Friday night the Lakeside Theatre hosts the Open Mic night, so you can share any talent or thought you have in a cosy and friendly atmosphere of the Theatre Café. The mic and the stage are yours, so you can show off whatever you like: from singing to playing an instrument, to dancing, to reading out a poem or a manifesto, to doing a magic trick…take your chance!

3. Make a full round in library lift
The library lift amazes loads of people when they see it the first time, because it never stops. You step into it while it’s moving and step out while it’s moving, and it goes round and round. But actually, the rules say you cannot do a full circle with the lift, so don’t do it. Ever…

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4. Go to SubZero
Some people say it’s awesome, some people say it’s not so awesome. If you think it’s not awesome, go and make it awesome, at least once!

5. Sleep in Nightline
It comes very handy when you live off campus, especially after a long night in the library or a night out. You might have no energy to go back home, or you might just be looking for a mini adventure, exploring the campus and doing something you haven’t done before. Here you go! A nice chat, a piece of toast, and a blanket are waiting for you. And there is even a chance you won’t be late to your 9 am lecture!

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6. Go for a Year Abroad
If you only get one chance, just get out of your shell and go to the unknown! Living in a new place and in a different culture might be a life changing experience, so don’t miss out!

7. Hand in an essay early
You know the adrenaline you feel when you open Faser and see a big red countdown: “Deadline in 2h 20min 39sec” when you’re only half way through your paper? Some people can only write essays in these extreme conditions and somehow they make it without a heart attack. But how about starting to write your essay as soon as the task appears and getting it out of the way a month before the deadline, at least this one time, just to prove yourself that you can? Isn’t that way crazier than pulling all-nighters all the time?

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8. Visit the Art Exchange
The place where exhibitions, talks with artists, and art classes happen is at our campus and it’s free for students! Have a break and just show up to the Art Exchange on square 5, or get involved in one of the art sessions. Get your creative juices flowing! Shake your booty and explore the movements with the dancing class, free your energy with African drumming, or capture a naked yogi with some chalk on a piece of paper.

9. Do a trolley race
When you encounter a random trolley somebody ditched after a trip to the superstore for their weekly shopping, sometimes you just can’t stop yourself. That’s OK. Just mind the stairs and civilians.

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10. Go to the Lakeside Theater
Every Thursday there is a different play, sometimes performed by our students and sometimes by professional actors, in both cases they are stunning and very much worth giving it a try. Last month we went to the Translunar Paradise and the whole audience was secretly wiping the tears. Give it a go!

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11. Have a BBQ by the lakes
Gather your friends, bring some food to share with everybody, some instruments, some games, and just enjoy a chilled afternoon by the lakes with ducklings, rabbits and squirrels coming to say hello.

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12. Take part in fundraising, manifestation or protest
Make some noise for the right cause. Become an activist for a while and start or support any project that you think is right and worth making noise about. At the university you have a chance to express your views and not being criticized by it; also, in such multicultural community you will always find people who share your views and will want to unite and work together. Even the smaller change for the better is a step forward, so find your voice and use it!

13. Put up your photo in SU Bar
SU bar designed their walls with loads of frames that are waiting to be filled in with the photos of the students. Leave a memory before you go!

 

Do you have anything to add to the Essex Bucket List? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments 🙂 And whatever you do, have a great time!

 

The True Essex Experience

It’s March, you’ve been on campus for six months if you’re a fresher, and an infinite amount of months if you’re returning. I’m not good at maths, so I’m not even going to bother guessing a number. Anyway, the point is – surprisingly, there is a life outside of the campus squares and the really pretty lakes. If you’re a fresher, trust me, you may not have seen it yet, but the lakes are really nice in summer term and the majority of your summer ball photos are going to be right next to it.

However, while campus is amazing, and you have everything you need from the numerous food outlets (shout out to the pie bus for their £4.95 full English breakfast), 24 hour computer labs and SU store, there is more to explore in Colchester, and Essex in general, and no I don’t just mean Colchester zoo – although Colchester zoo is great and you should definitely check it out when you get the chance. They have a student discount!

As someone from Essex, I know a fair few things about my own county, and yes, we do really hate when you ask us if you know someone from TOWIE. The answer is no, but yes I do live near that town. TOWIE, however, will not be on my list of recommendations, sorry to disappoint!

Clacton

For those who have never been to Essex, you may not have heard of Clacton. It’s a bus ride away from the university, and only twenty minutes by car. I went there in the summer and it has a lovely beach and great amusements and rides on Clacton pier, and it’s all at a really reasonable price. Even if you don’t fancy going on any rides , or  if it’s raining, they have mini golf and arcade games that you can play on! Plus, there’s nothing better than eating fish and chips, or hot doughnuts on the beach.

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There’s a slight theme going on here, but I think it’s just because I miss the warm, sunny weather. If you fancy a longer trip, you can go to Southend, which is a bit more famous than Clacton but just further away. Southend is obviously where our other campus is, and the buildings look pretty cool. Southend beach is famous for its stony beach, the water you see isn’t actually the sea, it’s the Thames! But it has a really cool aquarium, and adventure island which is just a smaller version of Thorpe park/Alton Towers but just by the beach, so what more could you want?

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Cute beach huts in Southend!

Stansted Airport

I know I’ve probably confused you here – why would I be recommending an airport? But Stansted is only a 40 minute coach ride away and home to that famous blue and yellow budget airline, which means cheap flights to cool destinations. As someone who is constantly stressed about university these days over my dissertation or over one of my ever looming essay deadlines, I can’t recommend booking a holiday enough, or just going away for a weekend trip!

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Lakeside/IKEA

For those who don’t really like the beach, or can’t really afford/have the time to go on holiday, there’s always Lakeside, the biggest shopping centre in Essex, for when Westfield in Stratford is just too far away. What’s also great about Lakeside is that right next to it there’s a massive IKEA which in my second year I drove to with my flatmates who were from the midlands and had therefore never been to IKEA. It was a great afternoon, especially because we all came out with unnecessary purchases that somehow we just needed and our stomachs full with the great food they serve.

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This is before we purchased lots of unnecessary things 

Secret Nuclear Bunker

Yes, you read that right. In Essex there is a secret nuclear bunker that was used for the Cold War, but has been a tourist attraction since 1992. You can go for a tour around the bunker, compete an obstacle course, or use the high ropes. As they advertise on their website, ‘it’s not just about the bunker’ which obviously is pretty rad in itself, but there’s loads more to do than that.

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So when your friends from other universities come to visit and ask what you can do in Essex, now you won’t be stuck for ideas, or you can just brag about how your university is better than theirs, and Essex as a county is pretty great too. Am I being too bias now? I’ll stop.

 

Have fun guys!

Why Last Minute Decisions are the Best Decisions

This time two years ago, I was in my second year of university and I was in two minds about whether I wanted to do a year abroad or not. My friends had just received their year abroad university placements, and I also wanted to be that excited, and wondered about the adventures I would get up to in September.

I was in two minds about it, because I was worried about things such as: could I afford it? (Yes), where would I live? (in student accommodation that I found myself), it’s the second round of applications, will I be able to go where I want to go? (Again, yes). But in the end, it all came down to one question: did I want to go? And that answer was also a big yes. So, I went to campus, I changed my university course from a three year one to four year course at the student centre, and then I went to the year abroad office and submitted my application. It was honestly that simple. I later found out that I applied on one of the last few days applicable to apply, and I am so happy now that I took the courage to do so.

Initially, it was a lot of worrying about where I would apply to, and if I could afford it. Even though I had applied in the second round of applications, I still had loads of options to choose from, including places in America and New Zealand. Eventually, I chose to go to Ireland, more specifically Maynooth university which is forty minutes away from Dublin, and looks like this:

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Image: Domagoj Trsan: https://www.flickr.com/photos/domagojtrsan/37515914472/in/photolist-Za9SkA-efK8kD-XfG8x7-X3cAM7-SqnQGL-Tq7pEL-nuosJM-U9oL31-XjySDP-W3t71d-pmJhQS-8tos4B-RWLz3p-Umd8Xf-8An9FY-pmJk7L-225Jg5m-p2B7fX-TiYkrY-Umd8Hs-WJyaY1-p7fZyi-ncHkey-rhH496-TSGykf-Uv8o9B-7u3t6G-8H3UWw-ZM4fAM-QRq8Ks-VL1BsP-7U8S77-zUZWM3-7TRiji-TmNr8Z-8G1xNc-oAy7ia-Wp2ZJ5-WJygo9-WXE1mz-dL4nmH-Sz7D7E-zhSt4E-z6ndEK-6sgK2E-drPRRK-ban3qM-9onWbg-213944h-TiYk6s 

Some people may consider it a weird place to do my year abroad, considering it’s only an hour away by plane, and it’s next to us. A lot of people when I told them in the summer that I was going to do a year abroad in Ireland seemed almost disappointed that I wasn’t going to someplace like China or Australia. But I can honestly say that I don’t regret choosing Ireland, or not going to somewhere else in Europe, and it was probably one of the best decisions in my life.

First and foremost, I got to meet so many amazing people that I know I’m going to keep in touch with for a very long time. I also met my boyfriend in Maynooth, and we’ve been together for nearly a year now. Because of the people I’ve met, I was able to stay in New York last summer with one of my friends who lives in Long Island and she graciously let me stay in her house for two weeks. This summer I’ve been invited to Spain and Italy to catch up with my other year abroad friends too.

While abroad, I was able to travel around Ireland and Europe, including the Netherlands and Germany, and I’m going to continue travelling this year as well. Your year abroad isn’t just about learning, although obviously that’s a big part of it, it’s more about the culture, and the people you meet.

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Me in Ireland and other Erasmus students

A lot of people ask ‘how did you afford it?’ which I know is a big worry for a lot of students. It was a big worry for my parents when I eventually told them what I was doing. But you’re given so much funding from the government because they recognise that it’s such a great opportunity to learn abroad and they see it as a great investment for your future. Plus, if you go to a university in Europe (and some select universities in America), they offer you the Erasmus+ grant which you don’t have to pay back.

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Me and some friends enjoying the first sunny day of Spring

The reason I’m writing this blog post is just so that if anybody is on the fence about doing a year abroad, they should do it! Be sensible about your choice, and know that you’re going to have a wonderful time. I know I did, and I haven’t met anyone yet who has had a negative experience with their year. And for those who are already doing a year abroad, just know that you’re already made the right decision and you should look forward to August and September when you start. The world is an amazing place, go explore, the university will always be there when you get back!

 

 

Best Vegetarian Options on Campus

Meat-eaters, stop reading!

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Vegetarians….hello. It’s hard for us, right? Not only do we have to deal with every family member, housemate, and partner’s family asking us why we do this (with a look that says “I couldn’t respect you any less for this”), but we have to order the worst food from restaurants too? Karen’s over there with the foie de gras and you’re stuck with the soggy bean burger with lettuce and mayo. Rubbish. Luckily, Essex has heard the plight of the vegetarian and has risen to the occasion. What follows is a list of the best veggie options on campus.

SU Bar: BBQ Quorn Chicken Pizza

The SU Bar is a hotbed for delicious, vaguely unhealthy food that you’ll crave on a cold winter night when your loan is down to the last £10 but you’ve still got 3 weeks left of term and rent due tomorrow. Mozzarella sticks to die for, incredible chili, the BEST mac & cheese. Having said that, by far my favourite thing on the menu is the BBQ Quorn Chicken Pizza.

Fusion: Halloumi and Mushroom Burger

Mmm, halloumi. Always the tastiest option on any menu, and a vegetarian’s fantasy. Fusion does a wicked halloumi and mushroom burger that will make all the meat eaters at your table green with envy, and is a little healthier than some of the other options as well. Honestly, Fusion has an incredible menu with so many different styles of food that it’s actually hard to narrow down (try the veggie hot dog and have your life changed), but for pure hedonistic pleasure, their stylish combo of halloumi and mushroom is unbeatable.

 

Buffalo Joe’s: Mushroom Fritter

Buffalo Joe’s has always been a brilliant late-night option, but this year they really kicked it into the highest gear. The falafel and houmous wrap that was a staple of my first and second year is still there, alive and kicking, but it’s been joined by some fantastic competitors. Chief among them is the glorious mushroom fritter burger. Literally a deep fried portobello mushroom, topped with smoked cheese and mayo, this will satisfy all your cravings in one go. The soft, chewy texture of the mushroom with the satisfying crunch of the batter is a heavenly experience, and I advise every vegetarian (and non-vegetarian) to try it at least once.

The Canteen: Full English (Veggie)

The Canteen’s menu changes every day, and the vegetarian option is always pretty good. Very well priced too. However, it would be lazy of me to just tell you to have “whatever the veggie option is”, so I’ve decided to plump for a Canteen staple: the breakfast. Rumour has it anyone who gets a canteen breakfast before their 9am exam gets a first. I’m not sure how true that is, but I’m willing to believe. You don’t even have to have the meagre veggie breakfast of mushrooms, egg and beans that many restaurants offer. The Canteen has a plethora of veggie options to choose from, including amazing vegetarian sausages.

 

Frango’s: Pulled Quorn Wrap

I’ll be honest, I haven’t visited Frango’s as much as I’d like to have this year. This has nothing to do with the quality of the food, and I’m extremely disappointed in myself for not eating there more. If you’re a fan of the Portuguese chicken restaurant that shall not be named, but wish they had more vegetarian options, Frango’s has got you! They have an astonishing variety of options for us, and they’re really interesting. The pulled Quorn wrap has got my vote, simply because I don’t know of anywhere else that does pulled Quorn. It’s delicious, too, of course.

Happy eating all you veggies!

Cultural diversity and the parade of flags

One world or should I say, One World Essex? Every year, there is a week filled with a fantastic event in which we celebrate our more than 140 different nationalities represented by both students and staff, bringing together a diversity of cultures and experiences to one place, well, maybe 3 of them: Square 2, 3 and 4!

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This year, we had something unusual – SNOW, and for the first time we had the Colchester Morris men performing ancient English ritual dances, as you can see below.

You couldn’t miss the event as it went forward, despite the cold weather, despite the snow falling over the flags held high by their representative. The squares were filled with colours, diversity and laughter. It seemed that everyone was connected and coming together as one, celebrating all the diversity that unites us.

I have been deeply touched by the poem written by a Lebanese woman, recited by her husband. It was shaped in the form of the Cedar of Lebanon, the national emblem of Lebanon. You could actually feel the suffering and pain put into that poem, a poem which encouraged people to come together and unite their forces for a better world, a world in which all cultures are celebrated, not denied.

I am grateful that I am part of the University of Essex, which is recognised as one of the most international universities in the world. I am glad that cultural diversity is recognised and celebrated with so much passion and thought.

But why is it so important to focus on cultural differences? Here are my 3 main reasons to do so:

  1. Cultural awareness. Learning about various cultures, religions and languages, will enhance your perception upon life itself, creating a new perspective on the lives of others around you, as well as others around the world. You can only educate yourself through understanding other’s perspectives, broadening your own.
  2. Appreciate cultural differences. Through each other’s diversity, we become more aware of our own. Not only do we become more aware, we gain a sense of pride for the diversity of our own culture. Understanding people and their backgrounds is crucial to personal and community growth.
  3. Overcome stereotypes. Celebrating different cultures will bring to light new thinking and understanding. Without stereotypes blocking your view, you will be able to see individuals accurately, not as mere reflections of your preconception. The more you do this, the more experiences you will have with individuals who do not conform to your stereotypes.

The recognition of a common humanity is the first step in the celebration of our differences – differences that inform our cultures, our values, our minds, and all our ways of being in the world.

Until next time,

Mimi.

Spring Term: What’s going on?

Colchester and the university have many events planned out from now till the Easter break. Without further ado, let’s see what’s in store!

SubZero

SubZero was voted the Best Student Venue in the UK and to this day is still a very popular place for students to enjoy their nightlife. The venue will continue to provide weekly events like Sports Fed and monthly ones such as Coko. This term, the SU will be inviting many famous faces: Cascada, Tim Westwood, Danny Howard and the Ministry of Sound. Remember to buy your tickets early for these events, as they’ll most likely sell out and door tickets might not be available. Other major events include a UV paint party (wear something you don’t mind getting dirty), beach party and Viva Las Vegas (a local recreation of a Vegas casino. Get a chance to win £100,000 by only spending £3). But wait! There’s more! If you’re a fan of nostalgic music, SubZero is having 80s, 90s and 00s rewind. Last entry for these events is 12:30-1AM and ID is required. Please drink responsibly.

SU Bar

Events here are usually calmer, making it ideal for relaxing with a few friends, grabbing a drink and listening to good music. It also doesn’t have fit-inducing lights and gut-wrenching sound volumes. Milk It and the SU Bar Quiz occur every Monday and Thursday respectively. Milk It runs from 9PM to 1:30AM where people sing karaoke of their favourite songs and moves on to cheesy music at midnight. The quiz starts at nine and the jackpot is usually around £100. The rules are simple: 6 is the maximum number of people on a team and phones are not allowed. Furthermore, the NFL Super Bowl is being broadcasted on the 4th of February where the New England Patriots are playing against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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For only £3.50, you can watch a selection of recently released movies on campus. Films being shown this term are Wonder, Ferdinand, the Disaster Artist, Jumanji, Pride, Pitch Perfect 3, Molly’s Game, Darkest Hour, Maze Runner 3, The Post and the Greatest Showman. There are multiple screenings of each movie so don’t fret if one of the showings sells out.

Sports Centre

For the duration of the term, the Sports Centre provides Just Play sessions for a wide variety of sports, including ones that most people haven’t heard of like Pickleball and Floorball. You can find out when these sessions are by visiting: https://www.essexstudent.com/sport/justplay/

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         New Sports Centre               Photography credit: sourced via http://blogs.essex.ac.uk/essexdaily/2016/12/14/new-sports-centre-development-gets-underway/

LGBTQ+ History Month

February is LGBTQ+ history month which means theat the SU will create events that cater to those who identify as LGBTQ+. The LGBT+ community will be holding fundraisers and the donations will go to the Outhouse charity. In addition to this, the Lakeside Theatre will be showing “A Reason to Carry On” which is a play about a teenager discovering his identity. Generally, during this month, there will be forums and mixers for those who identify and those who are interested in the subject to discuss LGBT+ lifestyles and difficulties.

LGBT History Month - Book Club: Boy Meets Girl

Photography credit: sourced via https://www.essexstudent.com/ents/event/15134/

Other major events occurring on campus include Essex’s got Talent and this University’s version of the show “Take Me Out”, brought to you by Enactus. Make sure to buy your tickets early because these events will sell out immediately and I have no idea why.

Colchester Town

There aren’t many official events happening in town but the nightlife is still amazing in terms of clubbing. Also, in the Weston Homes Community Stadium, on the far side of town, there are weekly tributes to famous musicians and artists, old and new, such as Beyonce, ABBA, Lionel Richie, the Spice Girls and Whitney Houston.

By the time this blog is posted, some of these events may have terminated or sold out, but fear not, because there is still so much to do and this term has only just begun, kinda. Also, as the term progresses, the Student Union, uni and its societies will release more events.

 

My Uni Journey

I’d be lying if I said university life was a walk in the park. I started at Essex in 2014 and since then there have been plenty of ups and downs, although I’m pleased to say that the ups definitely outweigh the downs! Every year that I’ve been here (and on my year abroad) has brought new friends, experiences and memories. Some of it has been difficult and some of it has made me feel incredibly grateful to be surrounded by such amazing people.

First Year

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I think this was probably the most scared I had ever been in my life at that point. Moving to a completely different  place where I new nobody was very daunting, even though everybody was in the same boat and the fresher’s excitement meant there wasn’t really much time to be homesick. I went from being quite shy to becoming much more confident in myself and loving my uni life. Of course there were the scary first uni essays and all nighters but I wouldn’t change a thing about my first year at Essex. My flatmates became some of my best friends.

Second Year

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As a second year uni student, I thought I had it down. I’d survived first year, so second year shouldn’t be that much harder right? Well, it was. I learnt I couldn’t get by as easily with the first year habits of doing everything last minute. I think the turning point for me was crying about an essay over chicken nuggets at midnight the day it was due. I know that sounds pretty funny and, in hindsight, it is. At the time though I felt like things couldn’t get worse, but I got through it and managed to finish second year with a place on the Dean’s List! For me, second year was definitely a bit of a roller coaster. I made more friends, drifted apart from others. I fell in and out of love for the first time. I tried new sports and got a placement that I loved where I still work now. I think this was the year that I felt like a proper adult, when I realised that sometimes things might not work out the way you want them to but that’s the way that they’re meant to be.

Year Abroad

IMG_20160903_144730804 croppedSo after successfully getting through second year I jetted off to spend my third year in Arizona. I was pretty nervous but completely by chance I was going with one of my best friends so we were in it together. Moving abroad was an absolutely amazing experience and I learnt a lot about myself, as cheesy as that sounds! Whilst America is an English speaking country, there definitely were some cultural quirks that took a while to get used to. I got to travel to places I’d always wanted to go, I even spent my 21st birthday in Las Vegas! One of my favourite moments was driving down Route 66 sat in the back of a truck and I just realised how lucky I was. Of course there was homesickness here and there, but the fun I had on my year abroad completely outweighed any of this. If you are thinking of doing a year abroad though, keep in mind that you are actually there to study and 8 am classes are a thing, but that’s no reason to not enjoy yourself as much as possible!

Final year

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Now I’m back at Essex and really loving my final year. It has been stressful, especially just before Christmas when I had four deadlines in two weeks. I’m pretty lucky though, in that I’ve managed to escape doing a dissertation. That does not mean I’m not working hard! I’m making sure that I put a lot of effort into this year so I can graduate with the degree I want. I’m still not sure of what I want to do and seeing people applying for graduate schemes sometimes makes me think I should be doing that too. For me though, I don’t want to rush into anything. After I finish uni, it’ll be the first time in my life that I don’t know what I’m going to be doing. That does scare me a little (maybe a lot!) but I am really excited!

How To Start 2018 Off Right

In 2017 I turned 21, lived in a different country, travelled to different countries and even a different continent. I met my boyfriend, made new friends and reconnected with old ones. On a sadder note, I have loved and lost people and pets in 2017, but importantly, I have grown from my experiences, become more accepting of myself, and opened my eyes to different cultures and customs. There is a reason why I am writing this and it isn’t just to brag about how amazing my 2017 was, but to look ahead and think about how I can make 2018 even better.

Me in Brooklyn, New York

2017 was a very odd year when you think about the bizarre political and current events that happened, and for many people, including myself, 2018 is a fresh start. To borrow a phrase from magazines and adverts: ‘New Year, New Me!’ Many people will use 2018 to begin new habits, or break them; to work harder, or quit their jobs or start a new hobby. Obviously, we could do all of this at any point in the year, but somehow choosing to do it on January 1st feels somehow more special, like it will help you to stick to your new resolutions.

I don’t really want to call them New Year’s Resolutions because whenever I’ve called them that, I never keep them. Instead this year I’m calling them: ‘New Habits of 2018’, because it suggests – to me, anyway – that these are things I’m going to keep doing throughout the year. They say that on average it takes 21 days to form a new habit, which means that hopefully, by January 21st, you’ve got your resolution down! When I was celebrating New Year’s Eve in 2016, I decided that my new habit for 2017 was to try being vegetarian, and on January 7th I did just that, and so far, I’m still a vegetarian, so some habits do stick.

Resolutions

These are the top ten most common New Year’s Resolutions and my new habits also fall into the list. This year my new habit, although it’s more of a goal really, would be to visit 3 new countries. When I was in Ireland, I realised that with a bit of planning around lectures and making different arrangements, you can travel over a weekend without a lot of disturbance in your real life. And the best thing about the university is that we’re so close to Stansted airport (only 40 minutes by bus) that it isn’t even that much of a hassle to get there! When I was travelling I realised how great it is to see the world, and how cheap it can be now. If you’re willing to sleep in hostels and get early flights then it’s so easy to travel! In 2017 I went to Northern Ireland, various counties in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and New York. This year I’m aiming to travel round more of Europe and to see more of Eastern Europe.

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Me visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

In terms of habits for 2018, I am going to try and worry less. I am the world’s worst worrier, if there is something to be worried about, I’ve already thought about it and had about three sleepless nights. This year is going to be very hard for me because this is my last year of university before I graduate so I have my dissertation and very important exams to worry about it. But, I’m going to try my best to stop worrying as much, or at least worrying about stupid things. I’m not too sure how I’m going to do this yet, as it’s easier to become vegetarian than it is to change how your brain thinks but I’m going to try my best!

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Source: fayeosaurus: https://www.flickr.com/photos/68082654@N08/6232698920/in/photolist-auLdfd-aebyuy-CVAuZN-kwose-q1WyLs-7gT12J-pya1dX-VHGwu2-cGBtMS-7vTRkU-bDK2jn-2sZQs-ayWbpc-5XrKqR-7ANmxP-6eiGcN-8BWrUN-UvFNwo-47o5a1-68ZemK-8NPYbb-4HU6kj-padA6-21pfoY1-MV9o7K-7Gxqwz-a1hs3-87uroV-a4Pzrw-8ZG3au-4kQSjW-VwXTqx-ZjGujS-zgFTj-pjdWDR-FznKz9-87xBZ7-pKkiCK-a4PzAs-8hpgWv-4PCy8p-bcjmE-8XSDmT-XU2Abr-bbfo3R-QGVMa2-EfmZ9J-AMf9ax-NWD2N3-8HFgEg

 

Obviously, if you don’t want to change anything in 2018, you don’t have to. I actually don’t like to make a fuss on New Year’s Eve, but I like thinking about things I want to change in 2018 so I have something to look back to see what I’ve achieved. So when New Year’s Eve of 2018 rolls around, hopefully I will have a few more stamps on my passport, and I will be a happier, less stressed person.

Happy 2018 everyone!

5 ingenious ways to survive travelling while being on a student budget

Right now I’m in Prague.  This winter I decided to visit some of the most amazing places to be in the lovely Christmas period:

  • London (as it is 45 minutes away from Essex). I had fun, as seen from the pictures below ( especially at the Winter Wonderland)
    • Prague (where I am today)
    • Vienna (where I’ll be in 2 days’ time)
  • Budapest (where I’ll be in 4 days’ time)

If you think that I’m coming straight back to England, you’re wrong! I have another 3 destinations on my mind:

  • Timisoara (my hometown)
  • Bucharest
  • Belgrade

So, now to tell you how I’m actually affording this!

  1. FLIGHTS! Flying around the world always seemed like a marvellous idea, until you actually see the prices. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem.

Usually tickets are the cheapest in the low season and especially just before holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, etc… If you plan your trips around those times and you can score awesome flights! Always go online to check if any of the flying companies have discounts or offers! I got an offer during Black Friday, 10£ return to my home city in Romania. Cheaper than a train to London!

  1. WHEN SHOULD YOU GO?

As I said above, in the low season! In Europe (as it is the only continent I’ve visited) it’s really painful to go in the summer time. Everything is expensive in that period of time, and it’s understandable; the weather is nice, there is plenty of free time and everyone is having a blast, why not make a profit out of it? Spring and winter are the two seasons  key to your finances.

  1. WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY?

The obvious answer would be Hostels! I’m not a big fan, in fact, I have never stayed in one. Why? I’ve always booked an apartment. Wow! That sounds expensive! It’s not.  I’m always using the Booking.com website to get the best deals. I’m always looking around, searching for the places which have at least 70% off.

Last spring I booked an apartment in Budapest and it was massive! The bathroom had so many buttons and options that I spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the water. The original price for that apartment was 270£. I only paid 50£.

ALWAYS BRING A FRIEND! The price for the place you are booking is always going to be divided by the number of people you’re sharing it with. If you’re going with 4 friends, for example, it is cheaper to rent out an apartment.

  1. CHECK THE TRANSPORTATION

This is by far the easiest and most common mistake that everybody makes (and I’m not an exception). DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON TAXIS! They are all rip-offs.

Start learning the underground, bus, trams, or whatever public means of transportation they have in your chosen destination. It indeed, takes a while, but it will definitely save you lots and lots of money. My strategy is to always choose an accommodation which is closer to a station that takes you directly to the town centre, because after all, in almost any location, you’re going to spend a lot of time there.

  1. AVOID EATING YOUR BREAKFAST/DINNER OUT!

This is the main reason I choose to get an apartment: the kitchen. Almost any apartment that you rent comes with a kitchen, which is almost always equipped with things you need to cook. Another trick which I have been using for a while is checking for supermarkets in the vicinity of the accommodation.  On the plus side, you’re going to taste a bit of the culture of that place you’re visiting, as supermarkets do really tell a lot about the consumer culture of that specific country.

In my last journey, I’ve been to Oslo. I have asked a lot of Norwegian people (due to the multicultural University we have) about decent priced places to eat. They all laughed. When I arrived there I understood why. A cheap lunch was over 20£. One meal. I chose to get my breakfast and dinner from a local bakery and the supermarket. I had a kitchen in my accommodation, so I could actually have fried eggs for the breakfast! Lucky me!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips! I can’t wait to hear about all your experiences!