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 🙂

What I’m Looking Forward to After My Year Abroad

I can’t believe how quick time has passed whilst I’ve been on my year abroad. I have next to no time left before my summer holiday starts! I have loved my time here in America but I really can’t wait to get back to Essex. There’s so many things I’m looking forward to, but here a few things I’m looking forward to most.

1. The Essex campus

IMG_20160831_175718385_HDR I’ll miss this view on my walk to class

My university campus in Arizona is tiny by American standards, but huge in comparison to Essex. I have to get a bus from one end of it to the other. Whilst it is a really beautiful campus surrounded by amazing views, it can be a bit of a pain walking up loads of hills and taking a bus to get to class or go to the union. At Essex, I know where I’m going, I always end up bumping into people I know, and you don’t have to do a full trek just to get to a lecture!

2. Seeing my friends!

DSCN1720 Summer Ball was probably the last time we were all in the same country!

I guess this one sort of goes without saying! I left for my year abroad in August and whilst I saw a few of my friends from home over Christmas in Manchester, most of my friends are in various corners of the globe. I haven’t seen some of my friends in Australia since June and although we talk a lot and Skype pretty often, it’s definitely not the same as seeing them in person and I can’t wait to have a massive catch up.

3. Going out

12695038_10153345971436517_2657461725610478521_o Got to love dressing up for Fed!

Whilst there are parties and a fair few bars in downtown Flagstaff, there are no clubs and even to just go in a bar you have to be 21. A lot of my friends here aren’t old enough to go out and really miss a night out in Sub Zero or a bit of karaoke at Milk It. I can’t wait for freshers which is pretty much non existent in America!

4. The Food

English crumpets with butter close up You can’t beat a good crumpet

Whilst America is known for its huge portions and its fast food (which can be delicious) there are very few British foods available so I’ve had to learn to live without them. I’m lucky enough to have a family who understands my food needs and sends me some care packages including chocolate and gravy granules which, as a northerner, I cannot live without. However, I can’t wait until I can pick up some crumpets from Tesco or grab a sausage roll from Greggs.

5. Being a final year

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This one I think I’m half looking forward to and half dreading! I can’t get my head around the fact that my time at uni is almost over but being a final year means that I’ll have to make the most of every minute of it and even more so because I don’t have a dissertation to do!

I’m going to miss Arizona but I know that I’ll always be able to take a break from England and hop back over to the other side of the pond and visit. For now though, I have a whole year at Essex to look forward to!

 

 

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!

Our Diverse campus: it’s written in the prospectus, but what does it really mean?

When it comes to universities, the word “Diverse” can be seen in use a lot, but why does it ring especially true at the University of Essex?

University itself is a great place to introduce yourself to new ideas, new people and new cultures. You’re no longer at a school where everyone who attends lives in the same town as you. The people that you meet at university will be from all across the world!

Being diverse means that there will be people of different ages, different nationalities, different faiths, different sexualities and different occupations all brought together in one safe and friendly environment.

Students from over 130 countries

With so many people from different countries, it is not surprising that Essex is the 5th most internationally diverse university in the UK. In fact, a third of students at Essex are classed as international.

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Proud Essex: Students protesting about changes to international students visas

Cultural Societies

There are 36 on-campus societies based around the cultures of different countries. These societies aim to bring together people from those respective countries/cultures as well as people interested in learning more about them.

Faith

For many, faith is an important aspect of daily life. There are 11 different chaplains and faith representatives on-campus who are able to help if you have any questions or would like someone to talk to.

LGBTQ+

The University of Essex LGBT Society is one of the biggest in the UK and has won numerous awards for their work in recent years. Essex LGBT have well over one hundred members, associates, contributors and friends from a wide range of religious, racial and social backgrounds and are able to provide a supportive network for those who would like it.

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Mature Students

This means people who are aged 21 or over when they start their course with around 37% of the Essex student population being made up of mature students. In 2011 the University was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for providing outstanding support to mature students.

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!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Resulting in you looking a little like this…

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

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

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

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

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

Do something not nothing!

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

Don’t be afraid to get the balance wrong

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

It’s physically impossible to do everything

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

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

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

Organise AND prioritise   

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

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

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

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

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

 

Easter Fun in America

I love Easter. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s chocolate galore!

Here in the USA, my university doesn’t have an Easter holiday, but I still had an amazing Easter weekend full of fun. Me and some friends went to stay with one of our lovely American pals in Phoenix, Arizona. We were looking forward to experiencing the 30 degree weather in Phoenix and finally going to a water park.

You might think that Easter in America is pretty similar to Easter in the UK, but there’s actually a lot of things that are quite different. First off, and I was extremely devastated to discover this, chocolate Easter eggs aren’t very popular here at all. Instead, there is a tradition of Easter baskets. The family we were staying with were kind enough to give us one. It was full of American candy and chocolates. We were also given a jar of over 1000 jelly beans!

18010386_1665677296780365_3201051392254263424_n Four Brits very happy with their Easter basket!

Taking advantage of the very hot weather we went to Wet n Wild Phoenix which is a massive water park in the middle of the desert. It was a welcome break from all the work I’ve been doing! I had a go on a water coaster which went much faster than I thought it would. There was also a slide that 6 people could go on together and so we all squeezed on but I did bang the head of one of my pals on the bumpy ride down! After our ordeal we decided to cool down with a snow cone. They were much bigger than I expected and I think I went slightly overboard on the syrup flavours as they all seemed to merge into one!

IMG_20170421_133450 Enjoying some huge snow cones!

Our hosts were cooking us all a special Easter dinner, so it was only right to share some classic British food with our American friends. We made a Victoria Sponge! It went down a great hit as our dessert after our American Easter dinner. It’s traditional in America to have a ham at Easter, which we did, we also had a croissant, some stuffed baked potatoes and a delicious pineapple bread dish. I’m very fussy so I was concerned I wouldn’t like a lot of the food but I tried quite a lot of new things and found myself enjoying them!

IMG_20170421_134750 Sharing some delicious British desserts!

After dinner we took part in some fun Easter activities. We had a very competitive Easter egg hunt in the garden with everyone hurrying to find as many eggs as they could. Although there was no overall prize, each egg had a dollar in and there was a special golden egg with five dollars. We also took part in some art and dyed some eggs. Watching the eggs change colour is surprisingly satisfying!

IMG_5113 (1) Our beautifully decorated eggs

I had a wonderful Easter with my friends and the family we stayed with. I’m so grateful for their hospitality and how they welcomed 6 crazy Brits into their home during the holidays! I know I’ll always have somewhere to stay back in Arizona and my friends over here are always welcome in the UK.