Top 5 Underappreciated Spots on Campus

If you’re applying to Essex, you may have already heard about about the campus social spaces. Sub-Zero, Top Bar and the SU Bar are all great, but what about the places you haven’t heard of? Essex has a multitude of cultural hot-spots just waiting to be taken advantage of, where you can open your mind and create freely. That, to me, is what university is about.

#1: Gigs in Base

Here is the place to go if you want to see live music for cheap right on your doorstep. From lively cover bands, university alumni, all the way to touring bands who have played Reading and Leeds. If you love live music in any capacity, Base has you covered. Also, if you form a band on campus, chances are you’ll get to play in Base pretty frequently…just ask Sonic Hangover! The gigs in Base are organised by the Alternative Music Society (Altsoc), a great group of people united by a love of all kinds of music.

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Photography credit: University of Essex Alternative Music Society, sourced via Facebook  (https://www.facebook.com/AltSocEssex/)

If you want more info on upcoming live bands in Base, join “University Of Essex Alternative Music Society Forum” on Facebook.

#2: Lakeside Theatre

My fellow blogger Perry has no doubt covered this extensively during his time as a student blogger, but it bears repeating. The Lakeside theatre is an absolute gem. It boasts everything from a yearly panto, to physical theatre, to powerful discussions and spoken word performances. In my first year, I saw some brilliant stand up comedy from Nathan Caton and I’m a sucker for a panto, so I saw that in my first and second years. No matter what your taste, if you’re into theatre, Lakeside is the place for you. 

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Photography credit: University of Essex sourced via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/universityofessex/12221362263/

You can find upcoming Lakeside performances at http://lakesidetheatre.org.uk/whats-on/listings/.

#3: Music Room B

In my first year at Essex, if you wanted to play in a band, you had to practice in a lecture theatre between 7 and 10pm. In my second year, I helped the music society clear out the old drama room, which happened to contain not one but two Steinway pianos, and convert it into a practice room for musicians. Two years down the line and it’s a fully functioning music room complete with a set of amps, a drum kit, a keyboard, PA, and a multitude of other equipment. All you have to do is join the music society and you’re free to book it whenever you like. A musician’s dream. I love it!

 

Photography credits: Matthew Thurlow-Fox via Facebook (top) (https://www.facebook.com/matthew.thurlowfox?ref=br_rs) , UoE Music Society via Facebook (bottom left) (https://www.facebook.com/uoemusicsociety/), Octavian Albu (bottom right)

If you’re a practising musician, or just fancy giving it a try, check out “UoE Music Society” on Facebook.

#4: Cine10

Cine10 is something that still blows my mind every time I think about it. A cinema on campus, with full Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound and a 2K projector, and tickets are half the price of the Odeon in town. Cine10 shows movies that are still in cinemas, as well as classics, such as Mean Girls on October 3rd (of course) and the obligatory showing of Love Actually at Christmas. I saw Gone Girl there in my second year, and I have screenings for my film class there once a week. This is how much I love Cine10: my screenings are voluntary and at 9am (9AM!) and I still make the effort to go every week. It’s the full cinema experience, for no money at all.

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Photography credit: Cine10 via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Cine10-986183034789708/)

See all upcoming films at https://www.essexstudent.com/cine10/.

#5: Art Exchange

The Art Exchange is an incredible, cutting edge art gallery which is always free and always home to some amazing art. The first time I went to the gallery I saw Faiza Butt’s Paracosm and was so deeply impressed I made my mind up to see as many exhibitions as I could. The gallery has been home to such exhibitions as 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen’s Queen and Country exhibit and Regina José Galindo’s incredible Tierra. If you’re looking for radical contemporary art, or exhibitions of seminal work, Art Exchange has you covered. 

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Photography credit: Art Exchange via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ArtExchangeUoE/)

To see what exhibitions are coming up at the Art Exchange, check out their website at http://www.artexchange.org.uk/.

Is it Possible to Study and Still Have a Social Life?

The answer is of course, yes.

We’re in the last three weeks of uni, there’s officially less than a month until Christmas and deadlines are looming…It’s now that part of university where you have to actually attend lectures and start writing essays instead of hitting the snooze button and hanging out with your friends. The first term of university always feels really odd, when term starts December seems far, far away. You want to get to know your new flatmates rather than sit down and work. Now, you might have had a few late nights this term and you’re thinking about how to avoid panicking next term when your next deadline comes. So, here’s a few tips on how to have both a social life and get good results.

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To Do List

Invest in post it notes! Honestly, these saved my life in third year. I have so many deadlines for all my different modules, and for my RA job that it can be a bit overwhelming until I write it down. Once I have a list written down rather than just an idea in my head then it feels manageable. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at university when you have something due every week. And even if I only manage to cross off only half of my list, I still feel really accomplished.

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Find Your Space

Everyone has a spot on campus where they can be super productive. Some need the total silence of the library, while others need some background noise to focus. Personally, I need some background noise so I always like going to the student centre. Some people I know can work in the SU bar and like being able to get food and drinks while they’re working, and others like to stay in their room. Everybody has a certain space on campus that works for them, you just have to find it.

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Learn To Say No

Sometimes you just have to say no to your friends who are begging you to come out one last time before a deadline. You know and they know that you’re going to end up sleeping in the next day and not doing any work because you have a hangover (at least that’s what happens to me when I go out…) If you can work through your hangover, that’s great (also please let me know your secret?!), but some of us can’t and sometimes you need to say no to your friends and do the annoying thing of staying in and doing work. You’ll have serious FOMO but once you’ve finished it, you can go out as much as you like

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Alarms Are Your Friend (No, Really They Are)

Do you ever look back and wonder how you used to get at 7am for school when now it’s almost impossible to get up for your 9am lecture? I know I do. But if you find a time that feels like enough of a lie in, but still early during the day (personally, I like 9:30), then you’ll find your day is so much easier. If you find yourself waking up at noon everyday you’re going to find it much harder to fit in enough time for your uni life and your social life. Even if the idea of waking up at 9am is too much, set your alarm an hour earlier than normal and see how much work you get done and still get to hang out with your friends

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Speak Up

If you’re really struggling to balance your work and your social life and find yourself getting really overwhelmed at university, speak to someone. Even if it’s just a friend, they may be struggling in the same way. Your personal tutor is also there to give you advice and help you if you’re struggling, and Student Services are also on hand. You are not the first student to need help, and you won’t be the last. It’s very common for first years to end up at university and get really involved with things on campus and then forget that they actually have to study!

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Good luck!

 

Feeling overwhelmed?

Do you know the feeling of being stressed by essays, tests, presentations, work and volunteering commitments…You’re trying to pass everything well and still want to be involved in activities that matter to you, but it’s getting a bit too much. You just want to stop the time to get good sleep, watch all episodes of Friends, and then make the world spin round again. Sounds any familiar? If so, then you’re not alone in this. But there are a few ways to deal with it.

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Define the problem.

Do you have too many responsibilities? Is there any particular lecture that is difficult or any academic skill you need to improve? Do you struggle with managing your time or planning your work? Whatever it is, it has a solution, as long as you can define the problem. Just ask yourself a question what makes you feel like this and what can be done about it. If you think you can’t solve it yourself, maybe if would be easier after talking to your friend, lecturer, course director, Student Support or Talent Development Center. There are plenty of people willing to help you, but you need to let them know that you struggle.

 

See the good side.

Sometimes, it’s the attitude that’s the problem. Maybe it’s not meant to be easy – maybe that’s the whole point. When you work out to strengthen your muscles, run faster, climb higher… It requires effort and commitment, and your body is likely to be sore. This is how you know that it’s actually working and that you are improving.

It’s important to remember why you’re here. Most likely, you want to learn about something that interests you. You probably have a goal to achieve. To achieve this goal, you have to come out of your comfort zone. It might be hard sometimes, but that’s good, because this is how we learn.

It’s only up to you what you will make out of it. You can appreciate the amazing opportunity you have to learn and improve, or you can complain about it being difficult. The choice is yours.

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Look after your body.

Sometimes we think we’re some kind of super-humans who can survive on Red Bull, frozen pizzas and 4 hours of sleep. It’s strange that we understand that cars need the right petrol and certain maintenance to run properly, but we tend to forget that it applies to our bodies too. Drinking plenty of water, eating well, and getting enough sleep is so important, especially when you need to work at full speed. If you have heard it from your mom before, it’s because it’s true! 🙂

 

Prioritize ‘’ME TIME’’.

This is so crucial for everyone’s well-being. You are busy and you have the whole list of important things to do, but these things are not more important than YOU. Do something that makes you happy every day, even if it’s only a few minutes. Dance, sing, play an instrument, draw, go for a walk, meditate… Do whatever charges you with good energy.

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Don’t be harsh on yourself.

If something didn’t go as you planned, don’t punish yourself with negative thoughts. It’s OK. It’s just a part of the learning process. Just acknowledge it and move on. How many times did you fall off your bike before you’ve mastered riding it?

I hope you don’t get overwhelmed and that you stay faaaar away from the negative bubble! Life at Uni might become hard if you take up too much work and try to make everything perfect. I think the most important is to be kind to yourself and accept that you really don’t need to be perfect. Just love yourself, think positively and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if it’s needed! I’m sending you all a virtual hug and wish you a healthy end-of-term revision!

 

Freshers’ mistakes to avoid

The first month of freshers’ madness is over and I hope it’s been a great time for all of you. Now, some serious stuff begins.

Essays, tests, presentations, nights spent in the library, litres of coffee… nah, it’s not that bad really 🙂  I hope you’ll have an amazing year filled with great experiences, so to make a bit easier in the academic aspect, I’d like to share with you some tips I wish someone had given me at the very beginning of my journey. Hopefully some of you will find it useful!

Here are a few things to AVOID:

Not knowing what and when you have to do assignments

I know that students’ budget might be restrictive, but getting a year planner is a great investment, trust me. You can also get creative and make one yourself. Whichever way you find to organize your work, it’s important that you know your deadlines, so when you see that you have to hand in four essays in the same week, you can do something to avoid being unprepared.

 

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Pulling all-nighters all the time

Your hands are shaking from too much Redbull and the letters on the screen are getting blurry. You have two hours to finish before the deadline, you’ve only covered half of the material and with rising despair you’re asking why you did this to yourself. Again.

Some people say they prefer to work under pressure, because they suddenly become super-productive. I personally feel enough pressure having to deliver a good piece of writing and don’t need an extra thrill of the ticking clock. But I’m sure you’ll find that out for yourself!

 

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Thinking you’re all alone

As a student whose first language is not English, I had a hard time following two hour lectures filled with words I didn’t know and reading academic texts. I didn’t want to ask any questions after class because I didn’t want to look silly, in case I missed something that had been said.

The important thing to remember is, we would not be at the University if we already knew everything. It’s always good to ask your lecturer and it’s OK not to know things, repeat the question and admit that you struggle if you need to. The lecturers are here to help us improve; they don’t expect us to know everything. Don’t let your doubts accumulate, because if you don’t know what your classes are about for a few months, you will have to find it all out in one go. Whatever your work-under-pressure-master technique is, don’t do that.

If you need help with English, writing your essay, finding resources, referencing, effective reading, or anything else, it’s really worth to book a session at the Talent Development Centre. There is plenty of assistance offered to you, as long as you reach out for it.

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Not answering the essay question

It might seem obvious but I still did it. I heard the lecturer say ”in your first essay you will have to explain what management is”…and that was it for me. I spent an entire week reading and writing, I put so much effort into my first academic essay and submitted it with pride.  When I got it back with a big D-,  for a moment I questioned all my abilities. After reading the feedback I knew that next time I’d need to go on Moodle and see the full assignment description and points to include. Oh well.

 

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Thinking that the first year doesn’t count

Technically it doesn’t. But what you didn’t do in the first year, you might have to catch up with later, and that’s not always fun. You have time to get used to things and find your way to go about it, without unnecessary pressure, but don’t just shrug it off. There are also other benefits you might not think of at first, for example summer schools, internships or Study Abroad Programs, which might take into account grades from your first year.

 

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Procrastinating too much

I think in the first year I spent more time thinking about how much work I had to do instead of actually doing it. You don’t need to torture yourself. Set some time when you study and don’t do anything else, no Game of Thrones in the background, no Facebook open, no distractions. Just get it DONE! And have more time for fun things afterwards. It’s always difficult to start, but then you’ll find your way.

 

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I hope you enjoy your time at Essex and avoid all of the mistakes above! Good luck everyone 🙂

 

 

Ways to learn a new language at Essex

If learning a new language has been  sitting on your list of things to do, right next to ‘get fitter’ and ‘eat healthier’, you’re not the only one. It’s one of those things that’s always in the back of your mind; you know it would be worth doing because it gives such an edge when it comes to applying for jobs, but you just never seem to get around to it. Well, I have a great news for you. Being an Essex student, there has never been a better time to learn a new language and there are so many ways you can go about it.

Choose a language degree

The university offers great courses in languages. For those who take the Intensive Initial programme on their first year, the university might also cover the fees of the summer school abroad. I was lucky to go to International House in Valencia after my first year and came back being near to fluent in Spanish… and with a pretty nice tan!

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Combined degrees / optional modules

A Language Degree might not be your thing, but Essex offers a whole lot of combined degrees, such as Business Management and Modern Languages, International Relations and Modern Languages, Art History with a Modern Language, and so on. Many degrees have optional modules, and you might be able to choose a language and get credits for it, so no more excuses 🙂

 

Year Abroad

Yes! Essex has an impressive list of study/work abroad options! Even if you don’t speak the language of the country you would like to go to, you don’t need to worry; many universities offer modules in English. You can practice the language, get to know the culture and experience life in a different place. I went to Mexico for my year abroad and it was definitely a life-changing experience. I did some fascinating courses that are not as easily accessible at Essex, such as Mayan Language and Mayan Epigraphy. I also got addicted to habanero chilli, learned to dance Cumbia, met so many people with  different views and helped me reflect on everything I thought I knew about the world. I spent some time in the desert too, hiked beautiful mountains and swam in turquoise thermal waters. Every country you choose might open a whole new world for you.

 

Languages for All

This is another opportunity you can’t miss! LFA is a study option that you can take as evening language classes alongside your degree. There’s no  additional cost to take these classes for a year, so it’s definitely worth it! You can study Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, or Spanish. You will have set times for classes and a tutor, so no more pushing it to another day 🙂 ! I did Russian in my first year and I enjoyed it so much that I continued in the second year, in spite of a fee. I think it’s totally worth it!

LfA will give you skills, satisfaction, certificate of completion of the course and credits towards your Big Essex Award, but it is worth noting that you will not get the academic credits for it. If you do need a course which will give you academic credits, check out the Essex Modern Language Certificate.

Language Cafés

If you don’t want to commit to regular classes, find out about Language Cafés in the Language and Linguistics Department! I attended the Russian and Spanish Cafés in previous years and I think it is a really pleasant way of learning! The sessions are led by current students (native speakers of the taught language), who organise games, conversational classes and resolve any language mysteries students struggle with, over some coffee and cookies.

Societies

Essex is such a multicultural university! Being here, you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to be able to socialize with native speakers. You can get to know people from the country of your interest or people just like you, who want to learn about it. All you need to do is just go out there and make some friends! There are French societies, as well Bulgarian, Chinese, Nordic, Japanese, and many more! Some of them organise language classes, but there is also so much more to it! Go to Modern Languages Movie Nights, practice Spanish small-talk, get to know Japanese music, just surround yourself with it and have fun!

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Whatever works for you, just do it! This is the right time!

 

 

 

Choosing Modules Wisely

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The beauty of uni is the amount of choice and flexibility you have with your degree, ability to pick and choose what you want to focus on is one of the best things about the transition from sixth form to uni. However, being wise about your choice of modules will also help you structure your time and not end up with a mountain of work all at once.

Check when in the year the module is

On the Essex Module Directory you can see whether a course is full year, autumn term or spring term, it’s indicated in the module code by FY-Full Year, AU Autumn, SP Spring. In my first year I made the mistake of choosing two Autumn term modules alongside the core modules I took, meaning I had loads of coursework all at the same time, and more lectures and classes too. It was definitely still doable, but when I was new to the university and time management deal, it did become a bit much on the run up to christmas when all of the coursework started to rack up. On the other side of that though, taking my optionals in the autumn meant that my spring term was the nice and relaxed, I only had three modules in comparison to the five that I had in first term, meaning I could give more time to coursework and start revision early.

Check what the assessment style is

Some people simply suck at exams, it just isn’t their forte, alternatively, some are terrible at organising their time around coursework, taking a good amount of time to check how modules are assessed means you can potentially avoid doing too much of whatever you struggle with (this obviously depends on department.)

Don’t be afraid to go outside your department

A lot of degrees will allow you to study modules outside of your department, this can seem intimidating as it isn’t in your area, but they offer you these modules for a reason. Having interdisciplinary knowledge can be so useful in the rest of your studies. I took a psychoanalysis module in first year, despite being a lit and film student and it was so useful, I was shoving Freud in any essay I could after taking it. You can apply knowledge from those modules to coursework and your independent research project. Everyone’s degree is different, shape it around what you find interesting.

Most importantly, go for your passion

You took this degree for a reason, take a good amount of time reading over the module outline, have a look at the bibliography, if necessary contact the module leader or your department for some more info. A lot of departments have their own facebook pages, you could even post on there to see if any other students could advise you on their thoughts about the module. Think about what really peaks your interest, a boring module is the worst.

 

10 Mistakes You’ll Make as a Fresher

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Coming to uni is full of new and exciting experiences, and you’re having to navigate a load of new things, so you’re bound to make a few mistakes, here’s ten things you might want to avoid, from ‘meh, you can get away with that’ to ‘for the love of all that is holy don’t do that.’ 

1.Not exploring the local area before studying starts

This isn’t essential but it’s A) useful to know the place you’ll be living in for three years and B) a nice thing to do to get to know your new friends and flatmates. It also means you can suss out local chippys for late night sesh food and where you can go for some retail therapy when things get a little too stressful.

2.Not getting familiar with how to find references before your first coursework is due

Again, this isn’t a massive mistake, but it’s just a useful thing to do before you’re bogged down with deadlines. Get yourself familiar with how to navigate the library and ways to find research material, for a lot of departments the library will give a talk on how to use the available resources, and there is loads of useful info on the library website too.

3.Buying every course book brand new

Unless you’re on a very specific course that needs particular editions etc, don’t be a wally and go forking out all your money on brand new books, go to charity shops, Ebay, Amazon marketplace and buy them second hand, or you may be able to find them online, some older books can actually be found free on apple store and kindle. A lot of lecturers will also upload the relevant reading material on ORB or moodle, so you won’t need to have the entire book, it’s best to get in touch with your department and ask beforehand

4.Joining every society under the sun

And how do you suppose you’re going to fit in Rowing, Archery, Sci-fi, Harry Potter, Pole, and Cheese and Wine society (yes that’s a real thing) into your week? Societies are great ways of meeting people but the truth is, signing up at every stall at freshers fair, you’re never going to be able to get to all of them, and you’ll be inundated with sign up emails. The best shout is to have a think what you really fancy and sign up to a select few.

5.Ruining at least one item of clothing in the wash

I did it, despite the fact that I thought I was an adulting boss before I came to uni, and not much self-sufficiency could phase me, I still managed to forget about a delicate kimono in my first wash and turn it into a pile of threads in the machine.

6.Worrying about what people think of your parents on move in day

You’re not going to be seeing them for a really long time, give your mum a break if she’s being a little clingy, everyone will understand. There’s no rush to be hurrying your folks out of the door. If there’s no welcome event in the evening of move in day, why not have a final meal with them before they head off. Emotions will be high on your first day, consider how weird it must feel for your parents now you’re flying the nest.

7.Getting caught up in all the fun and not doing the important stuff

Welcome week is predominantly  about enjoying yourself and getting familiar with your surroundings, but in between the partying and the fun stuff, there are a few admin things that are important to do. Make sure you go to the general welcome talk, registration, departmental talks and library tours, while they may seem boring and arduous, they’re important and useful in the long run. None of them take too long so you can get right back to enjoying yourself pretty quickly.

8.Panicking about not meeting your soulmate in the first week.

Likelihood is, in first week you’ll be finding your feet and meeting loads of different people, some might stick around, some might not. But really, don’t beat yourself up if the people you meet early in the term don’t seem like best mate material, good friendships take time, so don’t panic, you can still have loads of fun with first week randoms.

9.Hiding in your room

It’s very tempting, in the first few weeks, you have a new habitat and you want to burrow in it, only sneaking out to make food for yourself at strategic times when the kitchen might be empty. But making friends with your housemates, while it isn’t always the easiest, will prove useful when you’re midway into the year and fancy some company close to home.

10.Getting with someone in your flat

Just don’t.

And if you don’t know why, then maybe you deserve to learn from that mistake.

A Level results day: how to handle it, what to do with your results and celebrating!

One of the most exciting yet nerve-wracking things in life has to be A-level results day. You’ve made that wonderful step towards wanting to study those subjects that you love in more detail. Two years later and it is time to see how your hard work has paid off.

So here is what happens:

A-Level-results-day-collection-time-for-2015-pic-1The Build Up.

This year (2017) results are released on the 17th August. All universities, schools, colleges and sixth form centres will receive the results before the release date but annoyingly they are under a legal requirement not to announce until the specified date.

You’ll then go into your school, college or sixth form centre on the day to collect your results (check to see if there is a certain time in which you must collect them).

Remember your grades will NOT be displayed on UCAS Track which will only show if you have been accepted for your university application. UCAS Track will however update at around 8am on the day of result releases- so there is no point in staying up to look at midnight as nothing will change.

Didn’t go the way you’d hope?

Don’t be disappointed if you didn’t get the results you wanted or needed. Find out if there is the chance to retake you exam as this could easily rectify any issues you have.

If you don’t meet the grade criteria for your university it may be worth checking on UCAS track to see if they have still accepted your application, as is sometimes the case. If they haven’t accepted you then take a look at UCAS clearing to see if other universities will offer you place. Last year 33,000 students found a place at a university through clearing.

Better than expected?

Perhaps you didn’t consider university but are so chuffed with your results you now feel like it could be the place for you. In that case you can find a place through the UCAS adjustment system.

How to handle it

Whether you’ve applied for university or not, A-Level results day can feel terrifying. Remember to stay calm and that results are not always the beginning or end of everything. Most people find comfort in collecting their results with friends or family- in most cases they know what you are going through and are able to support you.

Your results can now be used towards your current or future university application and also for applying for jobs or apprenticeships/ internships. In some cases you will be handed a piece of paper with your grades on and will receive your certificates at a later date- either way keep anything with your grades on safe as you never know when you might need to refer to it.

Celebrate

There is no harm in celebrating a job well done. Be thankful that this is now the end of your a-levels- you’re free!

Grab a camera and take a picture of your chuffed self- if the local newspaper hasn’t got there before you.

Perhaps order a takeaway to celebrate but most importantly make sure that you tell your family and friends your results as they will be just as eager to hear them.

The Pains of Degree Snobs

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Ok, this is a bit of a ranty blog post, so buckle up, it’s time Chloe lays down the law on why, if you’re a degree snob, you suck.

I have always been of the persuasion that every degree is different and important in its variation from any other. I really don’t believe there is any study that you can do that is better or worse than any other, just different. There’s a really nice quote from our former chancellor Shami Chakrabarti about being ‘anyone’s equal, no one’s superior.’ To me, the beauty of being at university is learning about how many fields of interest there are, meeting people from other disciplines, and appreciating others for having different specialties from your own. But what do I know? I’m just a Film and Literature student.

A bit of background, last weekend, I was at a BBQ with a group of mechanical engineering students from another uni, and being a newcomer to the group, my degree and career path came up in conversation. Now, that’s fine, I do Film studies and Literature and love talking about my degree, everyone likes watching movies, so it’s not like people won’t understand the appeal of studying them right? However I always feel the need to self deprecate about the fact that I study film and I’m kind of bored of doing it, and it all comes from the exact reaction I received on this particular occasion, and so many others like it. If I were paid every time I had this conversation, I’d make Bill Gates look like a peasant.  When I tell people what I do, it normally goes a lot like this:

Them: So what do you study?

Me: I do lit and film at Essex, it’s great

Them: *Disapproving look* Riiight and what are you going to do with that afterwards?

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Me in real life: Yeah haha I know right, what an airy fairy degree!

After this I usually politely school them on how many options I have and the very decided career path I want to take, it normally shuts their disapproval right down. What frustrated me on this occasion was the fact I was surrounded by a group of BEng students, all looking down on my BA. The feeling that people think their degree is more legit than mine boils my blood. For the reason that yes, there are some degrees that have very practical and obvious applications beyond academic study, but it in no way makes studying them any better than studying an arts, humanities or any other “less worthy” degree.

I’m an easily riled person, maybe because I’m a redhead, maybe because I’m really bored of this particular conversation, and perhaps I should just brush these encounters off, but what annoys me is how illegitimate these conversations make me feel. I’m pretty sure anyone who’s doing anything like art history, liberal arts, performing arts, sport science, criminology, sociology, or anything else that doesn’t require being a calculator monkey, will have experienced this at least once too. Being made to feel stupid or less legit, because of the thing you feel most passionate about, it feels trash. It’s like when someone slates your favourite band or TV show and you want to headbutt a wall, because of how wrong their opinion is (I am fully aware that opinions are opinions but I’m sorry, if you think my film studies and literature degree is useless, you’re just plain wrong.)

The way I see it, is without these fields, arts, humanities, sport etc. what would the world do beyond work? It feels hypocritical to sit in your Star Wars T-shirt, criticizing people that study and work in cinema. How else is that thing you love going to exist without the people who devote themselves to making it?!

So, moral of the story of my long angry rant is… don’t be a wally. Regardless of what you think about someone’s degree or passion, consider that  it’s A) fascinating to them even if it isn’t to you and B) probably very useful for what they want in the future. Even if it isn’t, there is no shame in studying something you love, and you should never ever be made to feel that there is.

giphy (7).gif …Chloe out.

Your First University Essay

3093588562_b255f9a2fb_zWhen I got to the end of primary school, I remember a teacher telling me that soon I’d be at big school writing these things called ‘essays’ I remember they sounded really difficult and terrifying to a 12 year old brain. When I got to secondary school, fastforwarding about 3 years, writing a two page English essay and getting A’s based on the argument that red curtains signify anger, felt really legit. Oh my sweet summer child, if only I knew…

When I came to university, I had obviously come a long way since my first essay in year 7/8 and had written loads throughout school and sixth form. But what I didn’t know is that a university essay is most definitely not the same as anything I had done before, and just like that little 12 year old  felt the fear rush over me once again, not of essays this time, but of having to think about referencing. So here’s a few things to keep in mind when you write your first university essay (note not everything applies to all degrees and some styles may vary, but you get the gist.)

Reading Around Before You Start

I can’t stress this enough, don’t just start your essay blindly without thinking about which citations you’re going to use. I made this mistake with my first essay and it’s a real struggle making a point and then trying to find a perfect supporting quote to back up your argument. You will also run the risk of making your point seem really tenuous if you do it in this order.

Don’t underestimate how long this will take! For a whole essay, during a busy term time, I usually allocate about 3 weeks per deadline, the first week and a half of that, maybe even two weeks, is reading and researching for me.

The best thing to do is to get your subject matter first, and a rough idea of your opinion on the argument and then go straight to reading up on it. I personally prefer books over the internet, probably because it makes me feel more studious sitting in the library with a big stack of books. Go for stuff that is roughly linked to the subject and then the index is king, find quotations that may be useful or connected and note them down in full, making sure you have the page number, author, chapter title, publication house, date and location. I like to do this on a word document, making sure it stays nice and organised with little line breaks as I do it.

Use Your Reading to Inform Your Argument

The reality is, you probably can never do enough reading on the subject you are writing on, but there will come a point when you’ve got to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) usually because the deadline is only a few days away and you’re starting to sweat over your empty word document. Depending on the department or task, you may need more or less, but four strong references are probably a good starting point. From these you can formulate your plan (this is where it varies from student to student, while some will plan very heavily, others -myself included- will do a rough plan knowing that eventually that will go entirely out of the window. I quite like this method because it means your essay can flow organically and your opinion can adjust as you write but you still have a framework behind it.)

Think on what the author is saying, you don’t necessarily have to agree with them, you may disagree wholeheartedly, but that can make for an even stronger argument. Then you can shape paragraphs around their point in relation to your own, either the point can heighten your argument or be used as a point of discussion.

Watch your Language

When writing your first university essay, the likelihood is you will be tempted to use all of the complexity that your capability allows. Avoid this. Just because you know the word ‘verisimilitudinous’ doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use it 12 times (although it is a great word.) Of course using the odd term, complex word, or sentence structure may benefit you occasionally, but writing like this all the time can read as confusing and may sometimes make you seem like you’re trying to hide the fact you haven’t got a clue what you are talking about behind big words. Try write clearly and fairly simplistically, essays aren’t a vocabulary test.

Taking a Step Back and Simplifying When Your Brain Feels Mushy

I’m going into my third year now, and with every essay, I still without fail, hit the wall at some point during every essay. There’s a few things you can do when this happens to keep yourself on course. First of all, if you haven’t already, write yourself a little mini thesis, this can even become a part of your introduction or conclusion, write down an extremely succinct version of what your argument is, your essay concentrated. This really helps if you are getting lost or veering off on a tangent, use it to remind yourself what your essay is about. Secondly, if you can’t quite word what you’re trying to say, I find it really useful to try and orally explain the point I am trying to make to a friend. It makes you clarify what you are trying to say and bring it back to basics away from a tangle of words.

The Dreaded Footnote

Ugggggghhhhhhhhh referencing why?! You will have heard of plagiarism and how much of a big deal it is. Plagiarism is important to be aware of, you may think that just not being an idiot and avoiding copying people is enough, but plagiarism covers incorrect referencing too. Depending on your department the referencing style you use may vary, you can easily find guides of each style on the internet, i.e. Harvard, APA, Chicago etc. However a lot of departments will have a style handbook too to help you with that. Referencing isn’t hard once you’re in the swing, but getting it in the right order and correct can be a struggle, but after a few essay’s practice, it is sort of second nature. Be aware too that footnotes and bibliographies go in different orders depending on the style.

Stickler on the Proof

Just for the love of all that is holy, proof your work. Proof read it alot, proof read it until you’re sick and tired of reading it, then, read it again. It may be a struggle for your first essay as you may still feel a little too shy to share your work, but reading and proofing each other’s work is so so useful as well in making sure your argument is clear and cogent.

People work in different ways, all of these tips may prove completely useless to you, but I hope it has dispelled just a couple of those first essay fears!