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

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

Myth: Students drink and party all the time

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

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

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

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

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

Myth: Everyone will be smarter than me

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

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

Myth: You have to buy everything before you arrive

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(c) motoring.sg

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

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

The Homesickness Feels

When you start university in October there are loads of activities to keep you occupied in Freshers’ Fortnight. You’ve got all the stuff going on in the day involving departmental welcome meetings and registering for uni, so you get that handy student loan money. Then there’s all the things happening at night, whether it’s karaoke in the SU Bar, sports fed in Sub Zero or a rock and indie night in Base. Along with your flatmates being in the same position as you in a brand new environment,there really isn’t that much time to miss home. I loved my first few weeks at uni and didn’t go home until the Christmas holidays. Coming to Essex from Manchester, it was quite an expensive and too long of a journey to take just for a weekend. I settled in really well into all of my lectures and class and got on amazingly with my flatmates.

giphy Even The Simpsons get homesick

Pretty much everyone will experience being homesick at some point during university. It can affect some people more than others and happen at any point in the year. For me, homesickness didn’t really set in until I came back after being home for a month after Christmas. I don’t think I realised how much I’d missed my family and friends or how much they had missed me until I went home. By the time I’d settled into being back at home it was time to go back to Essex again. Whilst I was looking forward to going back and catching up with all my friends, part of me just wanted to stay at home.

4gravy You don’t get this every Sunday at uni!

Back at Essex, feelings of wanting to go home would just hit me at any moment. It was never bad enough for me to want to go back home straight away but I’d just find myself cooking my fourth pasta meal of the week and really craving a roast dinner. Even watching Netflix on my laptop with my flatmates made me miss having a TV and a comfy couch to sit on. Usually when I felt like this I would give my mum a call or talk to my friends from home and immediately I would feel better. But it’s not as easy as that for everyone.

On my year abroad here in America, it’s hard not to feel homesick sometimes. The way classes are taught is different, the food is different, the sense of humour is different, even the weather sometimes makes me miss dreary old England! You never really realise how far away from home you are until you want to go back and its a plane ride rather than a train ride away. The great thing about being an international student though is that you know so many other people in the same position and you sort of bond over it. I’ve had so many discussions about the funny little differences that you only really notice living here. Dippy eggs and soldiers are not a thing here, so of course I got my family to send me some egg cups!

If you’re feeling really homesick, talk to your flatmates and friends. I can guarantee that they’ll have felt the same at some point. Call home and tell someone you’re not feeling great. It may sound counter intuitive but don’t actually go home, if you keep leaving uni then it’ll take even longer to settle in. If there is no one you know that you feel you can talk to then pop into SU Advice. You should never feel like you’re alone because there will always be someone willing to help. I promise!

Making Big Life Choices: Getting Past the Fear

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

Fear of losing fun.

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

Increase your savings

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

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

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What if I don’t get a job at all?

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

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Should I do a masters?

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

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

Revision techinques

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

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

Lecture notes

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

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Mind Map:

There are several ways you could use mind maps.

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

 

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Listen Again

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

Flashcards/question cards

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

Essay plans

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

Practice questions

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

Teaching someone else

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

Study Group

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

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

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

The Essex Road Trip: the best places to go around Essex

Campus is great and all but sometimes it is nice to escape and explore. Now I am not going to deny that Essex (as in the county of Essex) has a reputation, but who would have thought that there is more to Essex than fake tan and the Sugar Hut? In fact Essex is a hugely diverse place in which 90% of its residents do not conform to the typical stereotypes.

So I recommend that you get exploring this fine county to see what it really has to offer:

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So much to see in this huge county

 

History lovers- Satisfy those cravings with castles, stately homes and old buildings!

Layer Marney Tower– A short distance from Colchester, Layer Marney is the tallest gatehouse in Britain and is part of a building that was meant to rival the famous Hampton Court Palace. King Henry the 8th once stayed here.

Audley End House– On the outskirts of the historic town of Saffron Walden, this Jacobean stately home is one of the grandest in the area.

Hedingham Castle– This wonderful castle is still owned by the descendants of the original owners and is over 900 years old!

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The beautiful Layer Marney Tower

Coastal lovers- Over 350 miles of Coastline leaves you spoilt for choice

Clacton– only a short bus or train ride from campus, Clacton boasts all the things that you would associated with a typical coastal town- it even has a really cheap cinema. The nearby towns of Walton and Frinton are a short walk up the coast.

Mersea Island– Cut off from the mainland at high tide, Mersea is certainly a gem in Essex’s crown. The area is famous for its oyster fishing and restaurants with fantastic walks and beaches on the Blackwater Estuary.

Maldon– The 75 bus will take you from campus to the historic market town of Maldon filled with a great variety of shops and history, but the Promenade Park on the banks of the Blackwater Estuary is a great location for a day trip.

Southend– Any visit to Essex should include a visit to Southend. A huge amounts of shops, arcades, a planetarium, the UK’s longest pier as well as the rides and rollercoasters of Adventure Island often means that a day in Southend is not enough.

Harwich– Easily accessible by bus or train, this North Essex coastal town is probably best known for the busy international port, but is also where the pilgrims built the Mayflower in order to set sail to America. It also has one of the oldest cinemas in the UK and the famous diary writer, Samuel Pepys, was the Member of Parliament for the town.

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Coastal views at Harwich- (c) The Guardian

Countryside lovers – Over 3,500 square kilometres for you to explore!

The Essex Way– an 82 mile footpath from Epping to Harwich via the rest of the county. I’m not for a minute suggesting you should walk the whole thing, but you could do parts of it!

Hylands Park– Located on the outskirts of Chelmsford, the park is most famous for hosting the annual V-Festival. It is also a 574 acre parkland with a Neo-Classical villa in the middle (which looks a bit like the White House)

Epping Forest– the size of over 3,300 football pitches, this ancient forest covers parts of Essex and North East London and is a former royal forest before being “given” to the people by Queen Victoria. Now the largest open space in London, the forest is filled with fantastic walks and stories.

Tiptree Jam Factory– Tiptree is famous for potentially being the biggest village in the UK as well as the jam factory. The factory are the provider of jam and conserves for Her Majesty the Queen. You can visit the factory and look around the gift shop and museum before enjoying a well deserved cream scone in the tea rooms.

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Explore the depths of Epping Forest

Quirky lovers- For something a little different to the norm

Greensted Church– Not the Greensted in Colchester, but the one near the town of Ongar which is the oldest and perhaps only church in England built out of wood.

Great Dunmow– This town is home to a strange competition called the Flitch Trials. The mock trials aim to find a married couple who have not quarrelled or repented their marriage over the last year with the winners receiving a flitch of bacon!

Maldon Mud Race– Begun as pub bet in 1973, the mud race has become a huge event in which competitors must race through the muddy River Blackwater at low tide… it is very messy stuff!

To be honest what I have written does not even begin to scratch the surface of things to see and do in Essex, but it is a good place to start!

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Maldon Mud Race- (c) The Mirror News Group

From Essex with Love: Attending the University of Essex when you’re already from Essex

A lot of thought goes into choosing a university. There are simply so many options and scenarios to go through. I remember going to a UCAS convention whilst in sixth form and talking with different universities about what they had to offer then I ended up coming home with 47 prospectuses! (No word of a lie, I carried them home in four large bags that they were helpfully giving out.)

I spent a huge amount of time going through the daunting pile of information, all of which seemed to blur together after a while. I didn’t think that UCAS would have appreciated the suggestion to increase the application options from 5 to 30 (because yes I had managed to get it down but was still struggling!)

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Choosing where to go can be hard- Image courtesy of OdysseyOnline

Long story short, I finally managed to get my five choices: Essex, a London based uni, two in the midlands and one much further down south… obviously as you know from the fact that I’m writing a blog for the University of Essex, I ended up at Essex.

The thing is: I’m from Essex. I was born in Essex. Have lived all my life in Essex. And here I was applying to a university that was only 20 miles away, or three stops away on the train!

Some would think that this was too close for comfort, however the thing I learnt from that pile of prospectuses was that an “English Literature” degree can vary drastically from university to university- as is the case with most courses. Therefore not only did I have to like the university, I also needed to know what sort of things I was going to be taught and if this was what I was interested in.

23863522969_40f183ff41_oAmazingly, Essex offered this: a perfect, compacted campus; a community feeling; good facilities; and a course that taught that things that I was interested in. I could have gone hundreds of miles away but I can’t say that I would have been any happier with my choice.

The thing is many people get really excited at the prospect of moving away from home and therefore want to move as far away as possible. Evidently I found a uni I loved right on my doorstep. I lived there for the first year and then moved back home for second and third year.

My family didn’t interfere with my uni life- most people expect that they would visit all the time being that close. In truth, they have only seen the university twice: the first time was when I moved in and the second time was when I moved out. They know that university is my experience, my realm so to speak, so they would never try to turn up uninvited.

The point of my rambling is quite simply that I found my perfect uni a short distance away from me. Don’t be so quick to dismiss a university that is local to you; at the end of the day you want to make sure that you go to a university that feels like home, has that “vibe” that makes it feel right and does the course the way you want it to be. So near to home or a hundred miles away, it shouldn’t matter where the university is located as long as it works for you.

I’m from Essex and the University of Essex worked for me.

Making the most of your time at Essex

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

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

Volunteering

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

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

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

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

Just Play Sessions

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

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

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

 Sport Clubs

 Do you want to challenge yourself with something new?

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

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

 

 

My Dyslexia Story

Like 1 in 10 people, I suffer from dyslexia. However, I have never let my dyslexia hold me back.

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Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/0c/8e/82/0c8e82af8742109489ff85d3f95fcae6.jpg

My Dyslexia Story

I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 18 and started university. I’ve always been awful at spelling and my reading age was below average, but somehow I always managed to be in the top classes for English in high school. When I was 15 and in my last year of high school doing my GCSE my Grandad told me he was dyslexic. He suggested that I should get tested. So my high school gave me a test and it came back with moderate signs of dyslexia. However they decided since the waiting list to see an educational psychologist was 6 months and I was due to do my GCSE in a couple of months they’d give me extra time. My sixth form did the same.

After my A-levels were way better than I had ever expected, when I came to university I decided actually I probably wasn’t dyslexic since it had never actually been picked up by teachers. I did my first couple of pieces of coursework and failed one and got a 48 on the other. I was gutted because I’d really tried hard. This was when I decided to contact student services. They were great and got me an appointment with an Educational Psychologist. Within a couple of weeks I was diagnosed and had been given loads of help by the university with extra time in exams and a cover sheet to go with my coursework to explain my diagnosis.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficultly which may affect a persons ability to spell, write and read. There are many different symptoms of dyslexia. I tend to suffer with poor spelling ( I am having to spell check dyslexia every time I type it), have a limited vocabulary and find it hard to understand long passages of instruction or text.

More Symptoms can be found here

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 How the university can help you

Any advice you would like about dyslexia or any learning disability is available at student services. Like they did for me, they can arrange for you to have an assessment.

If you already have a diagnosis then they can provide academic support, make arrangements for exams and provide you with a cover sheet for your coursework. If you feel you could benefit from their help, pop down to the Silberrad student centre and go to student support on the first floor for any advice.

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Not letting my learning difficulty hold me back

It is great the amount of support you can be offered from university, but what happens in the real world while applying for jobs?

Firstly, I think it helped me getting a job in a shop. The type of tasks you do while working in a shop aren’t demanding, but it helped me with skills such as problem solving which is something that is affected by my dyslexia. It also helped with my confidence.

During university I have completed a frontrunner position and I am online brand ambassador. I mean I never in a million years thought my writing was good enough to write blogs!  During my interview for frontrunner I had to do a timed assessment, something that really panics me. A symptom of dyslexia is that you generally work slower and need more time to understand instruction. But somehow I managed to complete the assessment and got the job!

I am now in the process of applying for graduate positions. The first one I didn’t mention I was dyslexic. I had to do a online timed assessment and panicked and didn’t finish it before the time ran out. I got an email back to say I had been rejected. Since then I have made sure I have put about my dyslexia on my applications. The latest job has arranged for me to have extra time so I have less pressure on my online assessment.

Understanding dyslexia

People will say “You can’t be dyslexic and do a degree” or “You won’t have dyslexia if you weren’t diagnosed in primary school”…well these just aren’t true. Morale of the blog is I don’t want people to let their learning difficulties hold them back. You can get a degree, just like I am and many other people at this university who suffer from learning difficulties!

How to conquer an Essex applicant day

You’ve applied to university and the offers are flooding in, so how do you decide which of the five choices to go to?

At Essex we give you an extra chance to get to know us better. If you are offered a place then you will be invited to one of our applicant days (also known as visit days) where you’ll  get a chance to explore the campus, accommodation and subject in more detail.

Here is what will happen on an applicant day and what you should do to make the most of it.

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The registration venue “The Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall,” lovingly known as The Tin Can

Know where you’re going

We don’t expect you to be an expert in navigating our campus,  but its worth familiarising yourself with maps so you know where is the best place to park closest to the venues.

Follow the signs to Valley Carpark and the registration venue is the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall (The big silver building next to the car park)

A wealth of information

The first session begins at 10am in the Ivor Crewe, which will give you a better idea of what you can experience about Essex. There will be representatives from Student Finance, Employability, Undergraduate Admissions, Accommodation, Languages for all, Student Support and Essex Abroad- so prepare to get your questions answered!

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Home away from home.

You’ll have the chance to visit our campus accommodation and if you know that you’ll be living on campus, then this is definitely worth doing. You may have seen our accommodation at an Open Day- the difference here is that it is term time, therefore students have settled into our rooms giving you a better idea as to how the accommodation works once occupied.

Talk to students

Throughout the day you’ll spot our student ambassadors who are there to answer questions, lead campus tours and help the day run smoothly. They also really enjoy talking about their experiences at Essex- so go ahead: ask them questions and get to know them.

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Never go away with questions

The worst thing you can do on a day like an applicant day is not ask that question burning deep inside. If you want to know something about the university, the course, the student way of life or local transport links then ask!

The point of this day is to answer all those questions so you can make an informed decision about where you want to go to university, so don’t go home with any questions that you could have asked.

Most importantly: Enjoy yourself

It is going to be a busy day with lots of information thrown at you, but the most important thing is to remember to enjoy yourself because who knows – this could be your future home.

Sports opportunities to take on this term

I can’t believe we’re already in to our second term; this academic year has certainly been a hell of a ride for me, but looking back now, it all went by so quick! When it first started I wanted to try out so many things, I wanted to join a society and a sports club and to go travelling and so much more, but no matter how good my time management was, I couldn’t really do all of them. But what I did manage to do is have an in-depth look at the sports club that the uni offers. The number of sports clubs available right now is amazing, with over 50 categories to choose from.

Today I want to talk about some certain opportunities organised by the Just Play team, that are either around just a short while each year or they just happen to be very low key. They don’t require any sort of commitment, so I highly recommend trying at least one of them!

Ice Skating

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The SU organises sessions every year for anyone interested in Ice Skating! They will take you to Chelmsford with a minibus (so you don’t need to worry about transport!) and the sessions usually last for approximately an hour. The tickets are very cheap and it’s a lot of fun, especially if you go with a bunch of your friends. If you have never skated before, don’t be scared! I went there in December for the very first time, and although I struggled to stay on my feet for a good 10 minutes, (and fell on my booty a few times) I shortly got the hang of it and it was a lot of fun!

Tickets usually sell out a few days before the event, so if you are interested, make sure to book those tickets on SU’s website as soon as possible!

Swimming

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I don’t know about you, but swimming is my favourite sport of all time! To be honest, I can barely stay afloat, and sometimes I almost drown, but I enjoy every piece of it (ok, maybe not the drowning part). The SU currently has a partnership with Colchester Leisure World, which means you can go and swim for free between certain hours just by booking your place online. I have already gone there 4 times and the pools are amazing. I would recommend anyone to give it a go if they love water at least half as much as I do!

Have a look at SU’s website for details on how to book your ticket.

Oh, I almost forgot! If you don’t know to swim at all and you would be interested in taking some swimming lessons, the SU has you covered as well. You can sign up for a 9 week long swimming course for beginners, for only £30 ( which is just over £3 per session).

I hope this post helped and I wish you all best of luck this term!