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

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

Fees

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

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

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

Homesickness

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

Extra-Curricular opportunities

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

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

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

Life after graduation

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

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

Until the next time,

Mimi.

 

Essex Bucket List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Cultural diversity and the parade of flags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Mimi.

Humanity and the Calais Jungle

I wanted to write about something current and crucially important- Humanity.  This word and its true meaning seem to have lost its sense of values, as I feel many individuals have turned their back on what is right and what is wrong.

In February, 2016 I have had the honour to be a part of the student team who visited the refugee camp in Calais, alongside the Colchester’s Refugee Action Group led by the most wonderful person I have ever met, Maria Wilby, who has devoted her time and effort to organise trips every five to six weeks.

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We travelled to the ‘Jungle’, a place where both hope and sorrow were fused into a new being which dominated the whole atmosphere.

As human beings, we have to have food, water and shelter in order to survive, but what happens when you do not have these primary needs? You cease to exist. So what happens if a team of volunteers offer you these needs? You have a means of staying alive.

We not only provided the refugees with clothing and supplies, but we also tried to alleviate the hardship and ease the feeling of abandonment, creating meaningful connections, giving them a purpose to keep their dreams alive, and giving them hope.

The camp was located across the channel which separates England from France.  Why have I used to past tense? This camp does not exist anymore. While we were on the ferry on our journey back to England, we were shocked by the news that after we left, half of the camp was demolished.  The last shelters were demolished in October 2016, leaving just debris to be cleared.

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Officially about 7,000 migrants lived in the camp. The Help Refugees agency said the final population ahead of its demolition was 8,143.

We spent countless hours trying to sort clothes, products and different bit and pieces, all donated by well-intentioned human beings from all over Europe. However, I cannot stop myself but to mention that there were certainly some items which were utterly inappropriate… such as bikinis, Halloween costumes, etc. You just need to let your imagination fly away and you’ll find all the unimaginable things, lying around with the precious jewels: jumpers and cosy coats.

There was a ‘Shame Wall’ inside the warehouse, where we spent 2 long days, sorting and checking everything.

Every weekend, there were trucks delivering the items we sorted, although there was no system in place to deal with what was distributed, as it all worked upon the needs and the requests of the camp residents.

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I  distributed sleeping bags and I saw how the residents were lining up for hours, waiting to see what we had to offer, begging us for food, warm shoes and jumpers. Trauma was everywhere, as was police brutality, and we were not excluded. The French police had stopped us from trying to reach the distribution point, and we had to walk with the sleeping bags for 1.5 km, trying not to get stuck in the mud. Tear gas was common, as it was constantly used to stop the refugees climb onto trucks and escape to England, as well as the horrendous wounds and injuries which were seen on almost every camp resident.

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England was seen as the land of promises. They were begging us to take them to England and save them from this mess that they had to call home.

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I believe that the most heart-breaking moment from this whole experience was the moment we have spoke with a 12 year old girl, whom was working at the Radio station in the camp. She told us that she walked with her mother and her 6 year old brother from Afghanistan to France. She spoke English, Arabic, German and she was struggling to learn French, as well. She had impressive dreams. She wanted to become a journalist and show the whole world the reality. She wanted to showcase the truth, a truth which was entirely manipulated by the media.

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I am more than glad and thankful that I have had the opportunity to experience and see an objective perspective upon the matter, one that is utterly different from the one the media depicts, one in which the whole humanity matter is put under a massive question mark.

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Until next time,

Mimi

 

 

 

Homesickness? How about Unisickness?

Leaving home to study is not an easy decision to make, especially if you’re leaving your home country, departing to a new one. It’s not like a school trip, or a sleepover; it’s for at least one term, and in most cases, for 1 or more years. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the closer your departure dates arrives, the more your family members get emotional.

But have you ever felt like you miss University while being at home? Everyone is constantly discussing about homesickness and its symptoms, but what happens when you got so used to the university life you don’t want to go home?! During this Christmas break I have had time to reflect upon the perks of university life, those little things which makes deadlines and exams a little bit bearable.

Here are 10 things which I have truly missed during this Christmas break:

  1. Your mates are not at walking distance from you

 

It really hurts to know that you can’t just get out from your room and knock on your mate’s room and have a chat. I’ve reached unprecedented levels of boredom and anxiety while being left alone at home, without anyone to keep me company.

I had to take a flight to get to my best friend from uni and visit her, while at uni, I just had to knock on her door.

  1. Banter

You might think that your jokes are without doubt the best quality jokes someone can make, but there is one slight change: the audience is not the same. It has happened to me a lot to crack some jokes with my friends from back home and create an awkward silence. It’s not fun when you need to explain your jokes. Not at all! And in the end, you’re left feeling like a clown.

  1. Nights out

I don’t even know how I managed to go out back home! Oh, I know, I was living off my parent’s money! Nights out at home aren’t as nice as they used to be. Now, everyone has a new group of friends, constantly talking about them, or even introduce them to you. It all changed. The moment you realise that you’re feeling nostalgia, you know it’s all gone.

  1. Walking distance? What’s that?!

Having everything just under your nose? Not at home. Or maybe, it’s just my case. As I have been lazy, I haven’t got my driving licence; therefore I need to rely on public transport/friends/family to carry me around my hometown, which is certainly a hassle.

  1. Eating habits

DO NOT EAT THOSE CHICKEN NUGGETS AND FRIES! I can even see my mum’s disappointment and disapproval even thinking about it. At university nobody judges. This is the cardinal rule. You can have whatever you want, at whatever hour. You’ll even have a partner in crime to devour those greasy chips at 3 am in the morning.

On the bright side, you’ll start to eat healthy again.

  1. Cleaning up

Now that you’re home, there is no need for your parents to clean up the whole house, is there? That’s why you instantly become the new maid! Hurray! Leaving dirty dishes for more than 2 days? That’s a big no, no! Farewell to the lazy you and welcome the new you! Well…. at least until you get back to your uni home.

  1. No freedom

I have taken for granted those moments in which I could just grab my jacket and go straight to Tesco’s at 2 in the morning, with no one complaining about my decisions.  Whenever it was past 9pm and my foot was just about to get out the house, the questions began:

  • Where are you going?
  • I hope you won’t turn out later than 12pm
  • With whom are you going out?
  • Can you give me their phone number?
  • Who will drive you home?
  • DO NOT DRINK!
  1. Drinking

Going out clubbing and coming back drunk is a big NO. I can’t even imagine the looks on my parent’s faces while the whole room spins and my stomach screams for water. I just can’t. I do not even know how I managed to do it while being in high school.

  1. Library/ Study Centre

I had an essay due and I was too carried away with thinking that I will finally hang around with my friends from back home, that took for granted the possibilities of studying and writing in an environment which was especially created for this matter. I CANNOT STUDY OR DO ANYTHING IN MY ROOM. It is so distracting. I stumbled across a photo album with pictures of myself when I was about 3-5. It took me a day and a half to make myself stop procrastinating and start working.

  1. Being able to lay in my pyjamas all day long

I think this is the most accurate depiction of the student life. The power to choose whatever you want to wear, without having to deal with your mother’s disapproval, not even her fashion choices.  YES! I CAN FINALLY GO OUT AT WINTER WITHOUT A SCARF STRANGLING ME!

Here they are! My top 10 perks of living at Uni, which I have been desperately missing while at home. Life is indeed difficult when you practically have 2 places which you call home, as well as two sets of friends, 2 sets of jokes, 2 different sets of lives, if I were to be truely dramatic.

Until next time,

Mimi.

New Year’s Resolutions

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Happy New Year and Happy New Term at Essex to everybody!
On this occasion I decided to join the cliché club and share with you some of my New Year’s Resolutions. Of course it doesn’t need to be the 1st of January to try to become a better person, but somehow one chapter closes and another one begins, what can be just another good reason to stop for a moment and reflect about what we do and how. I find it good to do a little self-evaluation sometimes and I really think it helps to keep on the right track. Apparently, decisions made public are more likely to be put into practice, so… Here are my resolutions for this year:

  1. First, be kind.

Always. Regardless of stressful situations, bad days, headaches, hustle and various opinions. None of these are a reason to be impatient or unpleasant. Other people are not guilty of my struggles and they should not be affected by them, no matter how hard my day has been. Also, spreading kindness will help me to recharge with good energy and bring the peace of mind, especially needed in the difficult days.

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  1. Keep the balance.

Getting a good degree and paying rent on time are important goals, but they should not mean a constant sacrifice and neglecting other vital needs. There will always be these few extra hours I could spend to improve something, but maybe my work doesn’t need to be p-e-r-f-e-c-t; maybe it’s OK when it’s just good enough. While studying, working, and striving to do things well, I developed an unhealthy feeling of guilt if my day was not as productive as it could have been. By productive I mean spent studying or doing other work. It didn’t really make me feel good in the end. This year, I will include things such as drumming, dancing, painting, spending time with friends and writing letters to precious people far away, to my productive time and will not feel guilty about being a human.

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  1. Think positively.

Do you remember the famous quote by Captain Jack Sparrow?
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem”. 

This is so important to remember. Every day we choose how we handle situations and where we direct out thoughts. We can focus on good or bad aspects; it is totally up to us. Some struggles are needed and we should just appreciate them as they come. We can hate rainy days, but what would happen if there was no rain at all?

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  1. Meditate.

This last resolution is a tool to keep the other three in my mind not only until the end of January, but also later on. I have tried different types of meditation and I found it quite challenging, but this little 2 minute practice is suitable for everyone and I think it’s really worth doing. Every morning, first thing after waking up, I sit up and think about how grateful I am to be who I am, where I am, to have such precious people in my life and to be able to shape my life in so many different forms. And then I make a decision that this day will be a good one, and that I will not let anything change it, because everything is in my head and it is me who controls it.

I think that’s the most important things for me to keep in mind at this stage and I believe that just reminding myself about it every morning will make me a happier and healthier person. I hope it inspired some of you to make your own reflections, and maybe even share them with your friends. Writing it down and letting it out definitely helped me, so thank you for that! I wish you all an amazing year!

How To Start 2018 Off Right

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

Me in Brooklyn, New York

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

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

Resolutions

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

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Me visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

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

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

 

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

Happy 2018 everyone!

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/.

Going home for Christmas: the good bits, the bad bits, and the downright ugly bits

First term of uni is finally over! We can all finally get into the Christmas spirit without pretending we don’t have deadlines to work on and tests to study for. It’s time for some guilt free relaxation where you can go home and be treated like royalty by your parents, fight with your siblings and eat food that isn’t cooked in the microwave. Whether you’re a fresher or a final year there are both good and bad things about going home for the holidays that we probably all experience so here they are!

Good

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Okay, so of course it’s great to see your family at Christmas, especially if you haven’t been home during term time, but you know what else is also pretty great: food. After weeks and months of different variations of pasta dishes, Christmas brings a welcome break from student cuisine. I know that when I go home for the holidays, I’m always asked how well I’ve been eating and whatever the answer my family feed up! Now, I’m not complaining, in fact, I love it. There’s the pigs in blankets, the fancy desserts, roast potatoes and copious amounts of gravy. After the big day itself, you’ve even got the boxing day leftovers; turkey sandwich anyone?

Bad

Of course, going home for Christmas isn’t all fun and games. You find yourself having just settled into uni life, having to go home again. It feels a little bit weird leaving your uni bubble and going back into the “real world”. You miss your flatmates and your friends, even the routine of going to lectures. It’s not all bad though, you get to have a long awaited catch up with your friends from home. Sometimes it can be just as fun to reminisce about those sixth form memories as it is to have a night out in Sub Zero with your uni friends.

Ugly

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We’ve had the good and the bad, so it’s time to get to the ugly. The questions. What are you going to do when you graduate? Have you found a boyfriend/girlfriend yet? I get these pretty much every time I go home and I know my family mean well and they’re just taking an interest in my life. The only problem is that it really does get quite annoying when you have to answer the same questions over and over again with the same answers. Sometimes I long for the day when my answers to those questions sound almost as if I have I know what I’m doing with my life! But you know what, whatever I end up doing, my family will always be there to support me.

Even with the bad and the ugly, all the good of Christmas really outweighs those things. It’s been a long first term and I can’t wait to just have a break and enjoy making the most of being home. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Top 6 Xmas Comedy Specials of all time

It’s Christmas, and you know what that means: it’s time to forget about everything that doesn’t begin with the word “Christmas” and sit on the sofa in your pyjamas with a Christmas jumper on for a month straight. But what are you going to do in between shoving as many Celebrations (except Bounty) into your mouth and attempting to play Charades with your nan, who’s had a few sherries and can’t remember how to sign “Chicken Run”? You’re going to stick on the telly, switch to Gold and bask in the warm glow. Here are the best comedy Christmas specials you could ever hope to see.

 

#1 The Office (UK)

The Office is rightly held up as one of the best sitcoms of all time, and this pair of Christmas specials – which tie up the loose ends the series finale neglected to – are the icing on the cake. If you haven’t seen the rest, you ought to before beginning this. It won’t take long: there are only 12 episodes and you’ll breeze right through them. By the time you reach the specials, you’ll be gagging to know what’ll happen with Tim and Dawn, and whether David’s career as an entertainer ever took off. The specials are so jam-packed with satisfying endings you’ll be hooting and hollering at the screen by the end.

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#2 The Office (US)

If you’re a UK Office purist, please do yourself a favour and forget that the two are remotely connected. The US Office is a marvel, and entirely different from our version after about six episodes. There are a few Christmas specials from Michael Scott and co., but if I had to choose one to watch forever it’d be season 6’s “Secret Santa”. This is classic Dunder Mifflin when the show had really hit its stride and showcases Michael at his most excited, and his most childish. Which, really, is what Christmas is all about.

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#3 The Royle Family

It’s hard to think of a more accurate or hilarious representation of British culture than in the Royle Family, and never is this more true than in their Christmas specials. “The Queen of Sheba” is the creme-de-la-creme of the many Royle Family Christmasses in part for its emotional storyline (have the hankies ready for the ending) but also for its laugh out loud jokes that you’ll be ashamed to relate to.

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#4 Gavin and Stacey

Oh! What’s occurring? I know you’ve seen the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special about 500 times by now, but come on. You’ll watch it again, and you’ll love it. Plus, now that James Corden is somehow the biggest name in America right now, you can watch it and shake your head in disbelief that Smithy, of all people, is an A-lister. This episode shows him performing his very first Carpool Karaoke, no less!

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#5 The Simpsons

The Simpsons has been running for almost thirty years and as you can imagine, it has its fair share of Christmas episodes. In fact, the very first episode was a Christmas special! However, this list is not about “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, but rather about the seminal seventh season fable “Marge Be Not Proud”. This episode is chock-full of classic Simpsons moments (Thrillho anybody?) but also an emotional tale of crime and reconciliation. Essential watching.

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#6 Peep Show

An absolute classic. As if Peep Show wasn’t already the most quotable show ever made, nearly every single line in this Christmas episode is legendary in and of itself. Just say the words “No turkey?” or “Cauliflower is not traditional” or “Hello, Christmas smoothie” to basically any student at Essex and within seconds you’ll both be cracking up at your fond memories of one of the most awkward Christmasses ever captured on camera.

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There you have it! Have a very merry Christmas, or just a wonderful break from school/uni/anything!!