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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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!

5 Things Only Final Year Students Will Understand

So graduation is 4 months away…This is not a drill people! As a final year student your life and view of the world changes dramatically and you practically become a different person as you come to the realisation that, yep, you are actually about to enter the world of work as a fully-fledged adult. No more hiding in the SU for you!

Three years is a surprisingly short space of time

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When studying at university, time takes on a new meaning. The weeks go quickly, the months pass quickly and the terms pass even quicker. Suddenly you become confused that you’re in 3rd year but can still remember the first day of first year so vividly.

People start to take an overly keen interest in your life

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So you’ve gone this far without people asking about your life or future career goals. Now that people find out that you’re in your final year suddenly you must have a clear idea of your future… Let me think… No, still haven’t got a clue!

The internal struggle between a good social life and wanting to study hard 

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I want to actually get a good grade, but I don’t want to neglect socialising, but I don’t want to fail, but I want to keep my friends, but I want to do well… it is a vicious circle

People instantly expect you to be an expert

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I may have studied this subject for 3 years but that does not mean that I know everything and anything about it. I’m just as surprised as you when I know the answer.

People keep reminding you of the impending end.

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Now at first I was excited at finishing. Then I remembered that I will no longer be a student. That I will not see my friends that often. That my student discount card will run out. That I will have to start work… and there is always that one person who keeps counting down the days- who are you, the speaking clock?!

How about a mini-trip to Wivenhoe?

A few weeks ago I realised that it’s been a while since I last went to see Wivenhoe. It may be that deadlines kept getting the best of me, but that is no excuse. So, a few days ago I decided to go on a mini-trip and see once again what the town has to offer. Wivenhoe is gorgeous and that is why I decided to share some of my love for it with you. Here are some of my favourite things about the town!

A 15-minute bus ride will take you straight to the heart of Wivenhoe, but if you really want to get the feel of the town, I highly recommend walking. There is a route you can take that just follows the river all the way to town which is absolutely beautiful! Once you get there, go for a stroll along the pier and enjoy the scenery. What I always do is stop by at one of the local cafes to grab something hot and then enjoy it near the docks. And, since the town itself is quite small, it’s always peaceful and quiet no matter when you visit it, which makes me love it even more.

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After you are done looking around the docks, I recommend heading towards the heart of the town. The streets themselves are small and quaint, leading into each other which may feel a bit a bit confusing, but don’t worry, after the first 30-minutes, you will definitely get used to it! Near the train station, an art gallery has opened less than 2 years ago. The building caused much stir for being strictly modern and their exhibitions reflected the same attitude. Their exhibitions consist of a wide range of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and pottery of East Anglian and nationally famed artists. So, if you have an interest in art, this is the right place for you!

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And if all that travelling made you hungry, I highly recommend trying out Valentino’s restaurant. This one is a family business and its main focus is Italian food. It has a very traditional look to it and the staff are very friendly. Bonus points: they also make the best lasagna I have ever tried in my life!

 

Obviously, this is just a small part of the town, but hopefully, as you explore, you will also find places that will make you fall in love with Wivenhoe! 🙂

My perception of Feminism

Between 7th to 10th March it was Women’s Week on campus. It was a great opportunity to celebrate women and to think about how far we have come in getting equal rights for women. It is also a good opportunity to think about what else needs to be achieved for women’s rights. So what is my perception on feminism? Like any person, I have my opinions about what I believe feminism is about and what it really means, as opposed to the more ‘taboo’ stereotype it can sometimes have.

We should celebrate how far we have come

First of all, I think that the feminist movement is great. We have come so far, from being given the right to vote, to equal pay acts and gaining more rights for working mothers. Today we have a female Prime Minster and whether she has is feminist or not, she is a great example to young girls that women can be in the top job of the country and there are no limits to what they can become. Years ago, it was expected that women should stay at home and be a housewife, but now more and more women go to work, have a career and be mothers too. More importantly, they have the choice to decide which they’d be happier doing. This is so important to me since I’m soon to enter the world of work, but one day want to be a working mum. This progression and opportunity for choice, that women once didn’t have, is absolutely worth celebrating.

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No sex is superior; we should be equal

I believe that feminism should be about getting equal rights for women and men. In my A-levels I learnt there are some feminist movements that have some really extreme views and very negative opinions about men. I do not believe this type of feminism should be celebrated, because no one sex should be seen as superior. Feminism for me is all about fighting for equality and is just as much about things being equal for men too.

We need to stop gender stereotypes

It is hard not to gender stereotype, because we have all been raised to believe a male must be ‘masculine’ and a female must be ‘girly’. It all starts off when we are babies. Males are put in blue, given footballs and cars; while females are put in pink and given dolls and soft toys, so we can’t really blame ourselves for doing it. But so what if your son wants to wear a pink tutu? And your daughter wants to play football? We should let them express themselves however they want! Equally, there is no shame if a girl wants to play with dolls and a boy wants to play with toy cars, the point is, it should be a choice, not an expectation.

Gender stereotypes can also lead to issues in the workplace. A recent study has found that gender stereotypes in the workplace are still similar to 1980. If a woman wants to be a mechanic then why not shouldn’t she be? If a man wants to be a midwife, why can’t he be? Why are jobs labelled as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’? Because we are both consciously and subliminally taught to believe it should be like this. We’re all guilty of expecting certain things of men and certain things of women and to a point that’s perfectly fine, because as a general rule the two have their differences, but that shouldn’t mean that doors are closed to anyone in their career purely because of their gender.

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Why it is so important to vote

There was once a time that women couldn’t vote. It’s hard to imagine that there was actually a time when women had to risk their lives just in protest to be allowed to vote. I think we can sometimes take this for granted. Whether you’re interested in politics or not, voting is so important. We didn’t always have this privilege. It shocks me that only 39% of females between 18-24 voted in the last general election. This is our future! We should be voting!

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There are some great female icons

My favourite  icon has to be Michelle Obama. During her 8 years as the first lady, she was in a very powerful position and she could choose what to do with it. One of the main things she chose was to speak up about women’s rights and the right for every girl to have an education!

Another great feminist icon for me is Malala Yousafzai. As a teenager, she was very outspoken about the rights for girls to be educated and nearly died because of her protests. She is the youngest winner of the nobel peace prize, and she deserves every bit of it!

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Of course, there are many other perceptions of feminism and issues that are still very prominent in the world today. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about all the issues facing women in the world today but I know there are a lot more, especially for women in 3rd world countries. But I hope you enjoyed my perception of feminism!

Essex summed up in 3 photos

There are so many note-worthy places on our lovely Colchester campus that are particularly good for Instagram (I’m looking at you, No.64 bus with lakeside view), but to really sum up the Essex experience, I’ve picked these three:

The Towers

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I think that the first thing I have to mention is our Towers. Looking at the campus map, the high grey buildings are surely among the first things that you notice.

Did you know that the Towers were the highest brick buildings in the UK during the time they were constructed? How cool is that?! There are 6 towers in total, 4 North Towers and 2 South Towers. Housing 16 students per floor in South Towers and 13 students per floor in North Towers, they are definitely the most social and fun places to live at on campus! They are the most special as well, since you get 13-16 instant friends when you move in, and since 40% of our campus is international, you are bound to end up in a flat with people from all over the world!

It is true that our Towers might look a little rough around the edges, but they are so prominent at our university that it is impossible not to mention them.

Campus cat

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If there is anything ever more ICONIC to our beloved University than our Campus Cat, name it, I’ll wait. He has been roaming our campus for about 3 years now, and in 2014 we discovered that he has an owner in Greenstead and that his name is Pebbles! Fortunately, Pebbles is still blessing us with his presence and we are more than happy with that. Pebbles, being the icon that he is, is able to go anywhere in the university and none can stop him. In other words – he is our king and we serve him, because he is too cute not to be served. You are able to see him strut peacefully throughout the squares, getting all the attention like the true star that he is. I dare say Pebbles is the most loved member of staff and student body alike and I am sure many would agree with me, too. If you are lucky and fast enough, you can catch him on one of the sofas in the Tony Rich Teaching Centre and pet him or give him the occasional belly rub – he really likes those.

Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall

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Ah yes, our beautiful mirror-like Ivor Crewe Lecture Theatre. Or as Prince Charles once called it, our “dustbin” building. I know what you are thinking now – how cool is it that our Lecture Building was royally nicknamed! During your time at our lovely university, you are probably going to see a lot of this building. And not just because of its “LOOK AT ME I’M HERE” kind of appearance, but also of all the 9 am and 5 pm lectures you are going to have there. It surely is a special and nostalgic place for an Essex student. Your first time at the Ivor Crewe will be during Fresher’s week, at the Fresher’s Welcome Speech with all the first years in the same room, knowing hardly anyone, and your last time there will be during your Graduation, among all your university friends that will be more like a family by then, than just friends. That’s why the Ivor Crewe is so special, it’s your starting point, but also your finish line.

 

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.

The Only Way Is Essex: Why I Didn’t Choose Another Uni

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Oh Essex, the land of fake tans and stilettos, or so The Only Way is Essex would have you think. When I told people I was applying to the University of Essex, people would automatically think of the stereotypical Essex resident. I found myself explaining that Essex was much more than what a reality TV show would have you believe. Along with the four other universities I applied to through UCAS, I researched Essex in great detail. It just really stood out to me as a university and a place that was unique and somewhere I could imagine spending three years of my life.

The Course

Out of all the unis I visited and applied to, I found the politics course at Essex to be the best for me. The content sounded really interesting and introduced me to new concepts. The wide variety of things covered in first year helped me to work out what I was most interested in, allowing me to choose more concentrated modules in second year. When I visited the Department of Government on an applicant day, the staff made me feel so welcome and that I could ask them anything. After starting at Essex it turned out I was right! The Government Department also has a great reputation for it’s research, which is great when those researchers are your lecturers and you’re learning about cutting edge research as it happens!

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The Campus

Essex has a campus that really is one of a kind. Now it might not look as grand as some other universities but it had a vibe that I didn’t get when I visited the other unis I applied to. I loved that everything was so close together and it wouldn’t take ages to go between my lectures. It’s big enough not to feel claustrophobic but also small enough that you rarely make it to a lecture without running into someone you now. I was also attracted to the location of the campus. Colchester is a town with all the shops that you would need and it’s only an hour from London if you fancy a day out. The train is pretty cheap too. I thought it was great that Stansted airport was nearby too. Me and my flatmates made the most of it when we decided to go a spontaneous trip to Dublin to get away from exams!

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The Year Abroad

I’d always known I wanted to do a year abroad so that was a major part for me in choosing which university to go to. After looking at all the other universities I applied to, Essex had the best opportunities for me when it came to study abroad options. I don’t pay any tuition fees to Essex or my exchange university for my year abroad. There was also so many options of countries I could go to. Being the political nerd that I am, when I worked out the US presidential election was happening during my study abroad year I was set on going to America, but there were so many other options too. I have friends all over the world in Australia, Canada, Europe and Asia. Being on my year abroad at the moment too I have also been experiencing the great support that Essex offers to its students who are away.

If you’re thinking about where to go to uni then the best advice I can offer is think about what the most important things to you are about where you’re going to spend the next few years of your life. I know that I made the right decision. Essex is perfect for me and everything that I could want from my university experience!

If I could Start over my Essex Experience: What I would and wouldn’t change

I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my time at Essex. I keep looking back to first year and thinking “wow that was 2 years ago?!”. I have no regrets coming to Essex and doing a degree in Psychology. However, if I could do it again, there are some things I might change and some that I wouldn’t change for the world!

What I would change

Join a sports club

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One thing I do regret is that I never joined a sports club. I assumed that if I joined a team I would have to give up my Wednesdays and weekends for it and with working that was something I couldn’t do. Now I’ve found out that this isn’t the case for some sports clubs, so wish I had done more looking into it! I would have loved to go and meet new people and go to sports fed with a team!

My advice to any first years is look into different sports clubs. Go to the just play sessions and the try outs! Get out of that comfort zone!

Getting more involved at Essex

Even with working weekends, I think I could have got more involved in my time at Essexs! There are society’s I wish I had got involved with in first year such as the Psychology society. I don’t speak to many people on my course and I think this could have been a way to talk to more people and make more friends!

I also wish I had got more involved in volunteering. I tried the teaching assistant volunteering, but since I couldn’t volunteer in a psychology class I tried my hands at maths. However, I was a bit rustier than I thought and had the slowest 1 and a half hour of my life! I wish I hadn’t let that stop me from doing other volunteering activities!

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What I wouldn’t change

Living in towers

 I loved living in Towers! Because of the fact you’re living with 16 people, you are bound to find someone you have something in common with! It was such a mix of people and nationalities and it was a real learning curve. From what I’ve heard from other people it was a lot more social than other accommodations. We had such great time as a group and I am so glad I got to spend first year in towers!

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Not doing a year abroad

There is a massive part of me that would have loved to do the year abroad! I am a traveller at heart and really want to spend some time of my life going to different countries and experiencing different cultures! I would have loved to go to Australia because 1. Who doesn’t love a bit of sun? and 2. To go and travel around the other countries around there!

However, there is a but. There was no way I could go away for a whole year, to the other side of the world! I got home sick living in Colchester let alone Australia! I couldn’t have gone alone! I am planning in June to take some time out after exams and hopefully go to Thailand, so watch this space!

All the work experience I gained while at Essex

 When I comes to jobs I definitely got involved in Essex! In my 2nd year I was a Frontrunner for Residence life. 8 hours a week suited around my timetable. It was so different to what I was used to, working on tills, filling shelves etc. I am so glad that I have Frontrunners to put on my CV. It gave me so many transferable skills and opportunities that I can talk about in job interviews!

I also worked at graduation in the summer. I was a robing assistant and had such a fun four days working with the gowning company. Everyone was so happy and the atmosphere was great!I loved being able to see what everyone was wearing and how excited they all were. It was also nice to watch some of my friends get ready to go to their graduation! I would love to do it again this year!

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Essex; it has been a ball. I have grown as a person here and I can’t wait to go on to my next adventure!

 

10 Facts about the University of Essex that the prospectus won’t tell you

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Most will probably be familiar with the various dates, figures and other data that basically gets thrown at you during open days and other occasions. The facts presented here however are barely mentioned. Everyone enjoys fun-facts, so read on if you’d like to know which amazing bands have walked (or rather played) our campus grounds, or why Essex has the coolest academics. Even if you don’t find the following info-bites as amusing as I do, at the very least you’ll be able to impress with University of Essex related trivia!

  1. More than one famous band has honored our university with their presence (hard to imagine these days I know) so here are 15 of them:
  • The Who
  • Bob Marley
  • Pink Floyd (not once but 6 times)
  • Morrissey
  • AC/DC
  • R.E.M
  • Genesis (remember Phil Collins?)
  • Blur (played twice during the 90s)
  • The Smiths
  • Def Leppard

 More recently:

  • Jamelia
  • Florence + The Machine
  • The Wombats
  • Babyshambles
  • Radiohead

https://issuu.com/therabbitessex/docs/rabbit_50th

 

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  1. Some of our academic staff are rockstars/pilots/famous for some other reason, so here are 2 examples (yes both from the Sociology department, which is clearly the best):
  •  We have a Professor that has not only produced outstanding research but is also a musician AND happens to have a private pilot licence (guess who? Professor Nick Allum)!
  • We also have a highly renowned Professor who actually interviewed John Lennon in 1971! (Professor Robin Blackburn)

http://www.counterpunch.org/2005/12/08/the-lost-john-lennon-interview/

  1. You may have never noticed but we have the UK Data Archive with the country’s largest collection of digital research data in the social sciences and humanities right on our doorstep!

It is the lead organisation of the UK Data Service and provides access to the UK’s collection of social, economic and population data.

http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/about

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  1. An Essex Graduate, Dr Arias, became President of Costa Rica (twice) and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987!

 

  1. Our very own tin-can (yes I mean the Ivor Crewe) has actually won an award!

Despite being compared to a ‘dustbin’ by Prince Charles, the building was praised during the Civic Trust Awards in 2008.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/essex/7293569.stm

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  1. For the fellow social sciences/theorists obsessed: Among others, Jean Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell sent telegrams in support of the 1968 protests!

https://issuu.com/therabbitessex/docs/rabbit_50th

 

  1. At the time of their construction our Towers were the tallest brick buildings in the country!

Bonus Towers-fact: Initially there were supposed to be 28 towers however Kenneth Capon actually only wanted 8 and somehow we ended up with just 6.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/aug/30/university-of-essex-patel-taylor-architects-new-student-centre-review

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  1. We were the first in the country to setup the Nightline service!

In case you haven’t heard of Nightline, it’s the volunteer-run place to go if you need support during odd hours. Whether you’re going through personal troubles, had a rough night out, or simply need a cup of tea and a chat, the students on call will definitely have an open ear for you.

https://issuu.com/therabbitessex/docs/rabbit_50th

  1. Our university has been eternalized on a stamp!

Issued in 1971 with a set intended to celebrate modern buildings, the commemorative stamp is part of an online gallery for the Royal Mail’s special stamp programme.

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/stamp_from_1971_showing_university_of_essex_features_on_special_gallery_1_3902667

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  1. Nelson Mandela himself visited our Colchester campus in 1996.

Enough said.  

 

Signs I’ve made the transition from student to traveller

Currently on my year abroad, I’ve been making the most of the Australian university summer holidays. In fact I’m coming to the end of a travelling trip lasting almost 2 and a half months!

During this once in a lifetime trip, I’ve noticed my slow transition from a student to a traveller.

Here are the signs that I’ve noticed that I’ve made the switch…

Making the most of samples at duty free.

Being low on space in my rucksack, I only have room for the essentials. This doesn’t include aftershave unfortunately… so a quick dash and a spray at duty free has been a must! In fact, if I had a pound for every time I sprayed myself with free samples from duty free, I might be close to actually affording a bottle! Actually probably not though on second thoughts…

Air conditioning is the one

Nobody likes a humid, hot room at night when it’s 30 degrees. Especially so in Fiji, we only had a small fan to cool 10 of us…Therefore, the sight of air conditioning now in a room is always a godsend!

The rush for a bottom bunk in a hostel is intense

Nobody likes top bunks. Fact. The ladders are annoying, it’s far away from all of your stuff and clamouring down for a wee in the night is a task in itself.  Therefore, the pursuit for a good bed in a room can be rife! The feeling of disappointment to find only top bunks left in a room is just heartbreaking it really is…

Free WiFi is your friend

Sitting in a cafe on the wifi with no intention of buying anything has suddenly become totally justified and normal. How else are you going to upload all your amazing new pictures to Instagram?!

Limited wardrobe

Like the aftershave, living out of a backpack means that space is always at a minimum. This means that the clothes you do have get used a lot and annoyingly they need washing a lot too…

Never being in the same place for very long.

The beauty of travelling is that if you don’t like one place then another is only a few days away at most.

Being in one place one day and another the next has become the norm.


Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my transition from student to traveller. Keep a look out for more posts about my travels soon!