​How did I end up at University?

After reading fellow blogger, Jordan’s post a little while back about his journey to University, it got me thinking…

How did I actually end up going to Uni?

Nobody in my family had been to University before and I could have easily chosen to do an apprenticeship or get a job following school.

In fact, I don’t think I can actually pinpoint a specific “magic moment” where I suddenly thought University is where I want to go.

For some reason, like many others, it just always seemed natural for me to study at University. I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do with my life so I guess I also saw an opportunity to discover what I was passionate about and what I wasn’t, but if I had to give a definite reason then I think it would be the chance to live as a student. The adventure of moving away from home for the first time, to somewhere where there was a lot going on really appealed to me.  In particular, the opportunity to study Drama at a higher level and make use of the contacts University gives you sounded perfect.

Ultimately though, everybody has different reasons for coming University or perhaps giving it a miss. Whether it’s for a specific subject or for specific facilities, the prospect of university is often an exciting one.

But at the end of it all, it is your choice and not one which should be taken lightly.

Let’s get social: what to do and where to go!

SU Bar

The SU Bar is the Holy Grail of student life here. I feel like, in some way, it is the heart of the uni. There are times where after a lecture or an exam you just need to relax, and the SU Bar is perfect for that. It’s always nice to get a pint after a hard day of work. The comfy couches are definitely a plus! If you need something a bit more lively, you can always go to Milk It and sing karaoke with people – it is literally the most fun ever!

Sub Zero/Base

If you are a dancer or a clubber, you will love Sub Z and Base. The music is always on point and you can dance the night away. There is also an area to sit down and to have a chat, or you can even go outside and get some fresh air after dancing all night. People are very friendly here and it is easy to strike up a conversation and make new friends.

Happy Days/Frango’s/Fusion/Canteen

I literally cannot tell you how many times I have made new friends just while waiting for my food! I think I get most talkative when I am hungry and I think this is proven by the fact that I met 2 of my closest friends while waiting for food in Happy Days 😀 It was a match made in heaven (heaven = Happy Days)!

Squares

The squares are literally always buzzing with life – day and night. During the day you might join an African bongo band and play away, or at night you might join a group of people and enjoy the night with them – university makes it strangely easy to interact with people. There were numerous times when I had no plan for the night, I went to the store to get something and I ended up sitting in Square 3 with a group of people that are still, to this day, my friends!

Brexit: What I Think About It and What It Means for Students at Essex

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Brexit, it’s the Marmite of the politics world. You either love it or hate it, there’s no in between. Unlike Marmite, however, you can’t just decide not to buy it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Brexit is happening whether we like it or not. First things first, I think it’s only right to to tell you that I voted remain. Regardless of how you voted I think it’s safe to say that no one wants Brexit to be a disaster. The only problem is that no one really knows what’s going to happen when Britain leaves the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May set out her Brexit plan in January. It emphasised regaining control of the UK’s borders and getting a good deal for British Businesses. The EU though has to agree to this plan, and that’s where things get a bit iffy. Many European countries want Britain to have a swift exit from the EU, in other words, a hard Brexit. A hard Brexit is one in which Britain severs all ties with the EU and has no special treatment. Theresa May has committed to a hard Brexit but we still don’t know exactly what that means and we probably won’t until Britain officially leaves in 2019.

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What I can say though, is that regardless of the relationship Britain ends up having with the EU, European and international students will undoubtedly always be welcome at Essex. Essex would not be same without its amazing international students. They bring so much variety and fun to our campus. Having lived in the UK all my life, I love learning about other countries and their unique cultures and customs. Without our international community, Essex would not be the same place I have made my home. For me and many of my friends, Brexit hurt. It hurt because we love Europe, we love the people and we love the opportunities that being part of the EU gives us. We are part of a community at Essex that embraces every single person, no matter where they are from. Even those I know who voted for Brexit at Essex are great people who just happen to differ from me politically.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Anthony Forster, has reaffirmed Essex’s commitment to our European and international students. He has spoken of how we will remain an inclusive, internationally oriented university and a university where you can find the world in one place. You can read more about what Brexit means for students here.

Brexit means change, that is inevitable. What remains the same, however, is that our international and EU students here at Essex will always be welcomed with open arms.

 

My 6 Top Places to Visit in Essex

Hello! I am originally from Chelmsford in Essex and decided to study in Colchester. This blog is going to tell you some of my favourite things to do around Essex, so you can take a break from revision, get out of Colchester and explore! I am going to include maps so you can see roughly how long it takes to get to the places from uni and also hyperlinks so you can easily access the webpages for more information on things to do, prices and times. I am going to start with my home town, Chelmsford.

  • Chelmsford

Chelmsford’s town centre is a bit bigger than Colchester, with two small shopping centres and a brand new shopping complex with John Lewis, many new restaurants and also an Everyman cinema (which has sofas, a bar and you can order food while you watch a movie). I enjoy Chelmsford for shopping and also eating out because there are lots of options.

There is also Hylands Park, which is home to V Festival that takes place every August. It is a weekend festival and I would really recommend going if you have the chance! Apart from the festival they hold regular events and also have a cafe, where you can grab lunch or an ice cream. It’s a nice place to have a picnic and chill on a hot day! Oaklands Park is another nice area to relax in and there is also a Museum, which is free to enter. They hold events occasionally, such as a Photographic Exhibition, Coins and Tokens, Social History and 1950s Fashion: A Decade of Glamour.

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  • Southend-On-Sea

Southend-On-Sea is around 1 hours drive away, or 2 hours by public transport. There is a seven mile coastline and places to get ice cream and a traditional fish and chips, a proper British experience! There is also a theme park called Adventure Island. It is not as big as other theme parks in England, however it is still a fun day out! Southend also has sea life centre close to the beach and it is home to the longest pier in the world, so it’s worth a visit!

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  • Frinton-On-Sea

This is probably my favourite beach in Essex. It has the best sand and a nice atmosphere with beach huts along the back. It is a great place to play games on the beach and has been awarded for its cleanliness, which is always a plus! There is also a grass area behind the beach that overlooks the sea, a great place for a picnic or a ball game.

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  • Dedham

Dedham is situated in the countryside and has an old traditional high street with an Arts and Craft Centre and wooden beam houses. There is an impressive 15th century Church in the middle of the village. Boats can be hired to explore the Stour River and many walks can be taken to venture into the countryside. There are restaurants to visit, which can be luxury, a traditional pub or a nice tea room. Wine tasting is also available at Dedham Vale Vineyard.

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  • Brentwood

This is the most well-known place for The Only Way is Essex TV show (TOWIE). However, you won’t walk around the streets seeing the cast! There is a main high street for shopping, but there are also activities to do just outside of the town centre. They have dry ski slopes where you can have lessons, or if you already know how to ski or snowboard then you can go to have fun. If you don’t want to face skiing or snowboarding, then they also have tubing, this is where you go down the slopes in a rubber ring, a lot of fun!  On the same complex there is also Go-Karting and a great Chinese buffet restaurant called Izumi.

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  • Saffron Walden

If you’re looking for something a bit more cultural then the English Heritage site Audley End House and Gardens might be something you enjoy. It costs £12.10 for a concession ticket or £13.40 for an adult. It is a mansion house with gardens, a stable and place to get food and drink is also available. They also hold events, so keep an eye on their website for any events coming up!

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I hope this gives you some ideas of what to do around Essex. If you don’t have a car then check out Trainline and National Express for ways to get around 🙂

What I’m Looking Forward to After My Year Abroad

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

1. The Essex campus

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

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

2. Seeing my friends!

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

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

3. Going out

12695038_10153345971436517_2657461725610478521_o Got to love dressing up for Fed!

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

4. The Food

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

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

5. Being a final year

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

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

 

 

5 reasons why I love the University of Essex

As I prepare to wrap up my time at Essex *cries uncontrollably* a lot of things have been coming to mind. Three years have passed exceptionally quickly and now I’ve written my last essay (my 16th essay at Essex), sat my last exam, submitted my dissertation and ordered my gown for graduation it has now become all the more real that my time here is ending.

Looking back, these are the reasons that I fell in love with Essex in the first place and why it continues to get under my skin.

Diverse Community

Essex was recently declared the 15th most internationally diverse in the world with 44% of the student population coming from abroad. As a result there is a wonderful mix of cultures on campus, most of whom have their own society which is open to anyone wanting to learn more about their culture (and cuisine!).

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Architecture 

Ok, so it is not everyone’s taste- but come on, concrete was exceptionally fashionable in the 1960’s when the university was built. But brutalist architecture I find strangely interesting, and mix this with the other fantastic (and award winning) buildings on campus then you have some incredible buildings to study in.

Thursday Market

I blame this market for making a dent in my student finance loans! On Thursday the market is a must to pick up bargains and delicious food. Think books, bread, burgers, fruit and veg, sweets, fish, cakes, and CD’s and you’re generally in the right area of what is on offer and how lucky we are to have this on campus!

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Module Variety 

I’ve probably mentioned before that just because you study a particular degree doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same as a similar degree at another university. You have the option to pick modules that suit your interests and one of the reasons that made me choose Essex was the fantastic variety of module on offer. This meant that I could select the modules that I was interested in and wanted to know more about.

Supportive Staff

There is a greater emphasis at university for independent study and performing your own research, but that doesn’t mean that you are left on your own. The staff in your department and across the wider support network are some of the most caring, supportive and friendly people that you’ll ever meet. They are people that you can moan to, laugh and converse with- and their passion for their work is contagious.

I can’t put into words every single reason why I love Essex as much as I do – there aren’t enough hours in the day! But I will say I’m incredibly proud to be an Essex finalist and will miss this place when I’m gone!

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

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

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

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

Students from over 130 countries

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

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Proud Essex: Students protesting about changes to international students visas

Cultural Societies

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

Faith

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

LGBTQ+

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

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(c) NUS.org

Mature Students

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

Exploring the East of England: beyond the Essex border

I have lived in the East of England all my life, either in Ipswich or in Colchester. And I love it here. 15 minute drive out and you’re in the countryside, 20 minute drive and you’re at the beach, and it’s not too fair from London either! In this blog I am going to tell you about the gems of the East of England, in Suffolk and Norfolk. Lets go beyond the Essex border!

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 The Farm

Suffolk is the neighbouring county to Essex and it has a reputation for being very country. So what is more country than a trip to the farm?  Suffolk was a lot of farms to explore including Easton Farm Park, Jimmy’s farm and Baylham House Rare Breed Farm. Depending on the farm, you might get to feed the animals, hold lambs and see a range of different farm yard animals! Check them out to find out what each farm has to offer and how much entry is! Here’s a picture of me loving life with a sheep last weekend at Easton Farm Park!

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The beach

The best thing about living in the east of England is you’re never too far from the coast! There are so many good beaches to go to in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk! Felixstowe is my local beach and you can get a train there via Ipswich. It is quite a stoney beach and maybe not as much there as Clacton, but who doesn’t love an ice-cream by the sea?!

Bored of the beaches in Essex? How about Great Yarmouth in Norfolk? Great Yarmouth is basically the childhood holiday of everyone who lives in the East of England! I’d go on holiday to Great Yarmouth and see the whole of my high school while I was there! Great Yarmouth has a pier, arcades, rides, seaside shops, sealife aquarium and of course the beach! You can get there by getting the train from Colchester to Norwich and then Norwich to Great Yarmouth.

Norfolk beaches are also known for being home to seals. You tend to be able to find them at Horsey beach. You can also take a boat trip to go and see them too!

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Flatford Mill

Another gem of Suffolk is Flatford Mill. It is great for a walk or a picnic but the best part about Flatford Mill is that you can higher rowing boats and row down the River Stour. This is one of my favourite things to do in the summer and it is so relaxing! Perfect way to de-stress from the thought of revision!

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Framlingham Castle

 Are you any chance an Ed Sheeran fan? Do you know his song castle on the hill? Well it is about Framlingham castle! This is proper getting into Suffolk countryside. You can walk along the castle grounds and take a picnic! If you love a bit of country side and want to see where Ed Sheeran spent his teenage years tend this is the place to go!

Norwich Shopping

 Because who doesn’t love a bit of retail therapy? Norwich is the place to go if you want a city with a decent shopping centre. It is the best place to go for shopping in the east of England. With plenty of variety of shops and places to eat! There is also a castle and a cathedral  if you want some culture too.

Ipswich Waterfront

 So Ipswich is my hometown. Although it doesn’t have the biggest town of shops it’s still nice if you like to go somewhere different to shop! But the best bit of Ipswich is the waterfront. It is near the university and not a long walk from the train station. It has restaurants, a pub and hotels. If you do go to the Ipswich waterfront I would suggest going for a drink or meal in the pub Isaac’s. My cousin had his wedding their last year and it’s a lovely little pub! It is the beer garden to be when we get that 2 day heatwave!

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So that’s pretty much everywhere I have spent my childhood summed up. The great thing about living in Essex is that you can easily get to places in Suffolk and Essex by trains and bus!

 

Why Essex was my first choice

If you’re familiar to the Harry Potter film series, then I liken finding the right University to finding the right wand for yourself. You may think that you know what you want but ultimately “the wand chooses the wizard”.

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I’ve got to be honest, Essex was not initially my first choice when I was looking at Universities. In fact, it was not even on my radar as somewhere where I wanted to study. It was too close to home and I was dead set on studying Drama somewhere like London, where there are countless theatres and loads of things to do.

However, I went on a day trip with my Sixth Form to the Colchester campus and it was surprisingly good. Me and my mates had a really cool day looking around the place, seeing what University life had to offer.

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So, when it came to organising Open Days, I just put Essex on the to visit list on a whim. It was quite a cool campus and I thought that it would be a decent benchmark to compare other universities to.

It ended up not only setting the benchmark for me but actually setting it so damn high that I couldn’t top it. No matter how hard I tried to find faults in the University….

However, despite my reluctance, my little brother always knew where I should go. He always loves coming to visit me at Uni because he got given a free bag of popcorn from the SU on the open day. I often remind him that it was only for the open day and we don’t get free popcorn all the time at Uni!

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Little by little, as I came for my interview for Essex, my dream of studying in London started to crumble as I fell in love with the idea of campus life at Essex. Suddenly, it’s distance from home and the fact that it was a train ride to London didn’t matter anymore.

Essex had the right course for me, good theatres on its doorstep and an irresistibly good feel to the place. In better words, it felt like somewhere where I could actually imagine spending the next few years of my life.

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While Essex may not be everybody’s first choice, there’s one thing which remains the same: choosing your first-choice University is always a big commitment and a big decision to make. It will most likely take a lot of time, thought and effort. But in the end, the choice will be obvious once you realise that your first choice is somewhere where you will be happy.

That’s when, like the wands, the “University chooses the student”.

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How my life has changed from college to university

I am sure I’m not the only one that is utterly shocked at the speed this academic years has flown by. Despite this being my second year here, it still doesn’t seem that long ago since I was back in college, studying a handful of A-levels and wondering what direction I wanted my life to go in! The step up to uni is one of the biggest transitions we’ve all had to make, and there were a lot of differences to college life that I certainly didn’t expect.

My constant need for extra sleep

During my A-level years, I could get up at 7 am, do a morning paper round, before completing a full 9 am to 3 pm day of classes, and still have the energy to hang out with my friends all evening. Oh, how things have changed! I have now reached a point where one to two hours of lectures leaves me yearning for my bed and a chance to recover. With the regular availability of alcohol combined with the deadlines constantly looming over your head, spending the early hours of your day productively has become more of a pipe dream!

Independent Working

No matter what A-levels you took, the style of learning and working will feel very different after experiencing those first few lectures or seminars. I realised that much of my subject knowledge was no longer understood in a classroom-style environment, but instead in my hours outside of the lecture theatres. Whether your course is mainly exam-based or filled with regular assignments, your time management and organisational skills will, eventually, reach a whole new level of ‘On Point’, even if that means occasionally working until 3 am bashing out a 2000 word essay the night before it’s due (not that I would know about that….).

Difference in Lifestyle

A big change many of us were probably preparing ourselves for well in advance was living away from home, whether it be on or off campus. I imagine many students, myself included, thought that having 3 well-balanced meals a day would be a simple part of uni life on top of the workload. And yet, I write this while planning my typical dinner of a piece of chicken with some plain rice, so clearly, I was mistaken! Add to this the need to do washing and clean up after yourself, and at times it just seems all too much! But despite it all, living with people that are going through the exact same struggles just makes it that bit more tolerable, and we find a way to survive.

Although this is just scraping the barrel when it comes to the reality of university life, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Having the opportunity to study something I love and feel the freedom that independence comes with is an experience like no other. Far gone are the monotonous days of college classes, and I’ve never been happier about it! Many of you will agree it is certainly a rollercoaster, but despite the ups and downs, you often feel like you never want it to end.