Essex Abroad Was Here, by Roxana Tompea

Dear reader, have you just begun your academic adventure and already feel like taking up a new challenge? Are you interested in foreign travel, history or the culture of other places? Then why not consider applying for a Year Abroad program within your degree? The very next paragraphs will tell you why this was the best choice for me and hopefully, it will convince you to do the same.   

For those not familiar with the academic structure, all Government students at Essex can benefit from a Year Abroad experience or a Placement Year program. While the Year Abroad must be accomplished, naturally, in another country our university has partnership with, the Placement program can be fulfilled in the UK or abroad (and there are numerous opportunities and assistance available for that, within the Placement Department).

As far as I am concerned, I have shifted between options in my second year before finally deciding to move in Germany. Reflecting on it now, it seems that all the energy and exhaustive emails have led me in the right direction. While options go worldwide, bursaries differ depending on your selected country and nationality. China, for instance, represents and interesting option, yet a bursary is only given if one chooses to study there for 2 years. Australia or the US have some scholarships too, but they are individually tailored.

As for Europe, here is the best part. As European student, everyone is eligible for a monthly Erasmus Grant. Therefore, for those of you who are wishing to stay close to home and still benefit from a change of environment (myself included), this could be the exceptional experience you are looking for. Europe has many wonders to offer, and as an Exchange Erasmus student, you will benefit from many advantages local students miss: special national and international trips, languages courses, orientation programs and an overall warm, understanding and welcoming attitude from everyone from the academic staff and not only. Who cannot be happy in such conditions?

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Even though I have been living in the city of Konstanz, the Southernmost point of Germany, for less than two months, I have accommodated quickly and somehow skipped the “cultural shock”. The city is located near the biggest German lake, Constance, that comes included with the astonishing view of the snowy Alps. While the city is clothed in colourful, old buildings, there are also many modern shopping places, restaurants and pubs. The Swiss border is so close, that the next city is at a walking distance. And it also includes a small, refined chocolate factory (and there is nothing better than Swiss chocolate). From here, you can take trips across the region, into Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy and even Liechtenstein. Yes, they all are few hours away from Konstanz. And when you are in the mood for relaxation and want to shift from the winter sports, the Thermal park is a great escapade.

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Back to academic part, it is important to mention students have the possibility to choose from a wide range of courses related to their degree. On top of that, they can even learn German and other languages they are interested in. For instance, I have started here learning German, while continuing pursuing Italian and the usual Government courses. The perspective is quite challenging and fun. Teachers are very individual in their style, and so far, I was well impressed with every single one of them. They provide all materials beforehand on the university’s studying platform and promote the enhancement of skills through active participation and presentations. Some are teachers from other German universities or even Swiss ones, which is a plus of diversity and multiculturalism. Here, there are only two semesters, with the first one ending in February and the second, in July. So far, I have taken pleasure in actively participating during seminars and classes and learned more about the academic format of the courses. Thus, we have not reached yet, the well-known “assignment crisis” from Essex.

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As a general advice, I would suggest writing to other students about their Year Abroad experiences to decide the best place to travel to. When I was searching myself, I asked many people about accommodation, travel possibilities and even leisure. I would also look up for the university’s ranking and what course-offer it has, to see what I would be able to study and at what level. Nevertheless, try exploring as much as you can; it is still a Year Abroad full of adventures: new things to learn and people to meet. The experience will be more than rewarding, once you are back with an international approach over your degree and more confidence in your career path. Personally, I cannot wait to see what coming up next.

Love/ Best wishes,

Roxy Tc

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