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

How Lethbridge embraced and welcomed me with open arms when I arrived on Sunday 6th September 2015, by Hamza Kazmi.

Hello there, this is my first blog post about my experience whilst on exchange in Alberta, Canada. When I went to Canada it was my first time leaving the UK on my own so at first I was slightly nervous and it is completely acceptable to feel this way. I stayed one night at a youth hostel in Calgary and took the Greyhound at 8.30am in the morning to the University of Lethbridge. The journey in total took approx. 3 hours and 30 minutes despite Calgary – Lethbridge only being 2 hours apart.

The best tips to be comfortable in my opinion are to:

  • Explore your local surroundings (campus or the neighbourhood)
  • Attend Orientation Events which will allow you to make friends and develop connections.
  • Plan your week on the first day of what you would like to do that day and share ideas with your roommates.

It was at the point when I arrived that I realised that the distances between places in Canada is mind blowing. However, when I arrived I was welcomed by the International Exchanges Co-ordinator and shown where to collect my residence key and after went along to move into the Village (picture above). When I got off the bus I did not realise until I had picked up my key that the person sitting near me on the bus was also an exchange student who came from Germany, and he will be my roommate living next door to me in the same house. So before we went over to Rez Village, Diane drove us to the nearest grocery stores and Dollar store to buy some essential items to last us couple days to help us settle in.

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The first couple of days when you will arrive in your host institution and move into residence (usually or be moving into a house off-campus) you will feel overwhelmed, but as long as you take it slowly you will soon adjust and will certainly feel at home.

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Remember though, you are all in the same boat as you are experiencing a different country and different lifestyle. The Canadians I met were super fantastic and really wanted to help you in any way they can. For example: I was given a ride whenever I needed to go to the grocery store because my roommate had a truck and I would jump in with him if he’d be going shopping.

How To Survive The First Few Weeks of Term, by Nicolae Radulescu.

Hey everyone. My name is Nicolae Radulescu, but all the people I know call me Nico and I have recently become a student blogger for the Government Department even though I am studying Liberal Arts which is from another department. I decided to write a few lines for you as most of my modules have been from Government so we have a lot in common.

Even though I am third year student now, I still remember very clearly the first time I arrived on campus and how I survived the first few weeks at uni. Before coming here, I did not know anyone from Essex and I was even more afraid that it was the first time I would live by myself in another country.

Arriving at Essex

After I took the bus offered by university from Stansted, I met a lot of other students who were nervous exactly as I was. Getting on campus, I had to pick up my key card and to get settled in my new room in Bertrand Russell.  Although I was nervous as it was a completely new experience for me, I was welcomed by some of my flatmates. This is how my surviving journey started.

Retrospectively looking at that period now, I realize that surviving the first two weeks was not a nightmare. The first thing I knew then was that I would need to spend as much time as I can with my flatmates as thus, I could cement some lasting friendships and so it was. I made friends I had fun with and we went together through some difficult moments such as cooking your own meal, doing laundry for the first time as well as finishing the first assignment by the deadline. Going through these experiences was fun rather than worrying.

Events on campus and getting involved

Another thing that I did then was attending most of the events from my welcome pack, from the registration and welcoming event of my department to the “How to get the most out of your first year”. I found them useful as from there I started doing a lot of other things that are going to be in this blog post. Although, I participated at some of the events and went to a few parties as all of you will probably do, you will need to bear in mind that you do not need and cannot attend all of them, so just do as much as you can during the first 2 weeks as long as it is not overwhelming. You will have plenty of time later.

Joining societies!

At the same time I started to join different societies. This happened during the Freshers Fair which is always fun as all the societies are up there exhibiting their activities. There is also a lot of free stuff such as Dominos or other snacks. Societies are good time to spend some time with as you join different groups where you will find people with the same interests, you play games and make more friends. If you will run for the committee positions, you will also get some experience to put in the CV.

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Since from the beginning I started thinking about jobs as I was sure that sooner or later I would need more money. This is why I joined vTeam which is the volunteering team run by the Students Union. They have regular projects where I could go to schools and teach children or they have the one-off opportunities which I attended. I enjoyed all of these as I went with my friends and had fun whilst giving something back to the community. This made me win the Volunteer of the Month award which helped me later as I had something more in my CV and managed to get a frontrunner position at the end of the year.

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I did as much as I could then because the more active one is, the faster that person will get settled. This is what happened to me. I managed to go through almost all of my degree now and I still have my friends from my first yea. I currently live with 3 of them in the same house and all the extra-curricular activities that I did then helped me considerably as over the last 2 years, I managed to win 9 awards and have 4 jobs and can easily say that I have a really good CV.