Lots of nice people, great experiences and trips, great student life, interesting courses and, in the end, a lot to learn. All in all, it was a really good time at the University of Essex, although there are certainly nicer cities in England to study than Colchester.
The application process was easy and smooth. My contact at MicroEDU, Claudia Tost, was very competent and reliable. I was able to put all questions about the semester abroad and the application directly to them and received quick and informative answers, so that there was no need to contact the University of Essex. For the application, various forms had to be filled out and a selection made for the courses to be taken in England. I received my confirmation six months before the start of my studies.
Studies / courses taken
A pre-selection of courses is made during the application process through MicroEDU. In the first week at the university you can discuss this with a representative of the respective department and change it again if necessary. I studied at the Biological Science Department and took the following courses: Genome Science, Cell Biology, Energy for Exercise and Membrane Biology and Bioenergetics. All four courses were interesting in terms of content, easy to understand and methodologically well structured.
Genome Science, Cell Biology and Energy for Exercise each included an internship in the laboratory. However, the workload for the short semester is excessive: 2 term papers and a final exam per subject until mid-December could only be done with a lot of time in the library. So I would recommend avoiding Genome Science and Cell Biology if you can. Energy for Exercise and Membrane Biology and Bioenergetics were less complex and the lecturers were accommodating. I heard from a friend that Immunology and Cancer Biology should also be a little less complex. However, a high workload cannot be avoided during a semester stay. In the last few weeks in particular, all semester students had a lot to do for the university. So overall one labor-intensive time with interesting content.
Care is generally good at the University of Essex. Especially in the first week (Fresher’s Week) you will be looked after intensively. There are many events specially designed for all exchange students to get to know the campus, the city of Colchester and new people. The campus is teeming with contacts who are happy to help. If you have organizational problems, you can contact the exchange coordinator, who can usually help. The Biological Science Department has its own contact person. However, the lecturers are sometimes poorly informed about exams and special features for exchange students. Here you have to take the initiative yourself and turn to various offices for information. So if you take care of yourself you will be provided with the most important information.
The accommodations at the university differ greatly in terms of location, comfort and social connections, so you should find out about the differences via MicroEDU for a dormitory before applying. I lived in the Eddington Tower (South Tower). There you live in a shared apartment with 16 people who share a large kitchen, 2 showers and 4 toilets. Everyone has their own little room, which is equipped with the essentials. The university offers a starter pack in which you can find everything you need for the kitchen and room. If you arrive at very short notice, this is a good offer, but it is cheaper if you buy the things you need in the nearby supermarket.
Although I had never lived in a shared apartment before and 16 people sounds like a lot, I really liked it ! If you get used to the fact that it is always a bit dirty (especially in the kitchen you can always find unwashed dishes, the cleaning lady comes once a week), then it is a great opportunity to get to know a lot of nice new people! There is always someone to chat and you never feel alone. However, this also applies to the night, you have to be a bit immune to noise and in addition, fire alarms twice a week at night are not unusual (in the Eddington Tower, other towers do not have this problem). Overall, I would recommend the tower to anyone who likes to be around people and is a little dirt and noise tolerant. Otherwise the Houses or Southcourts are an alternative, here you live in smaller shared apartments with your own bathroom. Meadows and Keys are not directly on campus, so there are longer ways to get to the facilities on campus.
Leisure / excursions
The range of leisure activities at the University of Essex is very diverse and there really is something for everyone! It is advisable to find out more about the various societies at Fresher’s Week at the countless stands on the campus, which offer everything from sport to film to discussion groups. We recommend the Travel Society, which organizes excursions all over England at fair prices. The campus also offers a free cinema, theater, discos (which have a different party every day), a gym, and restaurants. According to ACT-TEST-CENTERS, the city of Colchester can be reached in 20 minutes by bus, where you can find a change from the university every now and then. Most of the time, however, student life takes place on campus.
To settle in well and get to know new people, use Fresher’s Week! The university organizes many different events in the first week (especially for exchange students). Take advantage of the offers and go there, you make a lot of friendships here – significantly more than in the courses!
Try to experience England and its culture! I can recommend the British Culture and Society course. It is set up a bit like a fairy tale hour, in which the course instructor illuminates the British and their idiosyncrasies in a very entertaining way. Little effort and very interesting, excursions are also organized in the summer term. Also: travel, travel, travel! Above all, use the time at the beginning and explore England!
I would advise anyone who has the chance to stay in England for a full year ! In just 2.5 months you have a lot of workload for the courses and so the free time is a little too short, especially in the final phase of the stay. Therefore it is unfortunately difficult during a semester to travel and do as much with friends as one would like.