I made the decision to spend the fall trimester at the University of Essex only on short notice in July 2020 after my previous plans for my gap year fell through due to Corona. Despite this, the application was extremely straightforward and I got a place at the university without any problems.
Stephanie Bussler, my contact at MicroEDU, went to great lengths and was able to help me immediately with any questions. Even in England I never had the feeling that I was on my own.
From the university there is also a very friendly and committed team specifically for international short-term students.
According to EDUCATIONVV, The university itself is very international, so that the fellow students really come from all over the world. During my time at university, I took the modules “Introduction to International Relations”, “Introduction to Economics”, “Introduction to Crime, Law and Society” and “Modern Revolutions in Science, Politics and Culture”.
I was very satisfied with my choice because the individual modules gave me a really good insight into the respective areas. Although I was in four different departments, I had no problem at all, as everything was easily accessible via Moodle. In the end, I was quite surprised by the very high reading effort in all modules.
Due to Corona, my on-site study experience was completely different. In the beginning I was one of the few who was lucky enough to have a little lesson on site. After the lockdown was introduced in November, everything was online. In the end, that turned out to be not bad at all, in some cases I even preferred the lessons via zoom. I was able to attend my early lectures and seminars from the comfort of my bed. Since many of the lectures were pre-recorded, you could and had to divide up the time yourself, but you could also listen to them at twice the speed and take your time taking notes.
The individual professors and lecturers were super nice and easy to reach. If necessary, a Zoom meeting could be arranged at any time.
The campus I really loved it. The central buildings such as the teaching building, library, learning center and bars / shops are all very close to one another, so that no long distances have to be accepted. The rooms in which I had a little lesson also have a great atmosphere and are very modern.
In general, I’ve always enjoyed walks across the grounds. Since the university is a bit outside of the city, you are in the countryside. Directly in front of the study center there is a park with two small lakes, and there, in turn, plenty of seating for outdoor meetings or the opportunity to switch off.
There are various bars and also a Starbucks, although these are only suitable for now and then, as they are relatively expensive. In general, it is much more fun to cook together with your own flat share and to try dishes from all over the world.
However, I highly recommend the weekly market for some goodies.
When applying for accommodation, you can specify different wishes, one time regarding the location and the type of accommodation (boys / girls mixed or not, own bathroom or shared). However, this request is not necessarily taken into account. For example, I had the South Courts as the first and the Houses as the second request and finally got an offer for the Meadows.
Overall, I was very satisfied there and can recommend this accommodation to everyone: The Meadows are on the edge of the university grounds (only the quays are further away), but there is a small shop of their own and the bus stop was within walking distance of my apartment reachable within one to two minutes. In addition, it is only a 10 to 15 minute walk to Tesco: Ultimately, the accommodation is a bit more expensive, but rather new (only Copse is even more expensive and newer).
I was in an apartment with four other girls (all international students). We had a large kitchen with enough storage space for everyone. Other apartments accommodate up to 7 students, so the kitchen is correspondingly larger: The room itself was big enough, with a large bed (120 cm wide), plenty of storage space (in the wardrobe and shelves), a mirror and a desk directly in front of it Window that gave me a great view of the Meadows courtyard. The bathroom is quite small at around 2m², but ultimately served its purpose.
Other accommodations also often had unannounced fire alarms, which only happened twice for us.
Because I lived on the second floor and my room was facing the inner courtyard, it was quite noisy at night and especially on weekends until the morning because other students were partying there. In the building itself, however, I didn’t notice anything.
Regarding the equipment, there is the option of ordering bed linen and towels as well as clothes hangers, kitchen utensils and food packages from Essex Essentials, which are delivered to the apartment with sufficient lead time or have to be picked up at the campus center. However, I would recommend stopping by Tesco first, as everything you need can be found there at a cheaper price.
Unfortunately, due to Corona, none of the sports clubs and a few of the societies (only online) took place. I can highly recommend the yoga classes of the Yoga Society, which were also a lot of fun through Zoom and whose teachers always tried very hard.
Usually there is a wide variety of activities, all of which are featured during the Fresher’s Fair in the introductory week, so there really is something for everyone. In addition to the more well-known sports clubs, there are also lacrosse, squash, scuba diving, ultimate frisbee and fencing. The societies are also diversified and extend, among other things, to the areas of art, culture, music, politics and religion.
For just a small contribution, you can take part in these unlimited times, and free events are also offered.
On the weekends I often went on trips with my roommates, was often in Colchester and twice in London.
Colchester has a really nice city center, with lots of cafes and restaurants (Wagamama is particularly recommended). You can also go for a walk there and visit a castle. All in all, it takes less than half an hour by bus to the center and just a little longer to the train station, from which trains run to London every half hour to hour in just 50 minutes.
Overall, I can say that it was definitely the right decision to spend part of my gap year at Essex and I really enjoyed my time there. So I was able to try out everyday university life, got to know England and great people.
In general, my experience has been strongly influenced by Covid-19, which in turn has strongly influenced the areas of study conditions, fun and leisure. Of course I had a great time in England, but I think that the restrictions meant that their potential could not be fully exploited.