In the winter of 2011 I did a semester abroad at the University of Essex. The application process was relatively easy, on the one hand because of the support from MicroEDU, but on the other hand also because of the comparatively low requirements on the part of the university.
In Essex, the winter term lasts just under twelve weeks, from early October to mid-December. This is an advantage if you also have to complete a compulsory internship because you then have enough time for this. A disadvantage of this short period, however, is that you cannot receive BAföG abroad because a minimum stay of twelve weeks is required.
I particularly liked the fact that first year students have the opportunity to live on campus. This turns the campus into a kind of small town where you can buy everything you need for life. There is a 24-hour shop with groceries, a small shopping mall, a post office, a few cafes and restaurants in various price ranges. There’s even a theater on campus that I’ve visited twice and that puts on really good plays. Foreign students have the opportunity to live on campus. I lived in one of the houses where you have your own small bathroom attached to your room, which is really an advantage. I shared the kitchen with five others and although it is cleaned once a week, it was mostly very dirty.
I would also recommend taking an arrival package offered by the university, which contains bedding and a first set of kitchen equipment, making the arrival a lot easier (I had bedclothes with me, but no bedding, so the first night was pretty cold).
From the beginning I was well supported by the university. For example, a transfer from the airport to the campus was offered and when I arrived on campus they helped me get my key and find my room. You are supported and advised in the choice of courses and there is also plenty of staff to support you with any problem.
According to mcat-test-centers.com, two free excursions organized by the university were offered to international students in winter. I took the trip to Cambridge which is highly recommended. We were given a city tour, but otherwise had a lot of time to see the city for ourselves. There are also many other possibilities for excursions in the vicinity of the university. I took the bus to the seaside in Clacton twice. The bus journey takes about 45 minutes and costs only around 3 pounds there and back on the weekend and you can get to London very cheaply if you book in advance. A train from Colchester to London takes about 45 to 60 minutes each, so you can easily take a day trip there and avoid expensive accommodation costs.
The Essex lectures were good too. Overall, the system is a bit more school-based than at my German university, which is an advantage as a foreign student, as you are taken by the hand more. I am studying European Studies and have taken two seminars on political science, one on cultural studies and an English course. The level of my political seminars was rather lower than at my German university, but at the end of the trimester, if you’re only in England for one trimester, you have to write an essay of 2,500 to 3,000 words as well as an exam, which then is very time consuming. In addition, the grading in political science is relatively strict. Both of my lectures were very interesting in terms of content and I liked the division into lecture and class.
My cultural studies lecture was titled “French Cinema and Culture” and was extremely good because my lecturer was French and all of the lessons were given in French.
My fourth course, “English writing skills”, was not very demanding in terms of level, but since the classes were small and the teacher took a lot of time for each individual, I still had the opportunity to improve my scientific writing style in English and the course was very helpful with the essay writing at the end of the trimester.
Essex’s nightlife has a lot to offer. On the one hand, you can walk away on campus, where there are two pubs and a club and there is always something going on. Here you can also see the famous “Essex girls”. You can also go out in Colchester, where there are numerous pubs and clubs and there is something for every taste.
In summary, my semester abroad was an incredible experience and I can only recommend Essex.