Field report: University of Essex
In the spring of 2011, I decided to spend a semester abroad at the University of Essex in England, as I was able to integrate this seamlessly into my bachelor’s degree in Germany. The autumn trimester in England is shorter than a German semester, so I spent three months (October to December) in England and after my return I was even able to take exams at my home university.
The entire application went through MicroEDU and went extremely smoothly and quickly. All the necessary documents were sent to me by the University in England via MicroEDU and all questions on my part were answered on the same day (or even within a few hours), both by the friendly MicroEDU Team and the Study Abroad Office on site. The acceptance from England came pretty soon after I had sent the application, so there was still plenty of time to prepare. Shortly before the start of the semester, a starter package with lots of information and tips from England arrived.
Arrival / arrival
Before the term began at the University of Essex, I took the opportunity and spent a few days in London. The flight connections from Germany there are really good and, above all, relatively cheap (e.g. with Germanwings or Ryanair to Stansted). Stansted Airport is almost halfway between London and Colchester, and there are regular bus connections from the airport directly to the university for around ten euros. I took the train to Colchester directly from London Liverpool Street Station and was there within 50 minutes. At the train station a shuttle service was offered by the university on the day of arrival, since the bus provided was already full and we didn’t want to wait, we took a normal bus. That was no problem at all
At first glance, when I got to the university, it was a total mess, as many students arrived on the same day with a lot of luggage and, like me, didn’t know their way around. Here, too, the Student Union posts were of great help, so it was no problem to find the Accommodation Office to get the key to my room. Since you are not provided with kitchen utensils, blankets, etc., I had previously ordered a basic set of utensils (plates, cutlery, pots, bedding, towels…) online for around 90 euros from Germany. That turned out to be very helpful, because while everyone else was only half equipped in the first few days and had to buy everything individually, the complete package was already ready in my room when I moved in.
I opted for a room in the dormitory on campus because it really is the cheapest and easiest option. So my room was in the North Towers directly on the university grounds, a two-minute walk from the central squares. I had about ten square meters with a desk, wardrobe and bed in an all-girls flat-share. Most of the flats were mixed, but you can indicate that you only want to live with women or men. We shared the huge kitchen, two showers and three toilets with 14 people. It wasn’t really cozy, but once you’ve settled in a bit, it’s bearable. The cleaning lady cleaned twice a week, and we didn’t have to worry about the rubbish either, but everyone is responsible for their own room.
Since Fresher (freshmen) and international are preferred when allocating rooms in the dormitories on campus, our flat rate is very international (mainly Chinese and Bruneians). It was a real shame that they mostly spoke in their mother tongues, which is why I was glad that I still had two German roommates. Most of the other flats were mixed up, however, which is why I was able to practice my English sufficiently.
Life in the towers has advantages and disadvantages. Because there is always something going on, you really get to know a lot of people and always find something to do. It’s amazing that there really is a (kitchen) party somewhere every night. This is exactly the biggest disadvantage if you are a little sensitive to noise: the doors and windows are so thin that you always know where a party is going on. Equipped with ear plugs, the whole thing wasn’t that big of a problem for me.
Campus life / free time
The entire student life takes place on campus, you can find everything you need: a café, bistros, restaurants, bars, three (!) Discos, a small supermarket, as well as the library, a post office, a bookstore and much more. For larger (and cheaper) purchases, however, you have to make the way to the Tesco Superstore, which is a bus station or a 20-minute walk away. There are small laundromats on campus for laundry.
In terms of party technology, the university really leaves nothing to be desired, from Mondays to Saturdays there are parties every day, whether private, in the discos or in the SU Bar. Above all, the English people’s preference for theme parties and disguises has given me numerous funny evenings. Therefore you have to plan in your budget (by German standards relatively high) prices for admission and drinks.
We really recommend joining one of the countless societies that are presented at a large trade fair at the beginning of the semester. From archery to theater, climbing, pole dance or lacrosse, everything is included. I even took part in several competitions with the volleyball society against other universities from all over England. The brand new fitness studio right next to the sports facilities on campus is also particularly good.
According to toppharmacyschools.org, downtown Colchester itself is a good distance from the university and the easiest way to get there is about a 20-minute bus ride. There you can shop or eat well and see a typical English city. We also took advantage of the offers of the cinema, the roller skating rink or the local museum in the Castle with the beautiful city park. It is also a very special experience to go partying in the city and see the English in action there.
Last but not least, there are of course many trips to London. There are so many things to see there that it wouldn’t make sense to list them here. Just this much: From 14 euros per person you can get a one-day travel ticket for a return trip from Colchester and the underground in London. Aside from London, Study Abroad Students have free excursions to Cambridge and Canterbury, and we went to Bath and Stonehenge with the Traveling Society. If you want to experience a really English seaside resort, you shouldn’t miss a trip to the nearby Clacton-on-Sea! Unfortunately, a trimester doesn’t have as many weekends as there are excursion options…
First of all, it must be said that it is obviously very unusual to only complete one semester abroad. Most Study Abroad Students stay for a full year, so it was mainly Germans who were only there for three months. I suspect the offer to only spend the fall semester at the University of Essex is fairly new, as there were a few things here and there that weren’t one hundred percent planned out. The regular year at the University of Essex consists of taking either year-round courses or autumn or spring courses and then taking all the exams in the summer semester. We, however, wrote our exams in the last week of the trimester in mid-December. So a couple of problems arose:
I did more for the university than I would have expected for a semester abroad, but that was mainly due to my personal aspiration to get good grades. Compared to German universities, we only covered a fraction of the material and the level of difficulty in terms of content is lower in most cases. We were able to take a total of four autumn courses, each of which required a term paper (usually 40% of the final grade) and a final exam. All courses at my home university were recognized, so I earned 24 credits in the three months. Unfortunately, the grades were not taken into account for me, because although I had doubts in between because of the declared high standards, they were really very satisfactory. Here are the courses I have taken:
- Organizational Behavior (2nd Year)
- Business Ethics (3rd Year)
- Brand Management (3rd Year)
- Environmental Economics (3rd Year)
Overall, the on-site support was very good, because the Study Abroad Office really answered every question quickly, the orientation week offered many information events and help with accommodation was offered directly in the Accommodation Office.
Dos & Don’ts
- Don’t get into despair if you don’t understand the different, strong international accents (from fellow students or lecturers) – it’s all a matter of practice!
- Get a credit card in good time after the acceptance (or someone who lets you use his) – everything that is paid online (tuition fees, dormitory rent, etc.) is only possible via credit card! It is also helpful to have an account at Deutsche Bank, which is free for students, because then you can withdraw cash from Barclays free of charge on campus
- Do it yourself (saves money and is healthier than the average English student’s meal)!
- Definitely try the English cuisine (of course Fish’n’Chips, Bangers & Mash, Full English Breakfast, Cornish Pasties…)!
- Room in the Towers? Don’t forget your ear plugs!
- Join at least one society: You get to know a lot of people and usually have an additional program through the regular socials
- On Wednesdays, go to SportsFed in disguise with the respective Sportsociety!
- It is best to realize right away that the long reading lists are simply not realistic (still read the most important texts regularly, because time is running out shortly before the essay submissions and exams)
- Use the free time at the beginning of the semester for excursions!
In conclusion, I can say that I am very happy with my choice. England is a great, interesting country with really nice, excluded people (locals as well as visitors). Everything is much more international than at German universities and life on a campus university is a completely new experience. I had no problems keeping up with the other students in terms of content or language, and the essays in particular were a good exercise with regard to my bachelor thesis. In my opinion, the most important thing is that you have a really good time, meet a lot of people from all corners of the world and see a lot of England.