I was given the opportunity to study at the University of Essex in Great Britain for two semesters. I had a wonderful time there and have not regretted having completed a semester abroad at exactly this university. It is not an exaggeration when I say that it was the best time of my studies. I am very grateful that I was able to make this possible with the support of the International Office of Bielefeld University and MicroEDU.
My first thoughts when I reached the university campus in Colchester were: “This is how I imagine a campus!” Actually everything you need for life can be found on campus, so that in theory you never have to leave the university grounds. For the physical well-being there is a small, well-stocked shop, 2 bars, a diner, a pizzeria and several small cafes. I missed a kind of cafeteria, as I’m used to from German universities. There are numerous ways to buy a warm lunch without cooking yourself, but then it is only fast food and the prices do not correspond to those, that I know from the cafeteria at my university. But I’m not sure whether canteens are even common in England. There is also a bookstore, post office, mobile phone shop and the health center on campus. I particularly liked the Sports Center, which has a well-equipped fitness studio.
The university is well equipped. In addition to a large library and countless computer rooms, there are enough places to study undisturbed.
As a small disadvantage, I found that the distance to the nearest supermarket, especially from the south campus, is quite large and you have to rely on the bus for larger purchases or bad weather.
The university offers 5 different accommodation options on campus. The “University Quays”, “Houses” and “South Courts” offer pretty rooms with their own toilet and shower. Up to 4 or 5 students live here together and share well-equipped kitchens. The rooms of the “South Courts” are the largest in comparison, so it is also the most expensive to live there. Unfortunately, the “Quays” are not directly on campus, you have to walk a few minutes to get to the actual campus. For this it is advantageous that the distance to the supermarket is very short. Personally, however, because of the distance to the campus, I was glad that I wasn’t staying there.
The “North Towers” and “South Towers” are the cheaper option for living on campus. However, the rooms are much smaller and you have to share the shower and toilet with your roommates. In addition, around 14 people live together in one apartment. When it comes to volume and hygiene, you certainly have to cut back a bit. However, there are still good reasons to take advantage of one of these cheaper housing options. Personally, I partly regretted not having lived in one of the towers, because it is nowhere that easy to get to know so many different people. In addition, you can be sure that you will never get bored there, because there is always something going on. Especially if you want to improve your English, in my opinion the best thing to do is to move to the towers.
But in general it is always a matter of luck which roommates you live with. But I can hardly remember anyone who was really totally unhappy with their apartment.
The University of Essex’s location could hardly be better. According to existingcountries.com, Colchester is not far from London, so the English capital can be reached cheaply within 2 hours. Nevertheless, it is much cheaper than studying at a university in London. The proximity to the coast makes it possible to take the bus to the sea. Clacton, for example, is a nice place for such a day trip. Furthermore, the Study Abroad Office offers free excursions to Cambridge and Canterburry especially for exchange students, which you should definitely take part in. Colchester is of course a lovely city too, with lots to do.
Personally, I got the impression that the support from lecturers and their proximity to students was better than I was used to from my German university. By and large, all of the overseas students I have met have been very happy with the way they study at the University of Essex. In addition to your own subject, the International Academy offers numerous opportunities to improve your linguistic or cultural skills.
In addition to actually studying, there is a wide range of opportunities to organize your free time. There are a lot of sports clubs and societies, so you can never get bored. I was particularly impressed by the huge range of sporting activities. I also have positive memories of the nightlife. For people who cannot or do not want to sleep, there is actually the opportunity to do something every night, except on Sundays. I’ve never heard of a German university with 3 of its own clubs on campus.
I heard the University of Essex has the highest number of international students in England. My personal impression can only confirm this. The best experience for me was getting to know so many people from different origins and cultural backgrounds. I don’t think I’ll have a similar experience again and live with so many different people from all over the world.
If you asked me to summarize my best experience from that time in one sentence, I would answer: Now I have friends in Mexico, Japan, Norway, England and many other countries in the world.