I spent an Academic Gap Year from September to December 2018 at the University of Essex in Colchester. I enjoyed it there very much and I can also recommend the Academic Gap Year.
My application was relatively straightforward in advance. MicroEDU explained to me exactly how the individual steps work and was able to answer all of my questions. That is why the application process was very easy for me. I also found a place in the student dormitory without any problems. I arrived at Heathrow Airport in London and a university shuttle bus, which was relatively expensive and very late, dropped me off at the University of Essex. It is recommended to arrive at Stansted Airport because it is closer to the university and because there are good and cheap bus connections with the “National Express”. I would also recommend arriving as early as possible on “Arrivals Day” so that you can settle down more relaxed and have time to get to know other people.
I lived in the “Towers”. I had a relatively small room, but with a great view from the 13th floor. The fourteen of us shared a kitchen, two showers and three toilets. Most of the time it went well: both showers were rarely occupied, it was just that the kitchen was relatively cramped when several people were cooking at the same time. In addition, it was always quite noisy at night as the elevator could be heard loudly and the walls were not soundproofed at all, so you could hear parties on your own floor or the next floor. About once or twice a week there was a fire alarm (often at night), which was mostly triggered by cigarette smoke. I had to bring everything myself. But there is also the possibility to buy something like this on campus or at the “Tesco” (the closest supermarket) on site. Otherwise I liked the “Towers” that they are so very central on the Campus and that you quickly got to know people there, which was particularly helpful at the beginning. It is also the cheapest of the student dormitories.
In the first week there was a “Welcome Week” with various introductory events and many parties, at which I also got to know many of my later friends. We also had the opportunity to choose our courses. Even if we were able to make a pre-selection in advance, it was only there that we decided which courses we would definitely take. Many of my foreign fellow students had problems because course events overlapped. Fortunately, I was able to take the courses I wanted, although my time also overlapped a lot. However, the university is apparently not that strict with foreign students, so that was not a problem. My advice: Just ask the lecturers or those in charge of the student council directly.
For the most part, I was satisfied with the courses. I had taken courses in psychology, biology, and linguistics. In the biology courses there were regular “practicals” where we experimented and were able to use the very modern laboratories of the university. The lectures of the biology courses were unfortunately a bit disappointing because only PowerPoint slides were read there. My psychology course was much better and very interesting. Overall, I didn’t find the content to be that demanding.
The university has a lot to offer in terms of leisure activities: There are many sports opportunities through various “sports clubs”, a fitness studio, sports fields and halls, tennis, badminton, squash fields, climbing walls and much more. For a one-time payment of £ 20 you can use most of the fields and halls, but not the gym. In addition, the university offers many “societies” for all imaginable hobbies and associations such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and more. There is definitely something for everyone (who wants to). Among other things, I was in the “Harry Potter Society”, with whom I went to the premiere of a film from the “Fantastic Beasts” series, for example.
Apart from that, there are two night clubs, bars, restaurants, a cinema, a theater and many other opportunities to spend your free time on campus. In the evening there was a party almost every day. Read more experience for studying abroad on Collegetoppicks.
Unfortunately, the food on campus is quite expensive and there is no such thing as a classic cafeteria. It is definitely cheaper to cook yourself.
The city of Colchester is relatively small and tranquil. In the city center there is a castle with a very nice park, which you should definitely see once in good weather. Otherwise there are also some shopping opportunities in the city center.
About a 20-minute walk from the campus is the “Hythe” train station, from which you can travel to central London within an hour. I can recommend everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. If you go to London more often, a “Railcard” for £ 30 is worth it. This gives you a 33 percent discount on all train connections. Trips to Cambridge, Chelmsford, Brightlingtonsea or Clacton-on-Sea are also worthwhile.
All in all, I am very happy that I spent my Academic Gap Year in Essex and would definitely recommend the University of Essex to others. The university is particularly suitable for someone who wants to do a lot in their free time.