I never actually intended to do a semester abroad and was more or less persuaded to do the semester abroad at the University of Essex. However, in retrospect it turned out that these were probably the best three months of my studies so far.
The application on MicroEDU went very smoothly and was much less expensive than the application for an Erasmus semester abroad at our university. If problems arose, MicroEDU was always available and helped immediately, so that overall the application process for the semester abroad was very uncomplicated and very pleasant.
After landing at Stansted Airport, the journey continued to Colchester. There a fellow student and I took a regional bus that took us to the university campus in two hours. However, there is also the option of booking a shuttle that will bring you to campus in a much shorter time without detours or stops.
Overall, the journey went very smoothly and you could already collect some impressions of “rural” England.
I lived directly on campus in the “Houses”. These are only a 4-minute walk from the “Squares”, which are the actual meeting and gathering point on the university campus. I lived there in a “flat” with 2 other Germans, an Austrian, a Swiss and an Italian. French, English and Spanish people lived in the neighboring flats, so you have direct contact there with students from many different nations.
According to Anycountyprivateschools.com, the rooms were, typically for England, very spartan. However, since most of the people there spend the vast majority of the day outside of the room, this is not a problem. The “South Courts” are also recommended.
The “Towers”, however, take some getting used to. There 11-12 students live together in a “flat” and share 2 toilets. In addition, there is always a party taking place somewhere in one of the flats in the towers, so that you never really get peace. In addition, the hygiene standard is also significantly lower than in the other living categories. However, you get to know many other fellow students there very quickly.
To anticipate one thing: the level of the lectures is much lower than what I am used to at my home university in Munich.
But let’s start at the beginning. Before starting the semester abroad, you select your 4 desired subjects from a subject catalog. As far as I know, it is not possible to take more or less than 4 courses. It must be exactly 30 ECTS points.
However, it must be assumed that this is not a final selection. When we received our timetable in the introductory week, most of the students in a semester abroad noticed that some courses overlap. That was where the real stress began. The learning agreement had to be changed, the change of subjects was also very complicated and so it took about 2 weeks until we had our final timetable.
I took the subjects International Trade, International Financial Institutions and Policy, Portfolio Analysis and Behavioral Finance. Overall, the professors tried very hard and – unlike what we know in Germany – it was also common to go to the professors’ office hours to discuss tasks with them. In addition, the number of participants in the lectures was far lower than at my home university, which sometimes forced you to actively participate.
The exams in the subjects International Trade, International Financial Institutions and Policy and Portfolio Analysis were very easy compared to the level of difficulty in Germany. Only “Behavioral Finance” was demanding in terms of level and, in my opinion, the most interesting course.
By far the most important topic that makes my stay in Essex so unforgettable. Because you live on campus, you are always in contact with other students in order to undertake a wide variety of activities. There are various restaurants and two pubs on campus. In addition, directly under the university is a night club called “Sub Zero”, which is the center of the nightlife. The best parties, the “Sports Feds”, always take place there on Wednesdays. These are themed parties of the individual “Sport Societies”. There you can see a bunch of people dressed up, dressed up according to the motto of the respective society. That brings me to the most important point. I can warmly recommend anyone who would like to do a semester abroad in Essex to become a member of a “Society” for the three months.
A wide variety of “societies” are offered. From football to hockey and rugby to non-sport-related “societies” such as the “Wine-and-Cheese Society” or “Harry Potter Society”. I myself was a member of the university’s hockey club. By becoming a member there and actively playing for the university, you have the opportunity to get to know the English better what is otherwise more difficult for exchange students who are only there for a short time. This is particularly useful for improving your English. It happened that we trained with the team twice a week and on Wednesdays we always had a game against another university (e.g. against Imperial College or against the London School of Economics). In addition to sport, we spent a lot of time together in the team. It went so far that after a month I was out almost every day with the other people on my hockey team.
The so-called “socials” then take place on Wednesdays after the games. Here you meet with the entire hockey club of the university (men and women) and drink with all the other members for the “Sports Fed”. Overall, we spent so much time together that I was pretty sad and depressed when I had to fly home after the three months. Overall, this university offers so many opportunities that there should be something for everyone. For example, it is also possible to take part in an organized excursion to Oxford or Cambridge.
Overall, I couldn’t have imagined my time at the University of Essex any better. This stay far exceeded my expectations and if I had the chance to choose again, it would never occur to me to even consider another university to spend the semester abroad.