University of Essex – what it was really like

Hey everyone, I’m back!

It’s been almost 2 months since my last post, which I’m not super proud of. But if I’m being honest I wasn’t really feeling inspired to write anything, despite travelling around Europe for 3 weeks. But now that I finished up my last exam at university I finally have more time to focus on this blog. I also regained my motivation and inspiration to share my adventures.

Today I will be sharing my experience at the University of Essex!

Let’s start off with the modules.

When choosing which modules to take back in November, I found myself feeling a little skeptical as to how the courses would relate to my major of Urban Studies. Although only 1 module had direct relations to my major, I don’t regret taking the other ones because I learned about topics I would not have the chance to take at my home university.

1. Urban Britiain: Towns and Cities from Midieval to Modern

Well the title pretty much says it all! Through this module I was able to learn about the history of Colchester through maps, directories, and other primary sources. We went on 2 field trips – one to the town of Colchester to record data and the other to the museums archives to view a variety of historical objects. These field trips were to help us enhance our final research projects. The project was an online storymap that depicted the history of a particular event ot topic. I focused mine on the urban development of Colchester. I was somewhat familiar with the online program to create the map since I have used something similar in previous geography courses. The concept of a storymap also gave me an idea for my independent study I have to complete at the U of L which was a nice bonus from the course. Overall the course was quite good but there were some negative aspects. The module actually started in the fall term of 2018 so I did not learn the actual history portion of the course. The second half of the course was to apply the knowledge previously learned to create a final project. Because of this, I struggled to come up with an idea for my project and had trouble finding resources. However, my project turned out ok and I recieved a good mark. I just found it strange that I was able to enroll in that module when it had already started in the fall.

2. The Early Modern Households Project

This module opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed – aka history geeks on twitter. (Apparently people have twitter accounts dedicated to all things history? ) This module was for history students in their final year. (also how was I allowed to take this course too?) That meant everyone (but me) was super into history and already knew everyone else in the room. I felt like a fish out of water, but honestly when do I not? Anyways, the content of the course was quite intersting. I learned about household management, record keeping, the role of men & women, domestic knowledge, and seasonality/preservation. I had the opportunity to transcribe a royal menu. It was a lot harder than I thought I would be (I even asked my parents to help me), but I did fairly well for my first attempt at transcribing. This module was centered around collaborative work in analyzing early modern history. We were required to make blog posts about anything in the course that sparked our interest. Additionally, we had to work on a group project. For this we created a blog about mental health in early modern households. This was my first group project in university and it went pretty smoothly. Although this module was very different from any other course I’ve taken, I enjoyed learning about such a specific topic.

3. Personality and Individual Differences

This was psychology course for second year students. It was a lecture based module with only two exams. This course had the largest class size out of all 4 courses, and there were also some post graduate students in the course as well. I have never taken a psychology course before so I was quite excited to take it. I found the content quite interesting, but the delivery of the material ws quite dry and boring. This module was run by a man and a woman who both gave lectures. Since the class was so large it was often hard to hear them talk. They used powerpoint slides to show the information, but they were very boring and hard to read in comparison to ones I’ve seen in previous courses at the U of L. I noticed that amongst all my modules so that must be the way powerpoints are created here. Both lecturers offered substantial supplementary materials, some of which I read when I had free time during the semester.

4. British Society and Culture

Another self-explanatory module 🙂 This module was created specifically for incoming exchange students. We discussed literature, music, politics, modernism, revolution, feminism, humour, and religion. This module was comprised of a lecture and seminar. The lecturer was quite nonchalant. He didn’t stand, but rather sat in a chair while giving the lecture, and basically just spewed information. So this made it hard to absorb what he was saying and take notes at the same time. We were required to do a presentation in small groups about a topic that was assigned to us. My group had to do it about racism in the UK which was very eye-opening. We also had to write an essay – mine was about feminism in the twentieth century. I learned a lot of things about British culture that I would not have otherwise so I’m glad I took this course!

Now for a list of pros and cons of the University in general:


  • very active students union (apparently it’s one of the top 10 SU in the UK)
  • SU events every week (karaoke, games night, quiz night, sports streaming)
  • an abundance of societies and clubs
  • sports facilities seem nice, with a variety of classes anyone can join (I never tried though)
  • high international student population
  • other events on campus (lectures , free art classes, themed weeks)
  • movie theater on campus
  • restaurants, cafes, “everything” store
  • sustainbility is starting to become a priorty
  • most food outlets have vegan alteratives
  • library with computers availble, free printing all over campus
  • SU market every thursday (food, jewelry, soap etc.)
  • a salon, post office, & copy center right on campus
  • online map for getting around campus, with directions
  • “Listen Again” – listen to your lectures again
  • won “University of the Year’ award


  • confusing room names/setup (difficult to find rooms)
  • semester structure (approx. 2hrs /week for 10 weeks aka not quite enough teaching time)
  • system to enrol in classes could use some major improvements
  • scheduling conflicts with tests/exams that are hard to change
  • online system for grades and other infor is a little hard to navigate, not user friendly
  • could update Windows, Microsoft word etc
  • library could use some improvements (new blinds for windows, new chairs etc)
Silberad Student Center (left), Albert Sloman Library (right)

Sorry for the lengthy post but I’m sure people are interested in what the university experience was really like for me. This website gives a good overview of the university if you are curious to learn more.

I had a great time at the University of Essex! Although there are a few things I would do differently if I could go back in time, the most important thing I gained from this experience was personal growth. As of right now I don’t feel as though I’ve changed that much, but when I look back at this adventure in 6 months or a year from now, I hope that I will see how much I grew and changed during this important time in my life.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed!


Mary 🙂

2 thoughts on “University of Essex – what it was really like

  1. Mary – I enjoyed hearing your synopsis of your Study Abroad experiences at the University of Essex. I know that you made new friends from many countries and within the UK as well. Such learning will shape your ideas throughout your life and as you said, you will likely see the changes in yourself in sharper detail when you return home. See you soon!
    Love from your mom!


  2. Betty

    What a wonderful experience for you and many things you have learned will help in u expected ways in the future . I’m sure you are looking forward to be home soon, and didn’t the time just fly by ??
    Aunt Betty


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