El Cubano de la uni’

Don’t expect this story to tell you about the wonderful history and traditions of the UK; books and magazine can do that better than me! This is just my account of what it is like to study in Essex University and what to expect from it. Worried about accommodation? Education? Other stuff? Here are some facts to keep in mind when coming to study in the UK.

Accommodation: First class ticket?

Since I’ve got to uni, I’ve been living on campus accommodation. To tell you the truth: it’s not the most luxurious flat you could ever think of, but I’ve got myself a flat with an en-suite bathroom that suits all my needs (in the end you get what you pay for). This is awesome, especially if you’ve been living with your parents and sharing a bedroom with your brother. I share a kitchen with my flatmates but that has given me the opportunity to share experiences as well as food… so tasty…so not-that-tasty sometimes! Anyway, the good thing is that you get to learn how to cook not just your traditional food but also some international dishes while getting to know a little bit more about the world. Let’s be honest, I struggled with the heater when I first turned it on… Ah! Another remarkable fact; I have Internet 24 hours, 20 MB/sec…unbelievable! Netflix for a break, Spotify to help you study!

Education: No success comes without sacrifices

If you expect the school to give you an up-to-date, in-depth education with a combination of both theoretical and practical features, if you expect teachers to be well-qualified and insightful and all of them to have a PhD, if you expect every book in the library to be the latest edition and to all the IT you need to study, you won’t be disappointed!

However, this doesn’t come without sacrifices. If you want to make the most out of this year, here is some advice. Don’t let the timetable mislead you; it might seem like you don’t have too many classes scheduled in the week but you will have to do a lot of independent study. Believe me, this is challenging and real. Likewise, don’t expect to be able to sleep in or stay up late; you will only do that in the first week. You are expected to produce well-researched work so you’ll need to beaver away, spend long hours in the library and develop good skills on how to sneak snacks onto the premises.

Studying finance or economics? I suggest you revise maths and statistics a lot; that will certainly make your life easier. Breaks? You will have both Christmas and Easter holidays but don’t expect to be able to relax too much as you will probably spend most of the time studying. If you think you are good at English, you aren’t! Be ready to use your dictionary! Final exams; all of them in less than 20 days and quite probably two or three in a row! Demanding? Yes! And most importantly, they are a big deal in the UK so be ready to go through all the scary process that will make your feel even more stressed 10 minutes before the start of the exam!

Social life, technology, friends, ‘This is the first time I…’

Wow! That’s a lot to cover…let me make it easy. You will be amazed at how many times you will say “This is the first time I do, try, eat, experience, etc…” That’s how it works. IT; impressive. Whenever or wherever you go, whatever you do….everything can be sorted out by tapping your phone, from topping up your laundry card to borrowing a book from the library, Downsides? Go for a jog if you don’t want to put on weight after being so lazy. As for your social life, don’t worry! UK universities have enough facilities to make you feel at home and provide a wide range of opportunities: cinema, gym, cafés, club, pubs…it’s just a matter of what you want to do and of course find the time to do it. Regarding friends, you will meet people from all over the world however don’t expect to make too many to be British. They are a minority compared to the international students studying at the postgraduate level. That’s a very good thing about UK universities; you will end up with friends all over the world and with plenty of reasons to visit their countries, now with free accommodation. How can you make that happen? Hmm, tricky question…

Summing up, be prepared to broaden your mind and enjoy new cultures. Be prepared to make sacrifices and to expand your perspectives beyond any horizon. Be ready to face changes with a positive mind and challenge yourself by pushing through your limits. My Chevening Scholarship has allowed me to experience things I could never have imagined. But also, I’ve been able to show the world what it’s like to be Cuban. A few call me by my name, but for most people here at Essex University I am simply ‘El Cubano de la uni’.

BLOG BY CARLOS RANGEL IROLA – CHEVENING ALUMNUS, CUBA