My Experience Studying Curating at University of Essex

We spent some time speaking to students studying at University of Essex, currently living in Colchester at Hythe Mills so that you can learn from their experience and get a sense of what it’s like to live and study in Colchester. 

In this post, we met and spoke with Francesca, a second-year student at the University of Essex. She has lived in Hythe Mills for two years and is currently completing her second year of a BA in Curating, combining her passion for art and history!

Why did you choose to study Curating at University of Essex

I loved art history at school and curating is almost an extension of this. It’s all about the curating side, like planning and working on exhibits in art galleries and museums. I’ve always loved history ever since I was young. Then when I was in sixth form my teachers were asking me what I wanted to do. I’m not really into maths and science so there was never really a clear path, fine art could have been an option but all the courses I could find were too expensive. That’s really when I came across Curating and it just clicked. 

What made you choose to study at University of Essex

When I was making the decision I was actually living in Liverpool with some family. I was stuck between staying there or going to Essex. I had family in both places so either place would have felt like home, but ultimately it came down to the course. Curating is quite a niche course, so it wasn’t like I could go anywhere and the University of Essex just made sense.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to an open day but had been to Colchester when I was younger so it wasn’t a complete shock. When I arrived I knew I’d made the right choice. 

What did you think of the campus?

I thought the campus was great! As I said, I unfortunately couldn’t attend any of the open days, but once I arrived, someone gave me a tour of the campus and I remember thinking “I’m gonna like it here”. I really loved the library buildings and the food options but the stand out for me was the student union bar. The SU bar is so sociable, there’s always loads of people there, so sometimes you’ll be outside and just start chatting with someone. It’s really nice. 

What is it like living in Colchester?

It’s really sociable, there’s always things going on which you can join, like the Student Union weekly quiz, and events in colchester itself!

I’ve really enjoyed living in Colchester. I’ve never had any issues and have felt really safe here. Obviously sometimes there’s pushing or fights in clubs but as a woman I’ve personally never felt unsafe. Even the walk from campus feels fine at night. I have a friend who walks back very late from the library and she’s never had any issues. So my experience is that Colchester is very safe. 

I’m also a student warden for Hythe Mills. Which means I sort out any problems on the days that security is not at the accommodation such as helping you if you lose your key. 

How are you finding University of Essex so far?

I think every student has sat there more than once and wondered why they’re at university? I feel like perhaps I hadn’t really anticipated what uni would really be like. None of my family had been to uni and so it was almost an entirely new concept. I suppose I’d seen films and social media but other than that I didn’t really know what to expect. 

I would say you have to mentally prepare yourself for university. I found that the best thing to do is to seek help when you need it. I’m quite close to my department and so if anything goes wrong; like you miss a deadline;  they’re the first people to help you and stand up for you. I’ve really appreciated that. I think a lot of people at university don’t even know that department support exists. I’ve met people in their third year who have never spoken to their department team, but for me I would recommend seeking help when you need it because they really are there for you. 

How was the support at your university?

I think it’s been great. I found my first year really hard. I suffered quite badly with anxiety and so I struggled in lectures. I felt a lot of peer pressure I suppose because everyone was doing well and I didn’t feel like I was. I didn’t know about the help that the university offered but now I’m in my second year I’m doing a lot better, I suppose because I went out of my way to seek help.

I got quite close with my department and they’ve made me realise that they care. They got to know me as a person and so they’d always ask me things like how’s your nan doing or things like that, which just made me feel like they really cared. 

I also have a health issue which means I get cramps in my hands which prevents me from writing. So I had to go through the wellbeing team, to get support for my exams. They were really lovely, they’d offer to go for a chat and really help with whatever I needed. 

Future generations have also been great in some respects – I get on well with the people who work here and I mean I can chat to anyone so I quite enjoy chatting to the staff on site. They’re definitely there to help you, if you have any issues you can always drop them an email or call them and they’re there immediately.

Did you find it easy making friends and meeting new people?

As I say I’m pretty sociable as it is, so I can talk to anyone. I remember on my first day, I’d met a friend a few doors down from me in Hythe Mills and she came knocking on my door and said there were drinks downstairs. I wasn’t doing anything so I went down. I think most people moved in that day and so it was almost like a welcome drink, where you could meet everyone in the accommodation. 

Freshers week was also a great experience for me! I  met so many new people. Plus the university put on loads of different events, it really felt like they went out of their way to give us a good time. We had some really good artists playing and so if you were willing to pay a little extra for a ticket you could see some great acts.

Then there’s always something going on at the student union bar. I’ve definitely got to chat with a lot of people there. It’s nice because it’s really sociable. Sometimes me and my partner go there after we’ve been studying in the library, and people will be playing football or something is going on outside which is fun. 

What is it like living at Hythe Mills?

To be honest I’ve had a great time here! Hythe Mills was really sociable in my first year, it felt like the place to be. The common areas are really big, so they can accommodate a lot of people, which is good. 

The rooms are also lovely, you get a TV which is an absolute bonus; you can stream anything from your phone. There’s an AC unit which is great, loads of storage space and you get a double bed. I also love that I get an en-suite. The staff are so nice and I’ve gotten pretty close with them now. 

For on site facilities you’ve got things like board games and a cocktail/cinema room – which are both good for socialising. It feels like they really thought about how a student would live in the accommodation, which makes the whole place a great place to live.

Hythe Mills Colchester Standard Ensuite

My tips for new students:

  • Number one, make the most of being at university. Try and say yes to everything because even if you don’t feel like it at the time you’ll appreciate it later.
  • Do what your lecturers recommend you to do, they say it for a reason!
  • I would try to attend the open days if you can. It will just give you that reassurance that you really do want to go to that specific university.
  • Finally, just have fun!