I started my journey in England on the 11th of September 2014 as a brand new student of the University of Chichester. For some reason the first year of University starts incredibly late with my lectures starting on the 22nd of September. I was a complete beginner when it came to travelling and had never been on a plane before so you can imagine how terrified I was to go to another country by myself. I chose to buy the cheapest airfare possible which meant that I only spent 50 euros on fight tickets but it took me 9 hours to get to England as I was not in the know what the normal travel times were and thought this was normal (3 hours flight is normal by the way).
After arriving on campus at 8 in the morning after what felt like years of travel. I needed to figure out how to get to my room and it turned out that the Information Zone in the University doesn’t open till 10.30 which meant I had to wait outside for 2 and a half hours to get to my room. When I finally managed to get there, I slept for 14 hours straight. My room was small but cosy and I was quite happy with it. I shared a kitchen, 2 bathrooms and 2 toilets with 5 other people, which for me was very appropriate as I came from a high school where me and my dormmates had to share a single toilet and a kitchen between the nine of us. The university accommodation can be expensive but it is the best way to meet new people. If you want though, the possibility of living in a house outside of campus is also there but you would just have to have the determination to find these listings where other students are looking for housemates. Accommodation advisor from the university is the best person to talk to if you have any questions in regards to the accommodation.
On my first day of walking around I already made many friends as there was another Estonian student there who had met many other internationals so he went on to introduce me to them. A couple of the people I met on my first day walking around on campus have been my friends to this day, one of them being my housemate even.
My official University journey started with Freshers Week which is basically a week of partying hosted by, I believe, every university in England. It gives students an amazing chance to meet new people and make yourself comfortable in the university setting which is exactly what I did. I made myself known to many people as a goal of mine when coming to this university was to network as much as possible. It might sound silly but I am glad I had that goal as the chances and opportunities I have received by just knowing as many people as I can are incredible and makes me feel as if I am incredibly blessed. My biggest goal for year one was to find a job and I can easily say I’ve never had this much struggle with anything in life before, it was the most stressful time in the university for me and prompted thoughts of quitting and going back to Estonia. Luckily, I was strong enough to fight through these struggles life was throwing my way and I finally found a job, which I have now had for over two years, a team member in the local Cineworld Cinema, the managers there hire many students and are therefore very accommodating when it comes to how many hours and what days you can do in a week. The pay was also good enough for me to even save up some money. Other than finding a new job my first year of university was regrettably uneventful as I focused solely on studying and working. Towards the end of the first year, however, our incredible International Student Advisor in the university Paivi Leivo was organizing a barn dance event to all International Students with another wonderful advisor Jane Smith. The event was cancelled due to low interest from students which disappointed me as I was excited to get out of the house and have some fun. So, after lengthy email conversations with Paivi and getting another event organized instead she asked me if I would be interested in becoming the International Students Officer in the Student Union to which I replied ‘yes’ without really thinking of the responsibility of the role. Little did I know this would turn out to be the best decision I have made in myentire life.
My second year started by looking for a house as students are only offered accommodation for a year after which they form little groups of 3-5 and look for a house outside of campus, which is a great experience showing students the real adult life, as we have to pay bills and so on. This was also the start of my International officer career after being trained in it for three days over the summer in a lovely adventure park with some of the most incredible people I have ever met.
It certainly took me a minute to get used to my new role as the International Officer whilst balancing my job and of course my studies but this has taught me a thing or two about discipline and time management. I was definitely not prepared enough, when it comes to being an Officer, to push through any massive changes to better the lives of internationals but that doesn’t mean that I was not ready to organize some awesome trips and parties to lighten the burden of socializing for International Students. One of the most memorable trips was to Stonehenge and the ancient Salisbury Village.
I also hosted multiple parties over the course of my second year. From Christmas parties to smaller get togethers which always came with lots of laughter and plenty of embarrassing or funny stories. The sense of community between international students has always been very important for me as well as the university so by getting everyone together and having a good time we have been able to create lasting friendships. In addition to the parties and trips, the studies were clearly a big part of my year and since the second year counted for 40% of the mark for my course I was busy working hard to achieve good results. In my course of Media and Culture I had exciting opportunities to make films, use real filming equipment to make these films and gain incredible experience in the world of marketing and advertising. It is not only my course that offers exceptional opportunities to students, I have added some photos of my friends, highlighting their experience on their courses.
Even if there is something that you are interested in trying out like dancing, singing or literally any kind of sport you can imagine, but it is not a part of your course plan, worry not! The university has extensive programs for students to try out and join any society for any kind of fun activity under the sun. We have everything from Harry Potter societies to Pole Dancing societies.
So, my second year was nearing its end, filled with both joy and sadness I was excited to enter the last year of my journey in Chichester University but was not looking forward to saying a TEMPORARY goodbye to all of my amazing friends I had made over the two years as they had become my family in England. People I could always rely on and trust. I know this goodbye will not be forever as we will most definitely visit each other but at the end of the day it will always be different from the closeness we had achieved whilst going to lectures together and living together. Then again, I can’t be happier to even have met these people, as true friends will remain no matter what the distance.
My third year I started with a panic as it was the most important year in my time here, the end of the marathon I’d been running for the past 2 years was getting close to the finish but before that I had to get over the biggest hurdle of my University life – The Dissertation. The Dissertation or Thesis as it might be known to some is the final project every student must complete and it equates to 60% of the mark in the third year, in other words it is EXTREMELY important, if you fail that you will probably fail your course. There are two different ways of completing your dissertation: either practical work which on my course is making a full-length film, or a written project of 10000 words, which is what I went for as I am a bit better in the theoretical side of my course than the practical. Why my year started in panic is because I had not yet thought of a topic for my dissertation. By the end of September I had settled with Whitewashing in Hollywood which I think is a grand idea for a dissertation and even now where I’ve finished about 75% of the writing I think this topic is endlessly interesting and there is so much to find out. Now you might think that ‘oh, he’s finished 75% of it so it must be not that hard’, but just you wait!! The dissertation has literally drained everything out of me, it consists of endless cycles of writing → editing → deleting → writing again, growing to be dull and boring not to mention draining you emotionally and physically. The only advice I could give to students who will be faced with a dissertation when they go to university is DO YOUR PREP WORK. I can’t stress how important preparation and time management is in this case. I would’ve spent so many less hours worrying about the dissertation if I had actually given myself enough time to prepare for it.
Naturally the third year is not all gloom and doom. This is the time to make the most out of your University Experience because after this, you’ll be a full pledged adult. You can no longer exclaim that you are a student and get all them wonderful discounts. Also, the time to fool around and have fun with your friends is nearly over, make the most of your last year. Go out, explore, discover, enjoy your life, appreciate your friends, relax, breathe, don’t take studies too seriously, eat healthy, and most importantly EXPERIENCE – going to a foreign country for university does not happen always and does not happen to anyone, you are special and unique, make sure not to waste this opportunity. I am overjoyed with what this university has offered me and couldn’t possibly be more grateful for my time here. Already I have had 3 offers for jobs starting as soon as I finish university with pay higher than average. Statistics will tell you that University of Chichester is leading the nation with most students employed after finishing their studies. Here my story ends but my adventure continues as the University of Chichester has given me a bright future and an unforgettable past.