two photos of colchester campus; studying and laptops, and fireworks

Studying at the University of Essex as an international student from Poland has been an exhilarating and challenging experience. It has been an excellent opportunity to gain exposure to different cultures, meet new people and explore a new environment. Studying abroad requires adapting to new customs and ways of life.. As someone from Europe who had already experienced life in England and visited the country on many occasions, studying at Essex continues to be an eye-opening experience. There are many differences between the British culture and my own, which I had yet to realise before but have enjoyed learning about.

One of the first things I noticed is the importance of small talk and politeness in British culture. Engaging in small conversations before getting down to business is very common. By asking about someone's weekend, commenting on the weather, or discussing other casual topics, people in the UK can establish a friendly fellowship with each other. Compared to my country (where people are usually more direct and get straight to the point, and where small talk, especially with strangers, is very often non-existent or limited to simple "Good Morning" and "Bye") it most definitely has been a strange experience to be asked "How are you?" ten times a day. When asked such questions back home, I would be required to honestly talk about my feelings and what I have been up to. However, I quickly became very keen on this cultural difference and the phrase "How're you?" became a regular part of my vocabulary.

Another difference I noted was the fashion; how people dress daily, and, most definitely, how students dress. Coming from Eastern Europe, where dressing up is very common, and you may be judged when you don’t dress appropriately for the occasion, I was struck by how casual people dress in England. When it comes to the education setting, I was very much used to dressing up being required and even wearing business clothes for any type of exams or presentations. However, in England, it is very common to see people wearing sweatpants and hoodies to classes, and no one actually cares how you look, which is very refreshing. I believe that this casual "dress code" reflects the relaxed and accepting attitude of the English people. Overall, my experience with the clothing culture in England has been positive, and I have learned to appreciate the value of casual and formal dress.

Food is one of the most significant differences and challenges for every international studentIn the stores, it is widespread to see a lot of ready meals, different snack options or, in general, lots of "unhealthy" food. At first, this might be very overwhelming, and international students probably go through many trials and errors to find things they enjoy. However, one thing that I have been enjoying very much is seeing many different restaurants with international cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Japanese food. And often I will go in this direction and try something new. Also on campus, students have a variety of dining options, allowing everyone to find something they will enjoy.

And lastly, meeting new people from different backgrounds and cultures has been one of the most enriching aspects of my university experience. The opportunity to connect with people from all over the globe has broadened my perspective and provided me with a deeper understanding of our world. Through these interactions, I have learned about unique customs, traditions, and beliefs that I may not have otherwise encountered. But it has also been enjoyable to see how there is so much similarity between us. Although we may all be from different parts of the world, there might be some traditions and holidays that are very similar for both cultures. Overall, the diversity of experiences and perspectives I have been exposed to at university has been invaluable and has left a lasting impact on me.

Studying abroad is an experience that can certainly be challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. In my time studying in England, I have broadened my horizons and learned so much about myself and the world around me. From navigating a new culture and language to making new friends and trying new foods, every day has been an adventure. I have also had the chance to gain a new perspective on my studies that I never could have gotten back home.

colchester campus lake