Serhii is a third-year BSc Biochemistry student from Bishop’s University in Quebec, Canada, currently studying here at the University of Essex on his year abroad.

From the moment of my arrival at Gatwick Airport, I was captivated by England's charm. Stepping out into the warm sunlight after a long flight from Montreal was a great relief. Colchester, with its picturesque downtown and breathtaking university campus, quickly enchanted me. Notably, the campus features two stunning lakes that never fail to capture my attention.

View across to lake towards Silberrad Student Centre

The academic environment at Essex presented a distinct shift from what I was used to in Canada. Here, the emphasis is placed on independent study, which has greatly shaped my self-discipline and proactive mindset. The professors, in addition to being exceptional educators, are active researchers, providing an on-point education that directly relates to our future careers. Although it has been challenging, the experience has been unquestionably valuable.

One of the most remarkable aspects of my exchange programme has been the diverse international community at Essex. The Student Union team at the university organises numerous activities overseen by the VP International, and plenty of societies exist that serve diverse national and cultural interests. Through these events, I have formed friendships with people from across the globe.

The social life at Essex is exceptional! The campus is hosts vibrant clubs like the SUB ZERO club and the SU and Top Bars, where there is always something entertaining happening. The Students' Union and the various societies ensure that every moment is filled with excitement, making it easy to meet new people and fully enjoy all that campus life has to offer.

I became highly involved in the Polish Society and at the end of the first semester, I was elected as the International Officer. In this role, I had the opportunity to connect Polish students with those interested in Polish culture, promoting a sense of community. I received the recognition by obtaining the Society Member of the Year Award from the SU.

But there were some difficulties in my experience as well. The in-person essay-style exams at Essex were entirely different and initially daunting to me. In Canada, our exams follow a different structure, so I had to quickly adapt to the new format. Despite having nine in-person essays to go through, I persevered and felt a deep sense of accomplishment and improvement in my academic knowledge.

One of the greatest advantages of studying in Colchester is the ease of travel. London is just 40 minutes away, and Stansted Airport being £2 away, making it easy and affordable to explore new destinations. This has allowed me to visit new places, see new countries and try new things.

Reflecting on my exchange experience, I am grateful for this opportunity. My advice to other students is to embrace the chance to study abroad and fully use the resources provided by Essex Abroad. It is a transformative experience that boosts both personal and academic growth.

My time at the University of Essex has been an incredible journey filled with moments of learning, embracing cultural exchange, and embarking on exciting adventures. It is an experience that surpasses anything I could have imagined just a few years ago, and it has left an unforgettable mark on my life.

Inspired by Serhii’s story? Visit our study abroad pages to find out about all Essex Abroad opportunities!