People tend to adore their uni, and if you ask someone about it they would normally sing its praises and profess their love for everything about it. While it’s good that they clearly like it there, everyone is different and in my opinion a more balanced view is far more useful. At the end of the day, no one wants you to end up somewhere you’re unhappy, so there’s no point misleading you into thinking any university will be perfect for you.
I go to the University of East Anglia in Norwich (UK), so I thought I’d share my view of it based on my experiences of my first year.
- Living on campus. Living in uni accomodation in your first year (if you choose to live on campus) is just soooo convenient! Lectures theatres are max a ten minute walk away, as well as the campus shop, cafés, bars and LCR, and most things you could want outside the city centre.
- Norwich. It’s such a perfectly sized city – not too big to be overwhelming and worry about getting lost, but not too small to have nothing there. There is a great mix of shops, cafés, restaurants, culture and tourism, history and basically anything you could want in a city. And just a 20 minute bus ride away from campus.
- Bus links. At home, I live in a small town with buses every 30 minutes or more, and so it was a lovely surprise to find at UEA that buses come, on average, ever 10-15 minutes to take you to the city centre! I’ve rarely, if ever, needed to look up bus times; it’s so handy to be able to just turn up at the bus stop and know that there will be a bus really soon.
- Bunnies!! The sight of UEA rabbits never gets old, and they are sooo cute!! I remember many times when I was in a bad mood, or feeling stressed or down and I would go out for a walk and see some bunnies and they honestly just made me feel so much better! My camera roll is filled with so many photos of them.
- The lake. It’s such a beautiful place with great views of campus, and so convenient to have a nice, relaxing walk among nature. And if you’re a dog person then there are always cute doggies being taken for walks there during the day to admire.
- Nightlife. The LCR is on twice a week, and with numerous bars and clubs in the city, you’re never stuck for a place to go out.
- Study space. As a first year living on campus, I largely went back to my room between every lecture/seminar and studied in my room. However, during the day whenever I went into the library, it was often very busy with only a few odd seats spare, although you can book study rooms in advance if you’re that organised. However, they are working to improve this, by re-organising space in the library, and around exam time they added study areas in teaching blocks. On top of this, the library isn’t the only place you can work, but is the most popular. I ended up studying in the students’ union café a lot when I wanted to get out of my room, but in reality you could do some work anywhere that has somewhere to sit – cafés, the bar, The Square (when it’s dry outside), and even some of the teaching buildings have tables scattered around. Honestly, I don’t think there will ever be an occasion where I would physically be unable to find anywhere to sit, but I will never be able to have a favourite spot where I always go.
- Lack of communication. I don’t know if this is a university-wide issue or just one for the School of History, but I did feel that there was a certain lack of helpfulness when it came to information. For one, as far as I know I was never actually told when we would get our exam results or how we would get them. Freshers’ week also had a certain level of disorganisation to it, with it mostly being left to current students to explain to newcomers on various Facebook pages how it works with ticketing, etc. and I remember being very confused and unsure about the whole thing. On the whole, though, I’d say that most information has so far been given fairly well, and we even get emails reminding us to change our clocks forward/back and things like that, but there are definitely a few areas which I was disappointed with.
- The concrete (at first). I think basically everyone at UEA ends up loving the concrete jungle of a campus eventually. It starts out looking a bit dull and ugly, but after a while it becomes your home and the setting for the heart of university life. Yes, it may not be red-brick and twiddly like some, but it’s unique and special – it stands out and makes UEA what it is.
- Flat sizes. This is a very tricky one, and essentially comes down to the fact that my particular flat wasn’t to my personal liking. My flat had 12 people in it, and while this meant that there were a lot of people to choose from when it came to making friends in the flat, in my opinion it felt like it was just too big to bond with other people properly. However, I know of some flats where all 12 people got on really well, or flats where people all had their own groups. Every flat is a different atmosphere and environment, and everyone has their own preferences. For me, 12 was too much, and 12 is the most common flat size at UEA. However, there are flats which are a lot smaller than this – I think the official range is 4-14 people per flat! All-in-all, I’d say: don’t choose a university based entirely on what the open day makes you think living in a flat there would be like, as it is entirely unpredictable and variable.
- Lack of a common room in accommodation blocks. This is something I was quite disappointed by. A communal area feels like somewhere you could meet people and make friends outside your course without having to be actively sociable by going to societies or events, without even having to leave your building. How that would have actually played out in practice, however, I don’t know.
- Cleaners. At UEA, the cleaners come into your room to empty your bin every weekday. Every morning except weekends. All year. And it’s a bit irritating. I never had my cleaner walk in on me in a compromising situation, but it does happen, and there is always the worry whenever you’re getting dressed or whatever. I got used to it though, and I don’t want to think about what the state of the kitchen would have been without cleaners!!
And that’s it (for now). If you have any questions about UEA or uni life in general, do comment below or contact me directly! I’d be happy to help.