Students Staff

Student profiles

Some of our current students tell you about their experiences so far. You can also read our graduate profiles and see what our students have gone on to do after their time at Essex.

Gareth explains why Essex, and History at Essex, is unique!

Gareth tells us why he enjoyed studying in our Department of History and how he felt he was encouraged to be bold and experimental in his learning.

Alex tells us about his Independent Research Project

Alex Dalton tells us about his independent research project on the topic of "The Advances of policing in the modern British Information State" and the support he received from his supervisor Professor Edward Higgs.

More videos

Student stories

  • Todd Goodyear, BA History on the Study China Programme

    Study China Programme 2014

    BA History student Todd Goodyear (right) during the Study China Programme in 2014.

    “On the 8th of August I began my trip to China, flying into Beijing from Heathrow, to begin a study programme hosted by the University of Manchester and funded by the British Government. The three week programme was an opportunity to experience Chinese life, whilst staying at a Chinese University. There were various Universities available to apply for, and I was placed at Shandong University, situated in the city of Ji'nan, North-East of China.

    “The main influence for applying to the programme was my enrolment on Dr Xun Zhou's 3rd year module ‘From Liberation to Tiananmen Massacre: China from Mao to Deng Xiaoping 1949-1992’. I advise any prospective 3rd year student to take this module. It is your chance to learn how a socialist regime has totally re-shaped China, and I believe this is very important to understand if you are thinking of applying for the Study China Programme.”


    “Shandong has a rich and important history and this largely influenced my decision to choose it's University over Beijing or Shanghai. Xun's module helped explain the significance of the region and we covered important events such as 'The May Fourth Movement'.

    “The 'May Fourth Movement' is a key event in 20th century Chinese History. Prior to WW1, the city of Qingdao, on the East coast of Shandong province was under the influence of Germany. At the end of World War One, the port of Qingdao and other territories in Shandong were handed to the Japanese as a result of the treaty of Versailles, sparking protests and a growth in Chinese nationalism. This surge in nationalism gave rise to many of the Chinese leaders of the coming decades. As such it is a place of huge significance for 20th century China. Another interesting aspect of Qingdao is that the internationally sold beer Tsingtao is brewed in the city, and it hosts an annual international beer festival, which may interest students!

    Study China Programme 2014

    “The Shandong province is probably most famous for being the birthplace of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. The city of Qufu, south of Ji'nan in Shandong province was the home of Confucius. Confucianism was largely denounced under Mao's leadership. Interest in Confucianism is growing, it was only in 2011 that a large statue of Confucius was placed on Tiananmen Square adjacent to Mao's mausoleum and later placed in the National Museum.”

    The programme

    “I wanted to experience China outside of the main two big cities, Beijing and Shanghai. I did not wish to get an image of China that was 'tainted' by tourist traps and where a foreigner was more common. The city of Ji'nan, where Shandong University is situated, has a population of approximately seven million.

    “The timetable for the programme consisted of lessons Monday to Friday, an arranged activity on Saturday and a free day on Sunday. A key feature of the programme was the use of a 'buddy' system. Each British student was matched with a Chinese student from the University. This was possibly the best part of the whole programme, because it allowed us to have regular interaction and helped them with their English language. More often than not, we would meet with our buddy every day to explore Ji'nan and its surroundings. Due to intense education at Chinese Universities, many had not visited the attractions we visited together before. Having a buddy also meant that we could have a better understanding of the local food as the menus we encountered were naturally written in Mandarin.

    Study China Programme 2014

    “We were taught three hours of language classes from Monday to Friday. At the end of the programme we had a test. The language lessons began with learning the basic four tones of mandarin. Whilst our level of Mandarin was basic by the end of the course, it was a great insight into their language. Fortunately for us, the Chinese have developed a phonetic language for English speakers to learn Chinese called Pin-ying, which uses the English alphabet. It was also interesting learning the Chinese characters, of which there are apparently well over 10,000. Fortunately we were learning Mandarin and not Cantonese, which uses the traditional style of Chinese characters.”

    After class

    “Once lessons had finished, either at 12.00pm or 3.00 pm, we were 'free' to do what we wished with the rest of our day. This typically meant meeting up with our Chinese buddy and visiting a local tourist location.”

    Study China Programme 2014

    At the Shandong Luneng Taishan stadium.

    “One of the main highlights of my visit to China was when we attended a football match at the local club, Shandong Luneng Taishan. This was not a part of the programme and was something we undertook as an extra-curricular activity. Luneng Taishan play in the top tier of the Chinese football league, and recently moved to the Jinan Olympic sports centre stadium in 2013.

    “The reception we received from the fans was extraordinary and something that I have never witnessed before. We were allowed wherever we wanted in the stadium, so naturally we stood with the 'hardcore' fans at the heart of the action. As we walked down the stairs to our seats, which had been kindly given up for us by a section of fans, we were met with an experience that words cannot describe. We were shaking hands with everyone, being asked to be in photos, and were put on the screen at half time! The experience was unique and one never to forget for both us and the Chinese!

    “The influence of western football audible because some of the chants were very similar (but in Chinese) to those back home and they even had a chant in English that included the sentences “We are Taishan, we love you, fighting together!” one of the buddies said we had made the local news on television with our appearance at the game.”

    What I learnt and why apply?

    Study China Programme 2014

    Climbing the 7,200 steps to the top of Mount Tai.

    “The main thing I have learnt is what an amazing and fascinating country China is. Obviously my visit had certain advantages, because not all who visit will be able to have the privileges that I had, such as a Chinese buddy. I also think regional variation plays a massive part in experiencing China, as it does with many countries, so I would encourage those who visit to travel around - don't just stay in Beijing and Shanghai!

    “An interesting aspect was the vast difference between the culture and lifestyle of British University students and Chinese students. University life is the UK is far more relaxed; Chinese students spend so much more time studying. British students spend much more time partying as well. However this is not to say Chinese student lifestyle is dull. They do activities such as Tai-chi, and their favourite social activity is Karaoke or KTV, which is hugely popular in China.

    “I would strongly advise students to apply for the Study China programme especially those who are taking or planning to learn about China or socialist regimes in general. The programme was a great cultural experience, and allowed me to better understand what I had learnt from the classroom at University. I think a saying by Confucius, that was quoted by a student in the closing ceremony, really sums up the programme which was “It's better to travel 10,000 miles than read 10,000 books.””

  • Tyler Davies, BA History

    “I chose the University of Essex primarily due to location as it meant I could commute from home. However, once I arrived I realised that Essex had a lot more to offer than just practicality. From the beginning, there was a brilliant community feel on campus and I was made welcome everywhere I went. With so many clubs, societies and other activities to get involved in, it was overwhelming to begin with, but I soon found out which best suited me and joined both the History and Student Ambassador Societies.

    “The Department of History has surpassed my expectations. At first, I underestimated the value of its research-led focus, but soon discovered that this allows you to work on topics with supervisors who are at the forefront of their field. The support provided is excellent; whether I have needed extra help with a particular essay or have wanted to meet my fellow history students to talk about the challenges we are all facing, opportunities are always at hand.

    “Now in my third year, I have chosen to focus my studies towards the social history of Early Modern England and the breadth of modules offered have easily facilitated this specialism. Last year I particularly enjoyed the Gender in Early Modern England module, which has inspired me to centre my Independent Research Project (IRP) on the struggles of eighteenth-century female Quakers.

    “As well as my academic studies and input into societies, I have also been keen to focus on developing my transferable skill set ready for a career in teaching. I became a Student Ambassador in my first year. One of the many opportunities this provided was to go into schools and teach children about the benefits of higher education, as well as increasing my experience in the classroom. In my second year, I completed the Big E award, which will demonstrate to employers my passion for developing my employability and now in my third year, I have just begun a Frontrunners placement with the Faculty of Humanities, focusing on their use of web and social media. In this position, I am developing and learning new skills, such as web page coding, which will hopefully set me apart from all other teacher training applicants.

    “I can positively say that I do not regret anything about my time at Essex, I have enjoyed getting involved with both my department and the University as a whole. I have made friends for life and am not looking forward to the day I have to leave!”

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