Students Embark on Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip to Los Angeles

A group of Year 2 TV & Film, and Year 2 Print students from South Essex Colleges Group recently had the opportunity of a lifetime as they jetted off to Los Angeles for an unforgettable adventure. The trip, packed with exciting activities and visits to iconic landmarks, promised to be an enriching and educational experience for all involved.

The journey began with an early morning start as the eager students made their way to the Warner Bros Studio Tour, immersing themselves in the magic of Hollywood's legendary studio. From there, they ventured onto the famed Hollywood Boulevard, where they soaked in the glitz and glamour of the entertainment capital. The Hollywood Museum and Madame Tussauds were next on the itinerary, offering a glimpse into the history.

Day two proved to be just as thrilling, with the students attending a TV taping at the Radford Studio Centre, catching a live episode of "The Talk" and witnessing the behind-the-scenes magic of television production. Following this experience, they enjoyed some leisure time at the vibrant Venice Beach before heading to the Santa Monica Playhouse for an insightful talk by Allen Simpson, ending off with an engaging Q&A session.

Universal Studios awaited the group on day four, where they embarked on an adventure filled with thrilling rides and captivating attractions. The Universal City Walk provided a glimpse into the world entertainment, adding to the excitement of the day.

Student Karis, said: “I had such a fun time! I had applied to university before the trip unsure if I would do film studies or production. This trip helped me decide that I wanted to go into production instead of film studies.”

Day five saw the students indulging in some shopping at the Citadel Outlet Shopping before embarking on a scenic walking tour to the iconic Hollywood Sign, then onto the Griffith Observatory.

The excitement continued on day six as the group embarked on the Sony Pictures Studio Tour, delving into the rich history and production processes of one of Hollywood's leading studios. A visit to the DreamWorks Animation Studios offered a fascinating insight into the artistry and technology behind animated filmmaking, while the Academy Museum provided a deeper understanding of the history and impact of cinema.

Another student, Lily, told us: “I really enjoyed the trip! I had such a fun time learning about the film industry in another country. I loved visiting the studios as it gave me time to learn what goes on there and if I do want to work in a studio!”

As the trip came to a close, the students boarded their flight back to London, with memories of an unforgettable journey filled with laughter, learning, and inspiration. The experience undoubtedly left a lasting impression, igniting a passion for the media industry that will continue to inspire them for years to come.

Lecturer in Creative and Performing Arts, Cathy Mayo, said: “Los Angeles provided an immersive learning environment where students can gain firsthand exposure to industry practices, network with professionals, and explore diverse facets of filmmaking and television production. From visiting renowned studios like Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures to attending workshops led by seasoned professionals, students can deepen their understanding of the craft while witnessing its real-world applications. Additionally, exploring iconic landmarks such as Hollywood Boulevard and the Griffith Observatory fosters a deeper appreciation for the cultural and historical context of the industry. Exploring the rich cultural tapestry of Los Angeles promotes cultural awareness and empathy, nurturing students' ability to engage with diverse perspectives. Moreover, managing budgets, schedules, and logistics during the trip instils organisation, time management, and problem-solving abilities, skills transferable to both personal and professional contexts. Ultimately, the experience in Los Angeles not only shapes students into proficient filmmakers but also well-rounded individuals equipped with the skills and resilience needed to thrive in their future endeavours.”

All the photos from this trip can be found our Facebook page (South Essex Colleges Group)

Success stories

Jordan Smee My Story

Jordan Smee My Story

Course studied

My greatest achievement so far has been my interview with Lv.80, it was an unexpected surprise as I wasn’t ready for the project I had released at that point to gain so much traction and gain their attention

My name is Jordan Smee, I am 25 years old, I studied Computer Games Development at University Centre South Essex from 2018 until 2020 and this is my story.

I was born and raised in Essex to a middle class family, in the countryside of the Dengie Area.

During my time at the college between 2015-2017 while I was doing my two years BTEC course, I was encouraged by the head of the games course at the time to consider staying on at the college to continue into the university course, and after reviewing a number of options within other universities I decided to heed that advice, as at the time the university offered a more broad course structure to some of the others which had more narrow and closely defined subjects. This was useful because at the time of choosing I had little real knowledge of the industry and didn’t know where I wanted to go within it.

During my time at the university, I had a genuinely great experience. From the moment I joined, to the moment I left, I was supported by both the tutors and by my peers, and although I ended my time at the university at home due to the pandemic. Before that time I learned plenty and grew both as a creative and as a person.

The course lead was phenomenal at ensuring we were as prepared as possible, and taking a technical minded focus enabled me, who granted was more artist focused, to broaden my skillset and give me a chance to learn and explore other avenues within game development that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to learn or capitalise on. In tandem to this, the events and industry connection we had and used in our visit to Bossa Studio did a great job and keeping me invested and in tune with some of the expectations people were expecting from within the industry.

Within my time at the university I was given the chance to broaden my skillset and explore the various different ways in which games can be made and how to approach that. The course primarily takes a technical focus the game development and so coding, tools programming etc. take presidency but it doesn’t mean we were limited to these points, instead these were usually pathways to lead us to explore other options, coding could lead into shader creation and understanding the mix between technical and artistic pursuit, tools programming gave us faster pipelines which could be expanded to create generative tools in Blender or Maya.

These skills have given me a solid baseline upon which I can now specialise and focus in on the parts of my industry that I love, and with those other skills in toe it means I am a more capable developer and can aid in more cases than I can’t and I wouldn’t be able to do that without the time I had to gain those skills.

Since completing my course at the university I have gone on to publish an interview of my work and process in a well-known game development website and organisation that help to share information around the industry from development logs to interviews. I have also gone on to work with Surgent Studios a transmedia company that is currently working in partnership with EA Originals on an unannounced video game project.

I also recently joined the Grads in Games organisation as an industry advocate, helping to get more up and coming graduates into the industry.

I am currently working with Surgent Studios. I am a technical artist which requires me to act as the bridge between both the programming/design teams and the art team. This means that I will be doing a variety of shader creation, tool generation for artists, optimisation of assets and materials alongside implementations and blueprint work to ensure visual consistency. I have also recently taken on a number of VFX pieces, and thus in that I also create new VFX for various aspects of our game.

I had previously worked freelance both at an indie company and a modding project, Black Clover Games and Beyond Skyrim. From there I did some minor contract work and during the spring of 2021 I was approached for the position of Technical Artist for Surgent and applied and was lucky enough to get into the company.

Doing higher education means you can gain a better understanding and a broaden your skills for the industry you want. Additionally, if your course is able and can get you to industry events, these events can enable you to make numerous connections within the fields you are aiming for. I’ve known a number of current and past students already in the short time I’ve been in the industry who know a number of my colleagues due to events they’ve been able to go to, and I know that this has enabled those students to progress further than those who have not made those connections.

I also think for those who do pursue further or higher education, the education itself should inspire you to do additional work on yourself at home or wherever you are. Courses can only teach so much and while that could be seen as a negative, it can also be an impetus for a student to go on and learn things that have been missed or get answers to questions that the subject just doesn’t or can’t answer yet.

My time at the university really helped my confidence, I have never been the most confident person in the world, but being able to chat with other people who shared my interests but could also be critical of my work and enable me to keep growing both as a creative and a person, it massively helped me figure out myself and where I wanted to be in the fields I was interested in.

I’d recommend the UCSE for those who want to gain a baseline skillset that could enable them to specialise in any field that then takes their interest. Having an overall understanding of your subject will let you more accurately decide what area you want to pursue.

My greatest achievement so far has been my interview with Lv.80, it was an unexpected surprise as I wasn’t ready for the project I had released at that point to gain so much traction and gain their attention. The interview was great and I’m very proud of the published work.

I’m looking forward to the eventual release of the project I’m working on now, and in the future I plan to continue to just make interesting and exciting games that will give people new experiences.

Chloe Wade

My confidence has boosted massively and my work is recognised here. Last year I won who wants to be an entrepreneur and student of the year in business and logistics

South Essex College Group student, Chloe Wade, has been accepted as an Apprentice Marketing Executive for the BBC in White City.

Chloe is currently studying Level 3 Interactive Digital Media. She previously studied business at the college before swapping over to the Digital Media course. Other colleges didn’t supply the course she was looking for, and she felt that South Essex College Group provided the perfect environment and location to suit her needs.

Chloe applied for the apprentice position on Boxing day in December 2022 after finding the advert on Indeed. The interview process took six months and there were six different stages of the interview. Originally, there was supposed to be only five stages, however towards the end on the interview process it was whittled down to Chloe and another candidate so the BBC added an extra interview on top. The role is for a Marketing Executive Level 4 for 18 months, as well as being full-time with one day-a-week apprentice study through the online external provider.

When asked about the support from tutors, Chloe said: “They were all so encouraging, as each stage went on I informed my tutors. Darren who teachers audience theory, was so interested and excited, he was helping me prepare for everything and teaching me certain areas such as core values to put me ahead of everyone. They were so supportive, and I don’t think I would of got this far without their help.”

Chloe enjoys the flexibility at the college and secured work experience at which she created content for a zen and holistic company. She said: “The college offers such a variety of courses and freedom. 

“The courses are structured, but you get freedom as well, for example for my final project I chose to rebrand a cosmetic palette, where as another student created a music video. You all have the same criteria but freedom too. If you are worried, try it and give it a shot, the opportunities here are so wide.” 

She added: “My confidence has boosted massively and my work is recognised here. Last year I won who wants to be an entrepreneur and student of the year in business and logistics. My work recognised given me a boost. I work really hard and I’m so proud of how far I have come. The college appreciates you as an individual and gives you praise when you do work really hard.”
Chloe hopes to have her own business one day, in marketing, doing social media and content creating. As well as hoping to study Level 5 and 6 at the BBC.

Ethan Khumalo

Ethan hopes to produce music in games production as a career and performs rap and hip hop as well as his studio work. His final message to anyone struggling with autism or any mental health issue is: “Remember it’s okay to be not okay.”

South Essex College student Ethan Khumalo, 20, from Southend on Sea has taken part in a BBC documentary series ‘Inside Our Autistic Minds’, which is presented by wildlife expert Chris Packham who himself lives with autism.

Ethan studies Games Design at the college’s Centre for Digital technologies in Basildon and has progressed from a Level 2 course through to currently studying for a degree. Ethan was asked to participate through his involvement in the Anna Kennedy Online charity which aims to raise autism awareness.

Ethan said that he enjoyed the whole filming process and that Chris Packham was really down-to-earth. He commented: “I learned a lot about how TV crews work and really got along with Chris. I am really excited about the show.”


Talking of his autism, Ethan explained that he prepared in advance before attempting his studies. He said: “With autism and other mental health issues preparation makes you feel more comfortable and you have to make the best of your abilities. You have good days and bad days the same as anyone but personally, If I have moments where it doesn’t go so well, music helps me.”

Ethan’s tutor, Rama Maccha said: Ethan is a dedicated and committed student who never misses a deadline. He is wonderful with sound and has helped younger students with their projects.”

Rathi Raman, the Head Basildon Town Centre Campus (BTC) would like to thank all the staff and students who volunteered to take part in this filming, and to the Estates team at Basildon Campus for providing hospitality to Chris Peckham and the BBC crew on the day of filming.

Ethan hopes to produce music in games production as a career and performs rap and hip hop as well as his studio work. His final message to anyone struggling with autism or any mental health issue is: “Remember it’s okay to be not okay.”

To watch the episode, follow the below link:

For more information on the Anna Kennedy charity, visit the below: