Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A world of opportunity

The last couple of weeks have proven extremely exciting. I heard the outcome of my International Citizen Service assessment day, and am pleased to announce that I will be heading to Nepal at the end of July as a Team Leader for Voluntary Service Overseas! I have deferred my masters course until 2015, so will be spending 6 months there, then heading to India for a second 6 month placement at Navdanya – an organic farming and food sovereignty project, which I heard about through a friend who is currently volunteering in India for a different organisation.

With all of these exciting travel plans in mind, I thought I would do something a little different for this entry, and suggest some of the ways that it’s possible to go overseas during your time at University. Since the fee increase, I know that many students weren’t able to justify taking a ‘gap year’ to travel, like I was lucky enough to do. But there are so many ways to see the world whilst you study, as well as lots of financial support available, so in many ways this might not be such a bad thing!

I’m beyond excited to go back to India next year!

My first piece of advice would be to make good use of your student loan. I’ve used mine to fund independent trips to Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Prague and Berlin, all for the sacrifice of a few nights out. There are so many cheap flights available these days, especially to Europe, meaning you can really make the most of your University holidays.

Secondly, look into studying abroad. It might not be something you’ve ever considered before – it certainly wasn’t for me – but you could end up spending a summer, a semester, or even an entire year, somewhere that you never imagined you’d even visit, let alone live! There is plenty of funding and scholarships available through both the University of Southampton and Student Finance, especially for those who already receive income assessed grants and bursaries. I was able to claim back all my travel expenses whilst in Japan, including 3 return flights to the UK, and my visa costs and vaccinations.

A warm welcome upon my arrival at Doshisha University, Kyoto

Another great way to spend time overseas is through volunteering, although it can be a bit of a minefield finding the right placement for you. I don’t believe you should ever have to pay a fortune to volunteer, and unfortunately, many of the most visible schemes and organisations charge an incredible amount of money for a few weeks’ worth of experience. Luckily, there are great alternatives, so make sure you do your research before deciding on anything. It’s important to ensure that any work you do participate in has both a positive and sustainable impact upon the community in which it takes place. Organisations such as AIESEC, which is an international, youth-led, leadership development association, offer volunteering placements and paid internships from 6 weeks up to 18 months, in over 100 countries, for the price of a few hundred pounds rather than a few thousand. I went to Indonesia through them, and taught English for 3 months during the summer of my second year. It was a really challenging experience, but incredibly rewarding, leaving me with some unforgettable memories and a host of useful skills to put on my CV.

Some of my students at Kesatrian 1 High School in Indonesia

Paid internships are a little harder to find, but if you’re interested in business and finance there are some fantastic opportunities out there. I’ve had friends who have gone to South America, Bangladesh and India through internship schemes run by different banks and companies – usually completely funded, and often paid. The corporate world isn’t really for me, but I know that plenty of students are aiming for careers in that sector post-undergrad, so it’s a great way to gain experience and see the world at the same time.

At the top of the Reichstag during my most recent trip to Berlin

Finally, there’s always the option of working abroad. It could be a bit daunting for those who have never travelled before, but for those who have, or who are studying languages and looking to work on their skills, it might be a great choice. A fair few friends of mine have looked into becoming an au pair, for example, especially in Europe. Many positions are live-in, so you wouldn’t have to worry about accommodation. Again, research is key, and there are plenty of resources both online and within the University’s career service to get you started.

These things tend to be rather like a snowball – once you begin to find out about opportunities, they just keep coming. Then it’s just down to you to decide which of them (if not all!) that you’d most like to take advantage of. Travelling, studying and working abroad are all great ways to expand your horizons and build skills which many employers find incredibly valuable. These experiences make fantastic talking points at interviews and assessment days, and are great to put into personal statements for those looking to go on to further study. I could talk about it for ages, but it’s really quite simple: there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t find time to travel whilst you’re studying!


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pressing on

Once again the ever-productive (or at least every student hopes!) Easter holidays are upon us; the annual, often panic-filled time for a little bit of rest, some much-needed relaxation from the craziness that the end of the Lent term usually brings, and then it’s (some might say unfortunately!) on to work and revision ahead of the summer exams.

And whereas normally I’d still be doing my best to get out and about as much as possible, meeting old friends from back at home and making the most of the luxury of on-demand football in the living room (it always seems to somehow clash with deadlines and rehearsals at University – although that’s possibly a good thing this season, being a Manchester United fan!), this year there’s an academic and personal demand which seems to loom over most days and is wonderfully guilt-inducing if you’ve not supplied it with some time! Yes, the infamous, foreboding presence of the deadline for submission of my Third Year Project, the Computer Science version of a practical dissertation, is nigh.

There’s something quite surreal about typing the first words of a document, in my case a technical report detailing my work from start to finish, which you know, by hook or by crook, will one day feature ten thousand of the things! But at the same time, I’ve found the process of writing up my previous nine months’ worth of work quite a satisfying (if sometimes gruelling!) experience, particularly when, wading through papers, I’ve been delighted to find one or two sources granting me a glimmer of inspiration – there’s nothing quite like those “Eureka!” moments along the way, even though sometimes this has led to me working in the night to capitalise on them (or else they won’t let me sleep)!

And although I’ve had to considerably reduce the scope of the project from its initial concept and goals (at the time when I thought anything would be possible in nine months, forgetting the fact there’ve been modules to study for as well!), I think I’ve been lucky enough to take on a piece of research which does, to an extent at least, bridge the admittedly somewhat thematically tenuous gap between the worlds of theatre and computer science, two great passions of mine which have ensured that the challenges have remained fresh and interesting in my mind over the duration. Plus, it’s given me the excuse to watch plenty of shows throughout the year and feel justified in doing so (“background research”!), so it’s really been the best of both worlds!

Taking on a Third Year Project bespoke to my own interests has allowed me to play with analysing theatrical footage with Computer Science-based techniques – a lot of fun!

Once the project has been turned in, there are a few final threads to tie up in terms of coursework assignments and the infamous “project viva” (an hour-long presentation where I have to explain, discuss and, in some instances, defend my work!) before exam season kicks in and revision launches into full swing, with three heavily-weighted ones on the horizon for me.

But amongst the seemingly heavy workload remain a number of dates and events to look forward to, including the annual Performing Arts ball at the beginning of May (always an incredible occasion with the brilliant people you’ve performed alongside for a year, and the perfect gee-up for exam season!), the Students’ Union’s Excellence in Volunteering Awards (EVAs) shortly thereafter (which I’m gratefully attending as a nominee for commitment to Performing Arts – thank you to whoever put me forward!), as well as the excuse during revision period to eat plenty of comfort food!

So although in these final few days I still find myself swamped in references and figures, citations and tables, and paragraphs to write aplenty, it’s probably nothing compared to what’s in store for the next month or so! There’s certainly a feeling of the calm before the storm at the moment.

But with the end of my third year in Southampton in sight, I know there’s plenty left to take on yet, to relish, to press on with, and to enjoy, so it’s just going to be a case of keeping my head down, taking on one challenge at a time to the best of my ability, and at the end of it all enjoy the glorious sun, celebrations and trip to the Edinburgh Fringe (again!) which are sure to follow. Here’s to a Happy Easter to all, and the best of luck with everything the next couple of months promises to offer!


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter break past and present

I’m currently in Sweden having a blast spending time with family and catching up with friends. Like in the UK, the weather is transitioning from winter into spring and we’ve had some gorgeous and sunny afternoons which I’ve spent out in the forest with my mum, sister and our dog, Belle. One of the things I miss most about Sweden are the forests, the air is so clean and spending time roaming around is totally invigorating. While I’ve been back, it also seems like my mum has made it her current mission to feed me non-stop, in fact, I don’t think I’ve felt hungry once since I’ve been home! I shouldn’t really complain though, because I really have missed her cooking.

Catching up with friends has been surprisingly uplifting (as well a good chance for me to brush up on my Swedish which has slowly been diminishing). Filling them in on everything I’ve been up to since I last saw them has reminded me just how much I get to experience while at university. Last weekend I also had the great fortune of catching up with one of my best friends from Australia! It had been about seven years since the last time I saw her so we had an infinite amount of things to talk about. She’s currently doing an exchange in Sweden which is why we’ve finally been reunited on the same side of the planet. I found it particularly interesting to hear about her experiences of university in Sweden seeing as had I not moved to the UK, this would have probably been my fate. She also showed me around the city of Uppsala and impressed me with her knowledge of its history.

Now on to a totally different subject, as promised in my previous blog post I thought I’d take a look back over my first year Spanish field trip and share my exciting experiences from a year ago. All first year biology and zoology students have the opportunity to go to Bolonia, Spain with the work that is achieved there equating to one module’s worth. If I remember correctly the field course lasted about 10 days but I was amazed at how much I learnt during this relatively short period of time.

Entrance to the room I shared with my course mate during our stay. It was pretty luxurious considering it was paid for by the University (flights and accommodation which included breakfast and dinner). Not to mention the wonders of living right by the beach!

We were given a simple breakfast every morning and a complete abundance of food in the evening, usually starting with salad and bread rolls followed by some kind of soup type dish as a starter. The main course was different every night and then for dessert we were given yoghurt or fruit. (On our first night, I actually thought the starter was the main course! They were very generous with the portion sizes.)

Here’s a photo from a typical dinner. If you're wondering, it's lentils with potatoes and yes it is a huge portion and this is only the starter!

For our first field day we walked around the streets, countryside, mountains and woods, looking at the great diversity of plants in the area. We also were given key information as to what to look for when classifying angiosperms (flowering plants) into their different families.

The photo above shows a member of the Carrot (Apiaceae) family

We did a fair bit of walking and while the weather was perfect (maybe a bit windy) during our stay, it had rained the day before we arrived so it was quite muddy in some areas of the mountains and woods. Lucky, I’m not afraid of a bit of dirt so I wasn't bothered.

Proof of the mud we trekked through

When we finished work for the day my roommate and I decided to go check out some Roman ruins which were situated at a walking distance to our hostel. The locals didn't speak much English but were very friendly, so we got in for free. I always try to see as much as possible while abroad so I thought it was very cool that we had some free time to go and learn a bit about the history of the area.

Photo taken at the ruins

Typically, we would meet at 8am every morning to have breakfast so we could leave the hostel at around 9.30am. We spent the second field day collecting all the different species of arthropods we could find in the area, which included a great variety! After spending half the day collecting specimens, we brought back what we had found to the lab (a shed which the hostel had provided us with to keep all the equipment) and spent the rest of the day identifying and classifying what we had collected.

Above is a beetle in the order Coleoptera, Sub-order Polyphaga and Family Scarabaeidae. Again we had to learn key characteristics for each Order and Family

I’d also like include a quick story about one of my spider encounters. I remember trying many times throughout the day to catch small spiders on the ground and failing miserably. Then while nonchalantly walking from one area of the woods to another I happened to notice a massive yellow spider hitching a ride on the upper part of my leg! Luckily I was wearing long trousers so without panicking and shaking it off which is probably what I would normally do, I quite calmly called to my friend to bring a large cup so she could collect the spider off my leg. I wanted to bring it back to the lab for identification. All in the name of science!

Most evenings we would have 30 minute lectures before dinner, to further explain the theory behind what we were learning during the day. This included some valuable information about statistics which can often be an essential part of biology. In an attempt to make statistics seem simple my lecturer decided to partly teach us in Spanish. His logic being that compared to learning Spanish, statistics should seem easy!

As I mentioned earlier, this trip was worth the equivalent of an entire module’s worth of credits so we of course had to be graded in some way. On day four we worked in groups in order to prepare a poster about a Family of either plants or arthropods. I was very happy that my group got full marks! Then for the rest of the day we were free to do as we pleased. The following morning we had a test on everything we had learnt the previous few days.

That afternoon we then took a coach to Ojen Valley where we went out in groups to collect as many beetles and members of the Fabaceae plant family as we could (within a couple of hours) in order to get an idea of the biodiversity of these in the area.

Me and one of my course mates after arriving at Ojen Valley

One of the groups happened to find a snake while searching for the beetles and flowers. I was happy to get the opportunity to hold it. The snake was of course not venomous but apparently it did have a persistent bite. Luckily, it seemed quite happy to simply rest in my hands.

On our sixth day out in the field we spent the morning collecting marine specimens found in the rocky shores (while the tide was out) to bring back to the lab for identification. Also, somewhat off topic but before I forget, I think it is worth mentioning that from the beach we could see mountains in Morocco, Africa... That is how far south Bolonia is. Amazing!

Together we were able to find a huge diversity of marine life, some of which I had never seen before such as this very large sea cucumber (Class Holothuroidea). We brought back our specimens to the lab for identification and had a small test at the end of the day.

We spent the seventh day practising two sampling techniques. The first one was rock flipping and identifying the different arthropods we found underneath. Later, we used the collected data to perform statistical tests to see if there were any significant relationships between the types of species we found together. After lunch we used quadrats to count and identify different plant species which we also did statistics on later in the day, including calculating the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index (H).

I also happened to get sunburnt on my hands that day in spite of my efforts to protect my skin. I remember being really surprised because I very rarely get sunburned. Once the redness had disappeared, it looked liked I was wearing a pair tan coloured gloves for months because the contrast to the rest of my skin was so distinctive.

Here’s a photo of one of my sunburnt hands!

We spent the last few days working in groups on a project of our choice which also accounted for our final assessment. I knew I wanted to work on something marine-related since I had enjoyed working along the shore so much during the marine day. Following the two days of data collection and statistical analysis each group presented their investigation and findings. Below are some photos taken while out collecting data for my group’s project.

All in all it was a fantastic trip, which as I mentioned in my previous post has been one of my highlights at university so far. Lastly, I forgot to mention that I also had the opportunity to watch vultures up in the mountains which was very cool. Anyway, as for the rest of my current Easter break I plan to meet up with a couple more friends and try to finish off (get started on) the heap of coursework I have due in for directly after the Easter break!


Friday, 11 April 2014

Learning new skills

It is amazing how terms at university seem to fly by. The January exams seem like yesterday, but here we are; already half way into our Easter break!

I mentioned previously that one of the modules I was doing this semester was a computing programming course. The first of two pieces of coursework was due in on the last Friday of term, so any hopes for a relaxing last week in Southampton before the holidays was quickly eradicated. The coursework involved me writing my own code to create a simulation of an interesting problem in the field of quantum mechanics. The results of the simulation then had to be written up in the style of a scientific report, just like a small dissertation.

Before the module my programming knowledge was very limited and although this module sounded interesting, it was with great trepidation that I opted to do it. I’m glad I did choose to take this course though, because by the end of the coursework, not only were my coding attempts successful, but people were actually asking me for help with their own projects! It is surprising just how quickly you can learn a new skill and this process has made me feel more confident about starting my masters next year.

After my report deadline on Friday, I was free to start enjoying my Easter break. In the evening SUSU were holding a roller disco in the Cube as part of RAG week, which sounded like a perfect way to round out the term with a few friends. RAG, which stands for Raise And Give, is a week of charity events and volunteering at the University, designed to encourage everyone to give no matter how big or small. So it felt great to know we weren’t just having fun by going to the roller disco, but actually donating money to charity at the same time!

I have only ever roller-skated a handful of times in my life, so to begin with my legs wobbled back-and-forth and gravity seemed to have complete control over me. After a couple of laps of the Cube and many quizzical glances at the feet of skaters who sped past me (not to mention a few spectacular falls), I gradually began to understand what I was doing wrong. Once I found the right rhythm and sorted out my balance issues, it wasn’t hard to skate a few laps competently. It seems I have learnt another new skill this semester; although I doubt it will come as in handy in the future as learning a computer language will!

However, that wasn’t the only RAG event I participated in during the last week of term. My girlfriend, who reads history here at the University of Southampton, invited me along to the Histsoc RAG pub quiz in Bedford Place. It felt strange being the only physicist amongst a sea of historians and although I was hoping for a science round, there, rather unsurprisingly, wasn’t one! Unfortunately we finished last; it turned out our collective knowledge of chart and indie music wasn’t really up to scratch!

Our quiz team posing with our last place prize!


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The run-up to Easter

It’s been another busy couple of weeks in the lead up to the Easter holidays. I received a conditional offer to complete my master’s degree in London, took a day trip down to Corfe Castle and Durdle Door, had my assessment day for International Citizen Service, and managed to squeeze in a day at the Olympic Park.

Receiving my offer was an incredible feeling, and takes a huge weight off my shoulders now that I’ll definitely have something to do after graduation. It has been a nerve wracking few weeks whilst I’ve been waiting to hear, but it’s great to know that the time I invested in writing my personal statement paid off. I’m sure that all the opportunities I’ve taken advantage of whilst at the University of Southampton really made the difference – especially studying abroad – and although it will be a shame to leave the University behind and pursue a different course, I know that everything I’ve learnt here will stand me in really good stead to succeed in my future studies.  

Last weekend, one of the friends that I made in Japan came down to visit me in Bournemouth. It was fantastic to see her, as I hadn’t since we both left Kyoto at the end of July last year. I took her to see all of the sights, which included taking a drive over to Corfe Castle, and then on to Durdle Door. It really made me realise what a wonderful place we live in and how much beauty really is on our doorstep!

Afternoon tea with a wonderful view!

The day after she left, I went up to London for my ICS assessment centre. It was the first time I had been invited to attend one of these days, so I was a little apprehensive, and didn’t really know what to expect. As it turned out, I really had nothing to worry about – everyone, both staff and the other candidates – were really lovely, and the entire day was fairly informal and relaxed. It helped that they emphasised the fact that the candidates weren’t competing against each other, as they were really looking to take as many individuals on as possible. The day consisted mainly of group activities and discussions, along with quite a lengthy interview to assess whether we were ready to move abroad and take on a new project at this time in our lives. I feel as though it all went well, and am just waiting to hear back in the next couple of days. Although I can’t help but feel it had a very different vibe to most corporate graduate scheme assessment centres, all in all it was a really interesting experience and quite an enjoyable day.

I’ve been up in London for the last few days as I’m flying to Berlin tomorrow for a short Easter break. Today we managed to squeeze in a trip to the Olympic Park which, although a little windy, made for a lovely day out. It was the first time I had been, as I was volunteering in Indonesia during the summer of 2012, and it was so awesome to see the Aquatic Centre and the VeloPark up close. These facilities are now open to the public, so we’re planning on taking a trip back down there in a few weeks to swim in the pool and do a taster session in the Velodrome. I’m unbelievably excited to cycle on the actual track where Team GB won their gold medals! Although the weather wasn’t brilliant, it was great to see people of all ages getting outdoors, enjoying the park and engaging with a whole range of sporting activities. It’s something that we can all be proud of for many years to come!

The Olympic Park looking a lot warmer than it actually was

Looking forward to our taster session in the Velodrome


Monday, 7 April 2014

All change

And so draws to an end the penultimate Lent term of my time at the University of Southampton – traditionally, the most hectic, jam-packed and assignment-stuffed part of the academic year, it’s certainly lived up to its reputation this time around!

Whether it’s been dissertation central (as has often been the case this term – three and a bit weeks until the final deadline, ahhh!), show performances aplenty, or just finding more and more inventive excuses to procrastinate doing something properly productive (usually involving my housemates and the television in our kitchen!), the schedule has, as ever, been completely jam-packed, varied, and challenging, and as a result time seems to have flown by. What’s weirdest is to think that so many people I’ve known throughout these three years only have a term left before they’re graduating and finding employment – somehow, we all still seem way too young for that!

Since I last wrote, I’ve been along to a few performances (as usual!), namely Theatre Group’s productions of the comedy classics God of Carnage and Blithe Spirit, with both pulled off with customary excellence and hilarity, as well as attending my first ever experience of the annual talent showcase that is Pure Dance, which Kristin has written about (and performed incredibly in – the Advanced Jazz Dance routine she was part of was absolutely breath-taking!) below.

It was wonderful to see so many people successfully pulling off some truly challenging yet stunning and imaginative choreography, including many of my fellow theatrical comrades and indeed one of my housemates, who made a wholly successful Performing Arts debut as part of the Intermediate Street dance crew, despite my best efforts to stare him out from the audience! It was a remarkable show on numerous levels, demonstrating the power of student collaboration, so a huge congratulations is in order to everybody involved!

My view of the mesmerising Pure Dance 2014!

I’ve also been working heavily towards tackling multiple assignments, such as an essay on applying the philosophies of Total Quality Management to a real-world scenario (challenging – but fascinating in such a context!), and also completing my Third Year Project (the Computer Science equivalent of a dissertation), including getting my teeth stuck into a ten-thousand word report on my year’s work. It sounds like a lot (particularly when the pages are blank to start off with!), but at the moment I’m almost worried it won’t be enough, although maybe I should make that judgment when I reach the figure! Either way, I’ve got my fingers crossed it’s a good sign that everything seems to be progressing well, and hopefully I can use the Easter break to close it out as well as I possibly can, before I have to explain and defend it at a ‘Project Viva’ next term (a terrifying prospect in itself!).

And, as ever, Performing Arts has also taken its fair chunk of my recent time, with a Creative Industries career session, organised by the Students’ Union (SUSU) with guest speakers from the University and on-campus John Hansard Gallery, Turner Sims Concert Hall and Nuffield Theatre, providing plenty of experience, activities and expertise, granting many of us the chance to investigate potential artistic careers and do some networking with figures in the industry who’ve between them seen it all.

I found it a great initiative for answering many of the questions I had posed about the theatrical industry, and as a result am now strongly considering pursuing one or two avenues into it alongside my course next year – which, all things being well, should hopefully provide me with a nice dilemma to have one graduation-filled day! Regardless of these aspirations, the season as a whole was invaluable, and is representative of the sheer number of opportunities to improve your knowledge of the working world on offer, all stemming from the tireless work of the Union, the University’s Careers department, the Electronics and Computer Science Careers Hub, and many more services I’m sure I’ll be making use of this time next year!

Because as a student on a four-year programme, I do still have one final academic session left next year, during which I plan to spend most of the time feeling ‘old’, particularly when I consider how many people I know will have graduated by that point! But as ever with University things are constantly changing, refreshing and moving forwards, and it is with this knowledge I headed along to two Performing Arts society Annual General Meetings (AGMs) at which new committees were to be elected to lead my favourite student groups.

Having experienced what it’s like to be at the heart of a society’s operations as Webmaster on this year’s Theatre Group committee, I can’t begin to explain how great the chance to represent its talented membership base has been, working as part of a team to make the decisions which could drive the society, from financial to political to voting for which productions would get the chance to take to the stage. It’s been an absolute blast, and I’ve made some lifelong friends from it!

It’s weird to think a whole year’s passed since I was elected onto Theatre Group’s committee – time definitely flies!

But all good things must come to an end, and so it was time for me to move on to new projects within the Performing Arts. The first avenue through which this came about was at the Showstoppers (the musical theatre society) AGM, at which I decided to run for (in tandem with my good friend Anna as Vice-Presidential candidate) society President – and was somehow successfully elected, which I couldn’t believe!

Showstoppers is a society I’ve really come to care for a great deal over the latter half of my time at University, particularly after getting to know so many of its members this year through Little Shop of Horrors and Guys and Dolls, and its potential for growth and development is vast and exciting - as I mentioned in my pitch, I’m hoping to get original Southampton-based musical theatre talent up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe next year, one way or another! To be granted the opportunity to head Showstoppers up next year is amazing (if slightly intimidating at first!), and just being elected itself was incredible; I can’t wait for the challenges to come, using my experience in Performing Arts as a whole and working alongside an enthusiastic new committee to expand Showstoppers still further following a stellar year at the hands of a brilliant 2012-13 committee!

Swiftly following was the Theatre Group AGM, along with its traditional format of a financial report (where we see how much every show made – Equus had the highest Theatre Group turnover ever, but lost out on the most profit due to expenses!) and then the infamous fundraising ‘raffle’, the prizes for which are sourced from anything the committee members can (often at the last minute!) lay their hands on! My own contribution was a promise of one free website page (the only decent thing I had to offer, as Webmaster!), but others included a ‘mystery script’, a committee member’s band’s EP, a set of friendship bracelets and a ‘luxury hair massager deluxe’!

With funds going to our Edinburgh trip, tickets sold well – I scooped a set of highlighters and a “Wicked the Musical” book, ironically!

Finally, there were the elections for the 2014-15 committee. It felt bizarre not to be running for anything at a Theatre Group AGM given how closely involved I’ve been with it for a while, and I was strongly tempted on the day, but with many of my closest friends in the society on the cusp of graduating, and the whole of Showstoppers to represent instead, part of me knew it was probably best (not least in terms of time spent on my degree!) to explore new opportunities within Performing Arts. That being said, I fully intend to hopefully audition for a show or two, and come along to some of the new committee’s meetings, if only to express my own “back in my day”-esque sentiments!

One candidate managed to run for a position all the way in Canada!

So, for me at least, it’s all change, both in personnel and in preparation, for the new 2014-15 academic year, although something tells me there’s still plenty of life left in this one yet! Particularly in those ten-thousand words to write – speaking of which, I best get back to it!


Monday, 31 March 2014

Pure Dance 2014 and more

Here comes yet another dance related post but probably my last one for a while (maybe ever)! Last weekend I took part in the annual Pure Dance show along with over 300 other dancers from the University’s 10 different dance societies including jazz dance, bhangra, break, street dance, ballet, ballroom, belly dancing and more! As you can imagine, there was therefore a huge variety of performances, not only due to the wide range of styles but also the range of levels. Some of the performers in the beginner routines had never danced before they came to university while others in the advanced routines have been dancing their whole lives. No matter the level, I know that everyone in the show worked extremely hard throughout the year to improve their abilities and learn the routines and it showed! We’ve had great reviews about the shows (we performed a total of five shows, each of which were three hours long) and it feels fantastic to be a part of such a successful event. During the course of the shows the dance societies from the University of Southampton also managed to raise over £1000 towards Cancer Research! We all had a lot to celebrate by the end of the last performance so we ended the weekend with a great night out full of even more dancing.

Here are some photos from the show, taken by members of the SU Photo Society Events Team.

Before the start of the show!

The Bhangra performance

The Break dance performance

All the girls in the advanced jazz class routine, outside for a group photo

Street dance

The Contemporary dance performance

The Tap dance performance

A collaboration between the breakers, street dancers and contemporary dancers. I loved working together on this routine. 

Finale with all the committee members of the various dance societies on stage.

It’s actually quite sad that it’s all over; both the competitions and now the annual Pure Dance show. Many of the third year students will be graduating and leaving this year (most of them already have jobs organised!) meaning that the show was probably the last time we’d ever perform together. Some of my closest friends at university are people I've met through being a part of the dance societies and it’s hard to accept that some of them won’t be here next year. As a further celebration of the year and our successes, we surprised the advanced contemporary squad captain with a meal in one of the local restaurants.

Our surprise meal to celebrate the year.

This week I also went on a social with the ballet society to watch Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton’s City Centre.  I really enjoyed watching a different interpretation of the classic ballet and absolutely loved the choreography performed by the male swans!

I’ve also just handed in the last pieces of course work due in before the Easter vacation. I’m definitely ready for a break and I’m looking forward to flying home and seeing my mum and sister. During the Easter break in my first year, all the Biology and Zoology students went on an exciting field trip to Bolonia in Spain where we were able to gain valuable hands on experience doing field work. This included identification, collecting specimens, using transects and designing our own field experiments.

A photo from my first year field trip!

Did I mention that during our stay we lived literally one minute from the beach? I’ll try and write more about that in my next post seeing as this field course has also been one of my highlights at university so far.