Monday, 19 September 2016

What not to worry about when you start university

The first time I read the Life at Southampton blog was back in 2014, right before I was off for my first year at the University of Southampton. I read a blog post from former blogger Kristin about what she wished she’d known in her first year and it has inspired me to write a little post about what not to worry about before you go to uni.

I moved to England on the 20th of September 2014 (my birthday, for those who are especially interested!) with my whole life packed into two suitcases and one thousand questions, worries and scenarios made up in my head.

While I was crying my eyes out on my way to the airport it really hit me that I was going away – and for some stupid reason I kept talking myself down. ‘My English isn’t good enough’, ‘I can’t cook’, ‘I wont make any friends’, what if I fail my year?’ … the list continues. I wish I had someone then to tell me the following five things:

1. Everyone you meet is in the same situation as you!

It is so hard to forget, but it is true. Everyone will require their own time to adjust to moving and some might do this quicker than others. Be nice to everyone and have a positive attitude.


2. You don’t need to go out every single night, get ridiculously drunk and join 10 societies to make friends.

With that being said, going to some events during Freshers’ and joining a couple of societies are great opportunities to make new friends, but it is not the only way to make friends. You will make friends regardless of how much or little you go out during Freshers’.

3. If English isn’t your native language (like me) it will improve with time.

This obviously relies a bit on yourself as well; the more you practice speaking English the better it will be. It will be a hard change from the English you’ve learned at school to suddenly be surrounded by academic English everywhere – but you get used to it.

4. Cooking might be a challenge, but practice makes perfect.

Try and plan dinners with flatmates where you cook together or one person cooks and the others do the dishes. Like many other things, cooking at university is what you make it!

5. Re-sitting exams isn’t the end of the world. 

Having only ever known how resitting exams in Norway works, I was quite horrified when I learned that it is a lot stricter in England! Luckily, I have never had to re-sit any exams or a year, but it can happen to anyone. The University goes above and beyond to help you and to accommodate you if you have special needs for an examination, but the hard work needs to be done by you.

Along with my top five points, here’s some extra advice I’d like to give you for your upcoming move to University:

Don’t get stuck with one group. This is very easy to do, because you meet a group of people you like and suddenly you do everything with them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but remember to be open to meeting others as well – you will meet new people through every year at University.

If you don’t like your flat – try and change it. Most people get on very well with their flatmates and of all the people I know at university I only know one person who changed flat duringfirst year. It’s good to keep in the back of your mind that the possibility is there, because you will spend a lot of time with your flatmates, so it’s in everyone’s interest that you get along.

And one last thing…

During your first year, you will be told numerous times by fellow students that ‘First year doesn’t count’. Keep in mind that this is not entirely true:

1. You do need to pass your first year, meaning 40% or over in all core modules.

2. If you want to go on exchange the application process happens when you are in your second year and your first-year grades will be a part of your application; the most competitive places obviously require good grades. This also applies to you if you wish to apply for internships in your second year.

3. If you end your third year and are just between a First and a 2:1 your tutors might go back to your first year and see that you had such a good average that they will give you a First …or vice versa if you didn’t work at all.

Apart from that… just enjoy your Freshers’ and welcome to the University of Southampton!

Our beautiful Highfield Campus


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

My top five tips for making your phone University ready

With preparations for student life well underway, today I thought I’d take the opportunity to give some tips about how you make your smartphone/tablet ready for university.

These are my five most crucial apps or updates which make my day-to-day life during term time here at Southampton so much easier....

1. MySouthampton app 

This app is a  must. You can do everything on it, from browsing for free computers in the library to checking bus times, your timetable and email. You can even contact IT help and get a campus map up in an instant. I mostly use it to check my timetable and look up where certain buildings are (I still don’t know all the numbers by heart). You simply download it and use your Sussed username and password to access it!

Download MySouthampton

2. Blackboard app

This app, together with the MySouthampton app, makes everything that has to do with coursework and University logistics so much easier.

The Blackboard Mobile Learn app lets you check all your modules, module announcements, information, course content and more. It’s handy to have if you wish to have a quick look at the slides before, during or after your lecture, or if you want to have a look at the module handbook and you don’t have a copy of it to hand.

The only thing which I wish you could do with the app is checking your grades on it. Turnitin is not optimised for smartphones; so when your lecturer reminds you that you’ve received feedback on your coursework during a lecture and you don’t have a computer with you, you will have to wait to check your feedback.

Download the Blackboard Mobile Learn app

3. Configure your soton email

The University IT pages have a simple explanation to how you configure your soton email to your phone and computer. It makes it so much easier than having to log into Sussed everytime you want to check your email – and trust me; you will use your soton email a lot – probably more than you use your private email.

4. RefMe 

University was the first time I had ever encountered Harvard referencing and, although this app is by not a substitute for attending the library sessions about referencing, this app is a lifesaver for your bibliography and referencing adventures. It’s very easy to use and you can access it from your computer as well as your smartphone.

5. West Quay Cars and Radio Taxis app

We do have Uber in Southampton, but getting a car is nearly impossible and unlike many big cities, you don’t really save much by using Uber here. That’s why it’s good to have the apps for the big taxi companies in Southampton, which makes ordering a taxi easy.

The Students' Union also has a deal with these companies, which means that if you ever find yourself in a position where you don’t have money to get home, you simply hand in your student ID to the driver as a deposit and pay for the fare upon collection your ID from the Union's reception.

I hope these tips can come in handy for anyone starting University later this month, or maybe current students who still haven’t discovered RefMe!

Regardless, the above mentioned are without a doubt the apps I use the most during term time, so I hope this blog post is helpful for others too!

Happy app-ing!


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Life after Southampton: one year on

This September, some ex-Life at Southampton bloggers will be sharing their experiences as graduates. This week, Physics graduate James Gray looks back at his time at the University and updates us on what he's up to now.

A year has now passed since I graduated with a First Class Masters in Physics and so much has changed that I’m struggling to work out where to start.

I guess I should begin by recapping how this whole process started, so let’s rewind half a decade(!) to the moment when I first arrived at Glen Eyre halls in 2011, weighed down with suitcases and boxes and feeling thoroughly daunted about the next four life-changing years that were ahead of me.

I began, like many people, as a slightly timid but enthusiastic fresher, who was unsure of exactly what to expect. However, within days I had settled into my halls and within weeks I was thoroughly immersed in student life.

Throughout my time at Southampton I met a lot of new people and was exposed to a lot of new things, including blogging, the bizarre sport of Tchoukball and the even more bizarre world of quantum physics. However, my most important discovery was the field of medical physics, which, with a lot of hard work and perseverance, I managed to secure a job in after I graduated.

New Terrace in Glen Eyre Halls – my home in first year.

After a long summer break, which included trips to Amsterdam and the New Forest, I embarked on my chosen career. I am now a trainee medical physicist in an NHS hospital on the Scientific Training Programme and I have discovered that no-one seems to know what we do!

Medical physics is a broad area of healthcare science, which, as a broad generalisation, covers the use of radiation for medical purposes, including everything from creating radiotherapy treatment plans to testing x-ray equipment. It is a greatly varied job and one that patients ultimately rely on, even if they don’t realise it!

Having fun testing a UV cabinet looking like a riot officer.

My training follows a similar structure to that of a doctor’s; I have a long list of competencies and assessments to complete over three years, which relate to four rotations in my first year (these are ionising imaging, non-ionising imaging, radiation safety and radiotherapy), before I specialise into one of those four areas for the remaining two years.

I am currently undertaking my third rotation out of the four and when January comes I have chosen to specialise in imaging with ionising radiation, which encompasses work within both nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology. I also have the opportunity to go on an elective; a 4-6 week work placement of my choosing, which can be anywhere in the world, so long as I can relate it back to clinical science! I am currently thinking along the lines of radiopharmaceutical research, development and production, but the options are limitless!

After three years of training, which includes another masters degree, I will have my final practical exams and I will then qualify as a state registered medical physicist – it’s a long and hard road, but I am more than up for the oncoming challenges!

Medical physics arts and crafts – making a radioactive test object that can be imaged on a gamma camera for one of my nuclear medicine competencies.

My job also involves bits of chemistry and biology – these are samples of broth I prepared to assess my aseptic technique when dispensing radioactive liquids.

My job involves a lot of testing medical imaging equipment, like this MRI scanner.

On a personal level, the transition from being a student to being an adult in the 'real world' has been one that I have enjoyed. One of the best changes is receiving a paycheck at the end of the month, making a new group of friends and realising that my time at the University of Southampton taught me many of the skills that I have needed in my professional life.

Since I graduated I have left home and moved into a lovely flat with my girlfriend in the quaint town of Haslemere, which lies on the borders between Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire. Southampton is therefore not too far away and over the past year I have not been able to stay away! I have been fortunate in that I have friends who have stayed in Southampton and given me the perfect excuse to come and visit my old haunts, including Jesters, The Cowherds and, of course, the two Portswood ice cream parlours!

Highfield Campus in the sun on my last visit to Southampton.

When recently visiting the University and the surrounding city it has been hard not to feel overwhelmed with nostalgia. I felt it the most while walking around a sun-bathed Highfield campus, seeing all the student hubbub and feeling tempted to revert back to being a student and enjoying it all over again!

Therefore, my advice for anyone going into their last year at university is to really make the most of it – join a new society, get involved in everything you can and make use of all of the career resources that the University offers. However don’t feel pressured to focus on careers, because your final year of studying should still take priority. I only applied to two jobs in my final year, because they were the only opportunities I was truly excited about. Don’t waste your time on applications that don’t excite you, because you can’t replace passion and you should be following your dreams!

And finally, to all the new Freshers who are about to embark on their own Life at Southampton – I envy you! You will fall in love with Southampton and your time will fly by!

Thank you Southampton for everything! And thank you for reading this blog.


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Friday, 26 August 2016

Preparing for your adventure abroad: international students starting university

With the end of August approaching and Results Day already over,  most people who have applied for a place at university should now have some idea where they are going in September. I’m sure most people are happy that the wait is over, but then it hits you that it’s not long at all until the term actually start. Trust me, time flies!

Although this post is primarily for international students, there are definitely some tips to pick up for those who aren’t international students, but are still starting university next month. If you are in need of some packing tips, there are plenty of past blog posts which you should have a look at – and stay tuned, there will probably be some more in September. As for how to best prepare for University when you are an international student, here are my tips:

1. Get a notebook and treat it like your bible

Starting university means there will be tons of new pieces of information and not to mention dates you need to remember. Getting a notebook or just having some sort of system where you can write all of this down will help you a lot more than you think. Write down all the important dates like; when you'll be moving into halls, flight details, airport connection, campus introductions, Freshers' Week and your halls of residence address.

A packing list, what you need to buy/get done before moving, possible modules you want to take, who your academic tutor is are also things your notebook should include. In addition to a notebook, I got a little diary in which I wrote down all my expectations and fears about moving abroad and I kept writing in it consistently until my second year. Its already fun to see what I said in my first year, and I know it will be funnier in 10 years to look back at. Hopefully I’ll continue to write in it as I now go into my third year!

2. Orientate yourself on what the university offers

As an international student, the University offers a Meet and Greet service to pick you up from the airport and help you with the most basic things when you move to England; like opening a bank account etc. These things often start a couple of days before the official move-in weekend is and you do have to sign up for it. I was very lucky to have my dad accompanying me when I moved over, so I didn’t use this service. I lived with a couple of other international students who did use it and they were very pleased as well as they had set up an bank account before term started – a couple of months into term it hit me I should probably open a bank account in England, which is easier said than done, hence my next point...

3. Bank account, mobile number, doctor and national insurance number. 

When you move into halls you receive everything you need to register for the University health service and (as you quickly will find out) the queues to hand in this on campus are MASSIVE during the first few weeks. If you don’t fancy waiting in the line for hours, it is good to know you can register at any point during term. The same goes for setting up a bank account, getting a UK sim-card. etc. However, doing some of the “hard” work prior to moving is an idea. It is not really hard work, but orientate yourself online on what bank accounts are available, what are the fees and what documents you will need.

The same goes for getting a UK sim card; you can save a lot of money by checking all the different operators’ bundles and deciding if you want pay as you go or a contract. A contract means you need a bank account in a British bank, so it all goes hand in hand. A National Insurance number isn’t applicable to everyone, but if you intend to work you should get one. I signed up to be a student ambassador and when the payment form came later I realised I didn’t have a NI number and it takes a bit of time to get, so again if you intend to work find out what you need.

Moving into Mayflower Halls at the start of my first year!

4. Free up space on your phone

Not only for the hundreds of pictures you will take, but to download Skype, Viber, Whatsapp or whatever other apps you use to call home. Homesickness can happen to any of us regardless of whether we move 10000 km or 100 km from home. Luckily we have so many ways of communicating with those at home if you were to become homesick. If you, like me, have a mum who doesn’t quite understand her phone, downloading this for her and setting everything up before you leave is a good idea!

5. Join the official University of Southampton Freshers' groups on Facebook

This way you can find people doing your course or living in the same halls as you, already before you come to Uni. It is also a great source to find out about what events are going on during Freshers' Week. People use these groups frequently to ask questions, so you might find some extra useful information there and if you have questions yourself it is a lot easier to ask them there as you will get a reply faster than writing an email. These groups stay relevant throughout the whole year, and they are regularly updated.

I hope this was helpful and I wish everyone starting university next month the best of luck!


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

A weekend away in Devon

Two and a half hours from Southampton lies beautiful Exeter, which makes the perfect destination for a little weekend away.

I’ve previously written about day trips you can make on the south coast in places like Bournemouth, Winchester and Poole. Exeter, on the other hand, is a tad further away and requires more than one day, perhaps. It’s between two and a half to three hours on the train and about the same with the car, so staying overnight is definitely something I would recommend.

A big part of my boyfriend’s family comes from Exeter, so last weekend we went down there for a wedding. Apart from the wedding, which was held at the University, we spent the next day strolling through the streets of Exeter, visiting Topsham and Darts Farm.

Exeter is in Devon, and Devon is supposed to be one of the most beautiful counties of England, so if you want to see more of it, it’s better to go by car. There are loads of places to stop on the way there depending on which route you take; Salisbury and Dorchester are a few options. Topsham and Darts Farm, where we went in Exeter, are definitely easiest to reach by car.

Exeter itself is a beautiful little town, especially the area around the cathedral. It reminds me a bit of Winchester, so it goes without saying it’s lovely! Exeter also got quite a good variety of shops if you fancy doing some shopping, although most of the shops you will find here in Southampton too.

Exeter Cathedral 

The main reason we went to Exeter was for the family wedding. The wedding was held at the University of Exeter's halls, which was a beautiful venue. It definitely felt like I was in Harry Potter, but Mayflower Halls will always be the best halls in my opinion. Completely unbiased, of course!

My wedding date!

Reed Halls - the wedding venue

Topsham is only about a 10-minute drive from Exeter city centre and it’s your typical beautiful little English village with a lovely river running through it. We spent a little hour here going for a walk and dreaming through antique shops.  Topsham is also where Darts Farm is located.

Sunny Topsham

Darts Farm was awarded the best farm shop in 2016 and has been featured on the BBC for being one of the top ten destination farm shops. They sell all types of organic food and drinks, offer bike hires and even have a spa. We had a lovely time here walking around in the sunshine before we started our journey back home to Southampton again.

Walking around Darts Farm

The boyfriend and the lama

I hope you're enjoying the summer as much as I am!


Friday, 5 August 2016

How to best prepare for you adventure abroad – The Social Guide

Moving to a different country,  regardless of how far or close it is to your home country, will be different, especially when it comes to the social side of things!

We have reached August and next month loads of fresh new international students will move to the UK to start university. Some of you might have already received your results and know which university you are going to and others might still be waiting. But if you do know that in September, England will be your new home, the social/cultural bit about moving can be daunting.

However, as I have found out; British people are mostly very nice. Some things are very different and it is worth to have some sort of understanding of this before you find yourself very confused about why some people refer to a girl as a 'bird'.

I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes by writing this; this is simply my personal experience of living in England for two years now, and what I have learnt!

British Slang and vocabulary

Download 'Urban Dictionary' and 'British Slang' apps to help you with this. The 'British Slang' app is fun as you will get acquainted with slang words and you can see what they mean, but it is the 'Urban Dictionary' app that saves my day. We all know what 'lol' and 'fab' means, but what do you think when you hear 'bird', 'mush' or 'lush'? I used to think of a flying bird, mashed potatoes and Lush Cosmetics! I now know 'bird' means girl, 'mush' means mate and 'lush' means something you like or enjoy. 'Lad', 'bloke', and 'geezer' ... the list continues and gets even more confusing!

When someone suddenly says 'I don’t have a Scooby',  it all gets a bit more complicated. In situations like this I like to smile and pretend that I completely understand why someone 'doesn’t have a Scooby'! By the way, not having a Scooby is a way of saying you don’t have a clue. So although I would never use any of these words in an essay they are a huge part of living in England and understanding your English friends.

Add 'quite', 'rather', 'brilliant', 'regardless', 'surely' and 'fantastic' to your vocabulary. People will always ask you how you are, to which you don’t need to reply that you are having a horrible day because you overslept, didn’t make the bus and haven’t had your coffee yet. Simply say; 'I’m good thank you, what about you?' or 'Not too bad thank you, what about you?'

Public transport manners

Have your unilink card ready, stand in the queue and scan your card as you walk on the bus (always, always, always use the front door!). Bus drivers are usually very nice as long as you use the front door. Upon leaving the bus at your stop always say 'thank you' or 'cheers' as you leave. Oh, and don’t expect that the bus will stop for you if you run to it as the doors closes - 9 out of 10 times it won't!

Manners in general

Did someone just bump into you and it clearly wasn’t your fault? Say 'I’m sorry'. I’ve never said 'I’m sorry' as much as I have in England, but not saying it when you bump into someone regardless of who’s fault it is, is rude.

It can be hard to crack the code on how to be polite in a different country, but I will tell you what works in England - learn to queue in all situations and don’t queue jump, stand to the right and walk to the left in escalators and say 'thank you', 'please' and 'I’m sorry' all the time. In Southampton in particular, I will add be a Saints fan and never say anything nice about Portsmouth football club!

English rudeness is actually very polite and sometimes very hard to see. There’s different ways of interpreting 'I’m sorry'. 'Sorry you feel that way' for example is a polite way of saying 'It’s not my fault'. Very British Problems are worth following on Twitter or Facebook for a tongue-in-cheek look at this!


The correct way of accepting an offer for a cup of tea is to say, 'Only if you are having one'. Or you can be rude like me - I don’t really drink tea and, so I say 'No thank you!'


Going for a drink is a lot more normal than going for a coffee or grabbing dinner. Whenever I’m home in Norway, my friends and I usually meet up for a coffee or go for a dinner. In England the way of catching up is going for a drink or ten and playing a game of pool.


English people can complain a lot, but deep down they love England no matter how horrible the weather can be.


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Life after university

I vividly remember my first few moments at the University of Southampton. After my friends from home had dropped me off and left, I was on my own in my new room at Connaught Halls. I took in the view of my surroundings. It was littered with bags and boxes that were beckoning to be unpacked. Despite the seeming urgency of the task, I instead sat down on my bed, bewilderedly thinking inwardly: what in the world do I do now?

Three years on, I have finished my last ever undergraduate exam and found myself in exactly the same situation: sitting bewildered on my bed and thinking the EXACTLY same thing. Here I was again fearing the unknown. But, as I am writing my last ever blog post for Life at Southampton, I realise that boy, are things different.


I feel more grown up. I will be making a living soon and this has hit me HARD. When I started at university I thought I was pretty mature but you really don’t know just how much more you can change until you go through exams, coursework, a part-time job and society commitments all at the same time. I remember at one point doing 10 hour retail shifts on both days of a weekend and heading to the library after to write an essay. The fact that this paid off in the end highlighted to me the importance of hard-work and ploughing through in order to reach a goal.

Filipino Society stand at AISEC’s Global Village, part of Union Southampton’s International Culture Week 2016


The knowledge alone that I have learnt from my course in Politics and International Relations has measurably increased my confidence. I’d like to think that today I am more comfortable getting to know new people. The 18-year-old me would never approach someone randomly at a social event to say hi. Uni life has taught me that people genuinely like to be talked to first!

If I could change one thing? In first year, I thought that the best way to meet my coursemates and new people was through ‘Dutch courage’. I look back on that now and find that this was certainly not the case. Going to lectures and actually talking to your coursemates is the best way of getting to know them.

Freshers' Week!

Analytical skills

Practical group work certainly helped my analytical skills in a team. I was part of a group which conducted qualitative research for Southampton City Council in Second Year as part of our Research Skills in Politics module (PAIR2004). In addition, a field trip to Brussels wasn’t bad either! Thanks to the Social Sciences department, I was able to take part in a stakeholder trip to the EU institutions. We were able to meet with EU politicians and NGOs and got to know more about what they do.

Politics Brussels Trip

Became independent but closer to my family

Back in first year, I struggled a lot with not seeing my family every day. I soon got used to it – it helped to have my uni friends around all the time. However, I actually found myself getting closer to my mum. We would chat on the phone once a week and ironically enough our conversations were on a much deeper level than what we had when I was living back home.


I can talk to senior staff and not feel scared about doing so. University really develops your employability in this way. The University of Southampton has lots of help and support available to kick start your employability from day one. I went to countless Careers talks and workshops which are invaluable for me in and outside of the work place.

Graduation Day with the family

Of course, not everyone will have the same university experience, but my time at university has taught me that you yourself can shape the outcome of any experience. Life after university hasn’t got a 100 percent happiness guarantee – your outlook will shape the outcome - much like my overall outlook on university life shaped its outcome today!

I can’t stress how much I LOVED university. The best friends that I have made here are the people I know I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. What will I miss about it? The ability to pop round the best people’s houses and just hanging around, having a cup of tea.

If you have also graduated, cheers to you and good luck on this next step on the ladder of life. If you’re coming back to uni again next year, count yourself lucky and make the most of it! If you’re just starting uni, welcome to this amazing roller-coaster of a ride.

Rylyn Bernardo, signing off one last time.