Tuesday, 10 January 2017

3 lessons University has taught me

The fact that we officially have entered 2017 is daunting. I remember picking up my student ID when I first started here at Southampton in September 2014. The “valid until” date, which said 2017, felt so far away, yet here I am revising for my fifth exam period at University of Southampton. It has led me to think about what I have learned throughout the years, beyond very course specific things.

It is quite a lot, which I without doubt will bring with me when I graduate. I have tried to sum it up to the top three things I value the most from what I have learned so far:

1. Statistics are misused badly on a daily basis

People and newspapers toss around figures all the time, I’m sure you have heard someone say “but 9/10 times this is the case” or “80% of students have experienced this and this” – since I’ve started doing statistics, this agitates me so much I want to scream – “what data are you basing this on, what is your sample size??!!”.

One of the main things the University has taught me, apart from how to use statistics properly, is to be critical of figures and data I see on a daily basis. Most newspapers who conduct their own "statistics" often do so with biased samples and over-generalisations - an opinion poll in the Daily Mail on immigration won't represent the whole of the UK's opinion on immigration, for example.

Statistical interference isn't what most people think about when reading headlines, but you wouldn't do a presentation at work without knowing that the figures you are using are as factually correct as you can get them, and therefore you shouldn't just "take everything as good fish", as we say in Norway.

2. What works in one place might not work somewhere else

What works in one place might not work somewhere else. This strangely came about when we were learning about different types of governance in my first year – democracy was used as an example of something that works great in certain places, but maybe not in all of the world. 

Later, I have seen in almost all of the modules I have been doing, from politics to economics, that this still holds. Even outside the University I see certain things that work great in the UK, but probably wouldn’t work great in Norway... such as driving on the left side of the road.

3. The importance of referencing

What a pain it can be to make sure you have used proper Harvard referencing on a 3000-word essay – but oh so important! Not only important when you write an essay, but in general when you speak on important issues. Especially in a world where it can be hard to distinguish between real news and fake news, being critical to what you read and your sources is imperative. 

This has only become more and more clear to me as the years have gone by at University. Again, you wouldn't hand something in at work without double/triple checking that what you are claiming is factually correct. I think the bottom line is that the precision and eye for detail you put into anything related to professional work or university should also apply to what you share privately.

Some people might not be as good at distinguishing "bad fish" from "good fish", but the fact that you are and that this is important to you is something I strongly believe future employers will appreciate, and something that without doubt will pay off in regards to university coursework.

Although I have not graduated yet and I still have the most challenging part left of my course - these are a few of the many things I will bring with me into the life of “grown-ups”.

Some Southampton love - one of many beautiful sunsets we have had throughout my time here.

Now - to dissertation work and exam revision!


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

My year: 2016 in review

Exactly one week away from New Years Eve, we’re into the reflection period of the year; an opportunity for everyone to look back over the ups and downs over the past year.

2016 turned out to be a major year for me and below I have listed some of my highlights:

January – May 

The most memorable part of my year was my semester abroad in the beautiful medieval capital of Europe, Rouen.

 When in France...eat macarons

View from a bridge in my beautiful host town

This was an unforgettable experience and I am so proud that I pushed myself to undertake an Erasmus trip. I somehow managed to live on my own in a flat and cope with 30 contact hours a week (without blackboard to assist)! I made friends for life, which seems bizarre given the language barrier and cultural differences. I cannot express how grateful I am to everyone in my L2 géo class for not laughing at me whenever I stammered but constantly supporting me throughout the semester.

Of course, there were bad times. I can easily recall countless times when I felt stupid because I could not understand anything going on around me and my head would be perpetually aching from concentrating all day.

Academically though, the risk was worth it: I still achieved a first class average (despite all learning/assessments being in French). Furthermore, I was awarded the Dean’s List Award for my grade average!

Whilst abroad I also campaigned for and was elected GeogSoc President. It was very nerve-wracking watching the AGM take place through FaceTime! This is my most time-consuming extra-curricular to date but I could not be happier to ensure that geographers have a fantastic time here at Southampton!


This was my busiest summer for as long as I can remember. This included my first holiday with my boyfriend (Ireland), family holiday after three years (Turkey) and an excellent fieldtrip (Berlin).

Most notably, I spent two months back at Camp Morty in the USA. Returning for the second year in a row, I not only adopted a new position as counsellor but also juggled my dissertation and conducted all of my data collection for my dissertation.

Dining inside a fancy restored church!

A touching note from one of my campers

As well as some work experience in finance and accountancy, I became a student blogger!

Third Year: Semester One

This past semester was very different to the Southampton experience I was used to. I suddenly had three contact hours a week - all French and no Geography, which was a massive adjustment from my 30-hour week in France.

Without lectures forcing me to go to campus, I realised it was up to myself to self-motivate. My key to success was waking up early - fortunately I have always been an early riser so I just had to make sure I maintained up my 7am wake ups and hit Jubilee gym!

Having played throughout my childhood and competing abroad, I missed playing netball and joined the GeogSoc 1st team. We have had an amazing season so far and I love being part of a sport family again. A couple of weeks ago we held our annual GeogSoc Christmas Ball at the Grand Harbour Hotel. It was extremely stressful as President and a lot of pressure to have a successful night, but in the end the event was spectacular and one of my favourite nights at uni!

I am very pleased that I managed to squeeze in all of my extra-curricular activities in third year so far, despite being warned and advised to cut down and focus on my studies. Although I do worry about my work/play balance sometimes, I am really glad I made the time to have fun: from karaoke at The Stags to participating in Jailbreak for the first time.

Highlight of 2016

To top it all off, I have been offered a place at the University of Cambridge to study a masters in Education, International Development and Globalisation and gain an MPhil (Masters of Philosophy).

To summarise, the only two words to describe my 2016 would be: busy and rewarding.

Let’s see what 2017 brings!


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The twelve days of student Christmas

Hi guys!

This is my last blog post before Christmas! It feels like this semester has gone so quickly and now I'm getting stuck into revision for the January exams...

I thought I'd try something a bit different for this post. Some of you may know that I have my own YouTube Channel and I had this idea back in October of a badly drawn, fake-serious '12 Days of Student Christmas' video!

It took me a really long time as it was my first shot at crude animation - so I hope you like it!

You can find the lyrics in the video description!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Holiday Motivation

It feels amazing to make it to the Christmas break after what has been a tough, work-heavy first semester, but it’s also been a great term!

The exams and coursework deadlines seem a lifetime away – a new year in fact – but some of us can still struggle to switch off over Christmas with the overhanging fear of the workload to come.

I know from my own experience the feelings of guilt when I’m not feeling too productive over this period.

But uni work, and indeed life, is always about finding the suitable balance between work and fun so I’m here to offer a few tips of my own.

Do things in a group

When I’m struggling to do work, I like to surround myself with other people, whether it’s with family or friends. It actually proves to be more relaxing in a different environment and you can be in a better frame of mind when you do knuckle down to work.

Equally, setting goals and treating yourself when you’ve succeeded at a personal hurdle is great for morale, like when I went for a Christmas meal with two of my housemates last week, Alex and George.

 A meal out with my housemates

Practice a hobby

It sounds obvious and that’s probably because it is. Being a complete working machine is all well and good but often exercise is the best remedy to revision blues and this has always worked for me. Luckily in Southampton, we have the Common where we can go to get some fresh air and fresh perspective, plus in recent weeks, I’ve been playing tennis, squash and badminton to raise my motivation levels.

Take breaks between working

Everyone has their own personal studying and working techniques, whether it’s doing an all-nighter study session at the library or setting strict hours for when to work and when to relax.

Personally, I’ve never been able to spend hours on end concentrating on the same task without taking breaks, or maybe it’s just that my mind is hyper-active! I also like working in various locations, whether it’s in my room, on Avenue Campus or at a friend’s house, but the main Hartley Library during exam week is just a no go for me when everyone is in full work mode.

The main message here is that it’s important to make the most of this break, both in terms of recharging your batteries and completing small milestones for assignments, which you can do without bashing out 2,000 words in one go. It’s easier said than done, but we’re already almost halfway through the academic year so that’s already one big milestone reached!

Before I sign off, the Erasmus society with which I’m involved recently received some gifts through the post, courtesy of Uludag Erasmus Student Network in Turkey. Every year, all of the ESN societies across Europe send off a special parcel packed with gifts that are synonymous with their own country and their Christmas traditions and below are a few pictures of what we received, including luggage tags, Turkish tea and Turkish delight!

At our Erasmus Christmas meal

Some of the gifts we received from ESN Uludag

Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas with family and friends and a Happy New Year in 2017!


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Five New Year's resolutions from a tired student

After nine long hours travelling from Southampton to Oslo, I am exhausted and a big part of me is wondering why I’m still awake!

Then again, that is a stupid question, because of course I’m awake mid-December way past midnight doing my coursework – that’s what students do at this time of the year isn’t it? It is, but the fun part of it is that I know this will pay off later.

Talking about later, soon it will be a new year and a new year brings with it New Year’s resolutions. I love to hear other people's resolutions, so I thought I would take the opportunity to write down mine and maybe they will be inspiring for someone else. I actually looked at the ones I did last year and I must say I have committed to a lot of them!

Here are my “student” New Year’s resolutions for 2017

1. Write a spot on dissertation without going frantic! 

I know I’m complaining about the load of coursework already, and with semester two and my dissertation fully setting in I’m a bit terrified, but also extremely excited to start the process of writing up my dissertation.

In the New Year, I hope to make use of some of the services provided by the University and faculties which both help myself and fellow students with writing dissertations and coursework, and also workshops with advice on how to stay sane in all of this work!

2. Plan ahead

On that note, I also hope that with this being my last semester as an undergraduate student I will finally start all my coursework in good time. A typical student New Year’s resolution I know, but it had to be mentioned.

3. Apply for a masters 

So if resolution number two doesn’t work, at least I will have another degree to practice on! Hopefully this Christmas break I will have finished up most of my applications and find out where the rest of 2017 will take me.

Southampton is already on my list of places I’m applying for postgraduate study. Right now, I’m not far into the process, but once I have done it I will make sure to write a blog post with tips for other students in the same situation.

4. Explore more of the UK

I’ve already done a few blog posts on places I’ve visited in the south of England and I hope in 2017 I will have the pleasure of seeing Wales, Scotland (maybe Ireland too?) and more of the north of England. There is no shortage of flights from Southampton, my only problem is I don’t like flying especially not tiny aeroplanes, so this might have to be a road trip.

5. Get involved with more charities

I’ve already mentioned that I volunteer, but after my friend from university, Ellen, told me she was running the Prague marathon in aid of Action Against Hunger in 2017 I have been inspired to do something sort of similar. No, not inspired to run a marathon, but maybe start volunteering with a different target group as well as with Age UK, who I’m currently volunteering with.

Through the University, there is not a shortage of places you can volunteer with, so I don’t think this one will be very hard to follow through on.

I also have a bunch of other resolutions, which are more personal and probably not overly exciting for everyone to read about – but I would love to hear if you have any New Year’s resolutions and what they are!

This is my last blog post until the New Year so I hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and fabulous New year.

Hopefully you have all had time to look at the Christmas Market in town before you go home


Monday, 12 December 2016

Reasons why I chose Southampton

“It’s big enough to be a city, yet small enough to be a community” 

I’ll be honest with you, the University of Southampton was not my first choice.

I remember how crushed I felt having narrowly missed out on my grades and feeling like it was ‘the end of the world’ and that ‘everything was falling apart ‘- but of course, it wasn’t!

In hindsight, coming to Southampton was one of the best decisions I have ever made and my degree  has undoubtedly been the best three years of my life.

Here are my top five reasons I love Southampton and am proud to be here every single day:

1. Reputation

Well, this has to be first, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t be proud to gain a place in one of the top 15 UK universities and in the top 1% worldwide!?

As a founding member of the Russell Group, it is clear that the University of Southampton is committed to research excellence and high calibre teaching.

I love the flexibility of courses at Southampton. It was one of the very few places that would let me minor in a language and let me take part in the Erasmus exchange programme, despite majoring in a subject outside of Modern Languages. This opportunity has been one of the highlights of my degree and I realise that this was a very unique opportunity that I am extremely grateful to the University for allowing me to have.

Inside Rouen's Grand Cathedral

Even if you want to try a new language, thanks to the Southampton Language Opportunity, you could learn a language completely free of charge outside of your course. Free intensive one-week courses are also run in June if you wanted something to do in Southampton post-exams!

2. Everyone knows everyone!

I never realised the Southampton bubble would be so small… and I love it.

Everyone seems to have a connection with everyone– which makes for an excellent social life! I love bumping into friends wherever I am on campus (even at Hartley library)!

Stopping to have a quick chat and occasionally catching up with people I haven’t seen for a while really makes my day and makes me feel part of a tight- knit student community.

 3. Inclusive societies and roles

There is no denying that certain societies at universities have a reputation for being particularly ‘cliquey’ and require some form of disgusting initiation to gain membership into this élite squad. I heard this especially applied to sports and dance societies where there is a culture that some ‘aren’t good enough’ to join - but at Southampton, there is a real emphasis on inclusivity.

It is even possible to turn up to a society event or ambassador role once- just for a laugh! For example, within my role as a Student Ambassador, I was selected to feature in a Christmas photo shoot!

Kickstarting my modelling career!

4. Ideal location 

As a vibrant coastal city with a renowned port, there are many events to attend that may not be available elsewhere, such as the annual Southampton Boat Show.

Plus you have the beautiful New Forest, Winchester, Bournemouth and Portsmouth nearby!

Petting some donkeys in the New Forest!

5. Nightlife

Last but certainly NOT least- Southampton’s nightlife!

Home of the infamous Jesters (voted the worst nightclub in UK, but a real student favourite!), 50p pints, and brand new bars and restaurants, the city’s social life is brewing.

The cultural scene is also particularly strong here at Southampton with regular live bands playing at Talking Heads, art exhibitions dispersed in numerous galleries around the city, and regular performances at Nuffield Southampton Theatres. We also have the brand new WestQuay Watermark opening as I type, and West-End shows touring at the Mayflower Theatre!

So, if like me you like to pack in as many societies possible into your free time whilst still finding the time to work and secure a top degree, then Southampton is the ideal University for you!

I hope you decide to join us!


Thursday, 8 December 2016

I chose #Southamptonbecause …it opened my eyes to what I could achieve

For me, it was more a matter of why not Southampton?

I’d visited five universities before submitting my UCAS application, but my heart was set on here when I saw the obvious passion from course lecturers and students alike.

Therefore, this post will answer some of the questions I wish I’d known the answers to before my first year - so hopefully it helps some of you to make a decision!

A snap of Highfield Campus! 

What makes our uni unique?

It may be a cliché but it’s worth saying - I truly believe that the University of Southampton is a special place to live and study. You only have to attend one of our Open Days in the summer to see the genuine satisfaction and enthusiasm of our students and the welcoming atmosphere on campus!

Furthermore, Humanities students have our own, picturesque Avenue Campus close to Highfield, so it’s easy to meet up with friends and coursemates regularly.

One of the weekly markets on the Redbrick

How is life in a halls of residence?

I know plenty of people who loved living in sociable residences like Montefiore and Glen Eyre, but the prospect of leaving home can be very intimidating. It brings back memories of not having wifi in our buildings and then feeling ever so slightly envious when it was installed a year later!

I can assure you that each year will be easier and more enjoyable when you find people with whom you have common interests.

The entrance to Avenue Campus

How difficult will it be to settle into my course?

This was one of my big concerns before starting my degree. Many students arrive having excelled in sixth form, but find it disconcerting that they are not alone in being talented in their subject area.

Fortunately, the lecturers on my languages course have been noticeably encouraging as they are distinctly aware of the step up.

Ultimately, though, everyone is in the same boat and the support network with course coordinators and personal tutors is always something I’ve appreciated here as you feel valued by your faculty.

Late afternoon on the Southampton Common!

How can I follow my hobbies beyond my degree?

The Bunfight in Fresher’s Week highlights the ever-growing diversity of societies on offer here. This means that you’ve got even more opportunities to get involved, whether it’s a new hobby or one that you’ve been practising for years.

I’ve relished being part of languages and Erasmus societies as well as playing tennis, badminton and 5-a-side football on the side. It’s this emphasis on inclusion which inspired me to take up running and in April, I’ll be running my second Southampton Half Marathon!

At a Southampton match (supporting Liverpool!) 

On a trip to Winchester Christmas market

Will I be employable after uni?

I may not have a job just yet, but I can state with absolute certainty that my university life has equipped me with a number of enticing life skills for employers, such as teamwork, communication and time management.

I’m not saying that this couldn’t be achieved anywhere else, but Southampton was the perfect fit for me in terms of location, course and hobbies so there’s no reason it won’t be the same for you too!

Thanks for reading and hope you’ll find my advice helpful!