Thursday, 26 May 2016

Student travel: deciding where to go

As Alexandra pointed out in her recent blog post, exams are very nearly over. True, I’ve been sat here twiddling my thumbs for almost a week already, but now more and more students are crossing over into the realms of freedom, and a whole lot of you are probably wondering what to do next.

I mentioned a while back that a favourite among students when it comes to the monumentally huge summer break is to spend some time travelling.

This isn’t even exclusive to third-year graduates either; the summer is big enough to cover lots of new ground, even if you’re planning on heading back down here to Southampton in September.

If you’re like me, and libraries and textbooks have very much taken over your life as of late, a change of scenery is usually a pretty exciting idea. The only question that remains from here is ‘Where?’

It seems almost a silly question, but believe it or not, the world is pretty darn enormous, and thanks to this little thing called globalisation more recently, travelling to some of the more far-out destinations isn’t quite as difficult as you might think. Almost anything is on the cards; this is one of the only times in your life that you’re likely to have the freedom to completely up-sticks and wander the globe, so why not use it?

If the world is quite literally your oyster, how do you narrow it down enough to actually pull together a manageable trip? Sure, we’d all love to go everywhere, but time and money don’t usually prevail in the way we’d like them to.

Here are some things to consider when planning your trip:

With any luck, I’ll hopefully be finding myself back here in sunny Vancouver come the summer!


Like I’ve already said, this is likely to be one of the only times in your life you will have the ability to spread your wings and go where you want to go. Ask yourself: where is the one place on Earth that I’ve always wanted to travel to?

It might be Japan, it might be Peru, it might be Africa; everyone is different. Try not to fall into the same old student cycle of simply just going to the most popular destinations. True, a lot of students do go to Australia and Thailand, but that doesn’t mean that you have to if you’re interested in going somewhere else. Be creative and surprise yourself!


This doesn’t just mean the people you’re travelling with (although it’s always a good idea to at least have a partner along for the ride!). Think about people you may know in other countries, and if you might be able to stay with them. It’ll cut the budget in half and the chances are you’ll form a great new/reignited friendship out of it too.

When I sat down to plan something for the summer, I started plotting the family I’m in touch with in the US and Canada and found a way to connect between four different cities. It might just be couch-surfing, but it’ll certainly give me a more authentic and a significantly cheaper travelling experience overall!


Sadly this ends up being the be-all and end-all of most trips. New Zealand might sound like a blast but the flights will likely set you back an entire year’s worth of rent, and the same goes for quite a few places. Have an idea in your head of how much money you’re able to spend/fundraise, and try to craft your trip realistically around that.

Some countries will be cheaper than others in terms of living costs (food etc.), but remember to factor in the money you might lose in exchange fees on currency or on tourist VISA applications.

Depending on what happens in next month’s referendum, Europe is a (potentially) cheap and beautiful alternative to world travel - Amsterdam is definitely worth a visit!

Still, with a decent amount of planning, you could find yourself living it up in an entirely different part of the world in a few months - certainly an exciting prospect if you’re still chained to a desk with deadlines looming.

Adventure calls!


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Students' opinions on the EU Referendum

Europe has accomplished a lot since World War II. Compared to most of the world, Europe has a wealthy social security structure, a sophisticated banking system, and democratically elected governments. But anti-establishment sentiments are rising and the EU is fast becoming the point of blame.

As someone who is about to graduate, the EU Referendum on the June 23 will make a huge impact on my life, whether Britain stays in the EU or not.

This blog post will include my own opinions on why I am against Brexit. I have also included a fellow student’s reasons for why they are for Brexit.

This picture was taken during our Politics and International Relations field trip to EU institution in Belgium. I wrote a blog post about the visit which was an unforgettable experience for me.

My case against Brexit


Eurosceptics in the United Kingdom argue that the EU offers little market access for a good deal of red tape; that bureaucracy supersedes efficiency gains brought about by access to the single market. But we must always keep in mind that the EU has no tariffs and quotas on internal trade. Common rules have reduced trade costs. In fact, contrary to Eurosceptic beliefs, the OECD shows the UK as the least regulated in terms of products and labour. The costliest regulations in the country are on land use planning which is a sovereign decision. The one country we export to the most may be the US but when you look at the bigger picture, countries within the EU has our biggest market for trade.

We sold £200.4bn of exports to Eurozone countries in 2014, which was 39% of all the goods and services it sold abroad that year! Even the US, India, China and many other states have said we must not expect special treatment if we leave.

This makes sense: why would China put Britain, with 64 million people, at the top of the trading queue against the EU which has a market of 500 million people? It is true that EU bureaucracy is not perfect, but the certain amount of red-tape exists to preserve the rule of law. Nobody said good rule-making is always fast. Sometimes incremental policy-making is the best and most equal way to reach a consensus.

Then there is the crucial difference between power and sovereignty. Eurosceptics often equate sovereignty with more power. The truth is, you can have all the sovereignty in the world but this does not necessarily make you a powerful nation in the international community. North Korea has all the sovereignty it wants, for example. Gaining leverage in an interdependent global economy requires sacrifices… or investments. Whichever way you look at it, it requires cooperation.

The EU is a visible symbol of such a cooperation in Europe. However, it has been argued that the EU is illegitimate because the unelected Commission makes all of the decisions. This is untrue. The EU Council comprises of our own elected heads of state, who ultimately define decision making.

I am not arguing for a federal Europe with the Commission as the sole decision-maker. It needs to keep its role as agenda-setter and the Council needs to keep its role as having the last say. What needs to change is that more power must be given to local governance. Another Europe is possible, but running away from the problem is not the solution.

The University's EU Symposium

The University's Politics and International Relations department (PAIR) recently organised an EU symposium of speakers. Two MEPs who have worked in Brussels for a while gave their opinions on the EU as a whole. This was massively useful for students studying the EU and for those interested in the topic.

 Here we are with Catherine Bearder MEP at the Symposium

This is a video of the other speaker of the evening, Richard Ashworth MEP. 
We met Richard during our Brussels field trip. [Courtesy of C2G2Soton]

Here is Catherine Bearder, MEP’s case.

The case for Brexit


My coursemate, Stephen, has kindly agreed to give me an account of his side of the argument for this blog. Here is what he has to say:

“The often unrepresented argument in the Brexit camp is one of democracy. We hear time and again arguments for and against the economic and trade aspects of the European Union; however, its effect on national democracy, as well as its own internal shortcomings is somewhat overlooked. What this type of arguments essentially comes down to is one of values. Effective democracy requires both representative and accountable inputs and outputs.

However, in the case of the European Union such assurances are absent. Laws are proposed and initiated by an unelected commission, and although the European Parliament has the power to propose amendments to such legislation, a similar mode of governance would meet legitimate opposition if implemented within the UK. The UK is also on the losing side of votes more times than any other EU government between 2009-2015. A mandate that is legitimised on the basis of consent is fundamental to the democratic process.

With regards to outputs, laws are extremely difficult to overturn at the European level and cannot be repealed through the democratic process. Is it right to assume that so long as legislation does not negatively affect us, that this process is worth perpetuating?

The ability to decide our future through the ballot box is invariably restricted through the European Union. With many countries making their way in the world, (the vast majority lacking the global standing that the UK possesses), we need to seriously ask ourselves whether the surrender of national sovereignty that is contingent to EU membership is worth the perceived economic benefits, or is our democracy held at ransom by the apparent benefit the EU provides?”

Meeting the Head of the Commission Representation in London, Jackie Minor, who gave a neutral talk about the EC Representation's engagement with the UK government and the potential Brexit models.

The University recently organised a debate on Europe with some prominent politicians and our very own students letting us know their views. Luckily for those who couldn’t attend, a recording of the debate is available - see the video above! [Courtesy of SUSUtv]

I’ve tried to keep this post as short and as straight to the point as I can, but there is so much information out there.

If there is one thing that I want this blog post to do today, it is to encourage you to take some time to inform yourself about the debate and to register to vote next month.

Whether you’re a student or not, what happens in the polling stations this June will affect your job, local community, university life in more ways than one.

Don’t let your say go to waste!


Monday, 23 May 2016

The EU Referendum: please stop comparing the UK to Norway

Earlier this month I did a blog post on why it’s important to vote and now as exams (believe it or not) are coming to an end soon, we are also approaching June.

I know the news is filled with information about the EU Referendum, and understandably it’s hard to keep up to date with everything. However, in June, after exams, hopefully most people are going to vote.

Having correct information is so crucial. I would like to elaborate a little on one particular argument.

Here is my personal opinion on the EU Referendum in relation to Norway, my home country.

As an international student here in Southampton, coming from a country which is not a part of the EU, it strikes me where all this “EU-hate” is coming from. One of the worst arguments I hear or read is that the UK should be like Norway when it comes to the EU.

Making such an argument only makes it clear to me that people only read mainstream media and don’t make an effort to understand how the EU works and lacks basic knowledge about Norway and the EU. Yes, Norway voted no twice in the referendum about joining the EU, but did join the EEA, which gives Norway access to the EU-market.

The EU-market is to this date Norway’s most important trade partner and it is impossible to imagine the Norwegian economy without access to this market. However, we pay somewhere between 70-90% of what an actual membership would have cost. Roughly 80% of Norwegian laws that are implemented come from the EU. Laws Norway has to accept without having any voice to yield its possible dissatisfaction. This includes respecting and following the basic four freedoms of the EU.
In other words, Norway too has open borders for EU-citizens which, from what I read online, seems to be a major issue for some Britons.

However, we are also dependent on foreign labour force to make our economy go around and we enjoy the benefits given to us through the EU; like Erasmus for example, which enables Norwegian students to come to the UK for a semester.

We travel, study, live and work abroad in the EU and we have EU-citizens coming to Norway doing the same – all of this without the need for a visa.

It’s a common misconception that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU. Stop blindly believing mainstream media – the media focuses on news that sells. I too believe the EU is in need of reform, but the best way to get reform is to be on the inside, not the outside.

Whilst on the topic of Norway, I just got back from my beautiful city, Oslo – last night, so I can’t not add a picture. This one is from the Opera house.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Sir Mike Rake talking about the UK and the EU at his recent Distinguished Lecture. One of the many very interesting things he said was that we have to stop blaming the EU for everything that is wrong today, as most of the time it is not due to the EU.

As I also mentioned in my blogpost about voting, there have been several talks on campus about the referendum and I have yet to hear anyone say that the Norway-deal is better than what the UK has now.

Before you vote, I hope you have done some proper reading and research into the consequences of  Brexit and please, don’t say that the UK should be like Norway because it is not as glamorous as it seems.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Preparing for summer: CV tips, internships and holidays

At the moment all I can think about is exams and coursework, so in an effort to use this blog as a distraction from all that I thought I would write about something that we are all looking forward to; summer!

For those of us doing Masters Degrees, summer isn’t really the same because we don’t hand in our thesis until September. This means that the break isn’t really a break from work at all!

However, we still get to take time off and one of my favourite pastimes at the moment is booking this summer’s holiday to Italy with my partner. We are going to fly into Milan and then spend a week visiting Venice, Florence and then Rome before flying back to the UK.

I have spent absolutely hours looking at different websites trying to find the best value accommodation, which is no easy task given how popular these places are as tourist destinations! I have managed to find some gems by using AirBnB and looking at hostels on the outskirts of the cities close to the trains which means that you save a lot of money but only have to travel for ten minutes or so to be in the city centre, which I think is a worthy trade off!

After this little roam around Italy I’m heading to Alderney for eight weeks to work for the Chief Executive of Alderney council. If you haven’t heard of Alderney don’t worry, I hadn’t either before this opportunity presented itself! It’s a tiny island (population around 2,400) just off the north coast of France and you can only get there by plane from Southampton, rather conveniently for me.

I honestly don’t really know what to expect when I get there; they haven’t had an intern before but there is the promise of some really very interesting work to be getting on with so I’m pretty excited.

Summer internships are crucial for future jobs and if you haven’t managed to find one already, keep looking. The University hires hundreds of interns over the summer to work on various projects, and your personal tutor is worth talking to because they might know of something interesting that’s become available, or even have some work for you to do themselves!

As well as all this I am also preparing to start working for the Office for National Statistics in October. It seems crazy because I applied way back in November of last year and have only recently been offered the job and assigned a start date. Having a job sorted for when I finish everything is rather wonderful because it takes a lot of the stress out of summer.

However, if you are only just starting to look around, here are some useful tips:

1. Discuss your CV with your personal tutor before you finish university for good!

2. Apply to as many jobs as you can find, even if you don’t have all the required experience. Filling in applications is great practice as many employers now provide feedback on your application.

3. Phone up the person in charge of hiring new recruits and ask them for more information about what they are looking for. Sometimes web descriptions of job postings can be irritatingly vague and speaking to someone about what they want can be really helpful, and can help you decide whether it is something you want to do.

4. Sign up to LinkedIn. While there are discussions about whether or not it is beneficial, it’s free and can’t hurt. Plus it’s essentially an online CV which can be helpful when filling in job applications because you can just copy and paste sections from it!

Plus filling in the profile is a nice way to distract yourself for an hour

My best advice is to do something awesome over summer because, particularly for us postgrads, it’s probably the last chance to have a few totally relaxed weeks without having to worry about work for the rest of our lives – which is a pretty terrifying thought!

Cake – because it’s the only thing keeping me going right now!

Good luck to everyone still working on their exams. Don’t panic because it will all be over soon!


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

On finishing academia - forever

A few days ago I finished the final paragraph of the final essay of my final year here at the University of Southampton.

After a few touch-ups to the referencing, I logged on to e-assignments (the electronic essay submissions system we use here) for the last time and submitted it, essentially ending my degree.

What came next was a whole cocktail of emotions. I mean, it’s not really officially over until July, when I get to wear a funny hat, collect a rolled-up piece of paper and actually graduate; but from now on, there’s no more work left. Everything that I needed to do in order to make sure that I was allowed to pick up that rolled-up piece of paper is now done.

Obviously, it feels like a gigantic weight has been lifted: I have a degree, all my hard work paid off - I made it through to the end. But then again, I am still left with that slightly deflating “…now what?”. I’m reminded of the most fulfilling experiences during my academic career, both those which I mentioned a few blog posts back, and more recently.

Just last week the Film Festival swept up another accolade - an EVA (Excellence in Volunteering Award), but now suddenly there is very little left to keep me occupied.

So, may I present to you dear reader, a little list of things to keep the brain active during such a time. You might not have finished completely, but rounding off any academic year usually ends up leaving a great deal of blank space behind, so here are some ways to stay motivated.

Use All Your Time

Okay, this first one may seem like a bit of a step backward: the last thing you want to be doing when you finally finish work is to go back and do it all over again. However, in reality, when it comes to something as substantial as this, you really should use all of the time made available to you.

Unless you have some sort of pressing reason to submit your essay ridiculously early, why not use the time to relax a little more and make sure you’ve squeezed your brain entirely dry of ideas? Especially if you simply just plan on transitioning into very little, those extra few days might mean the difference between a lower grade and a higher one.

It’s the final push - you might as well give it all you’ve got!

Make Stable Plans

The deadline has finally past and you’re well and truly done - great! Now what?

Suddenly the world is your oyster. All those long nights cooped up in Hartley Library have finally paid off and now you’re totally free to do whatever you want. The only problem is, there’s almost too much choice.

Going from a very rigidly structured work day to nothing at all can seem insanely jarring for a lot of people, so why not put some solid plans in your diary early on to help steer your freedom? It might be that trip you’ve always wanted to take or that friend you’ve never visited. It could even be something as basic as just going to the cinema. With the plans in place, not only will you definitely get to do everything you’ve been wanting to do the whole way through your work, but you’ll also start to fill your time productively.

Lazing around can be a lot of fun, but it certainly saps your energy levels too. If you don’t start making plans, you might start to see your entire summer gradually fade away before you actually get the chance to fully enjoy it! Which reminds me…

 Pressing that final submit button was certainly very satisfying.

Enjoy Yourself!

True, the points I’ve already mentioned are there to help you maximise your productivity, even when you have little structure. What’s most important of all, though, is that you enjoy yourself. If these ideas don’t work for you, feel totally free to ignore them. You’ve worked insanely hard to get to this point, and you should be allowed to do whatever you so please as a reward.

Eventually, you’re going to have to start fumbling around with jobs, so now’s the time to get some much-needed rest. That might come in the form of making plans and doing things, but it also might end up with you still in bed at lunch time playing Grand Theft Auto in your pyjamas.

The trick is to just take that one thing that you always wanted to be doing whilst you were slaving away over essays, and totally embrace it.

I’ll be honest though, as freeing as it was submitting that final assignment, leaving the University’s Film department has been tough. I wish them all the best for the future, and can’t wait to see them continue to top the League Tables in Film Studies for a good while yet.

Education may be somewhat over, but life still continues.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Out and about

It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that Southampton is quite small. Have you ever looked at a map of Southampton and thought it looks a lot bigger than it feels? I have, many times. In my head Southampton is everything between Bassett and Ocean Village, extending as far as Shirley to Swaythling – everything else, I never really used think about as Southampton.

Last weekend, I got to experience a bit more of Southampton; Romsey. I also got to see more of Portsmouth, which isn’t far away.

As I have mentioned before, you can go so many places around Southampton, (the New Forest, Bournemouth, Salisbury, Poole and Portsmouth for example). However, you don’t even need to go that far! Romsey is about a 20 minute drive from the city, but easily reachable without a car by train.

It is a cute little ‘town’ and to my understanding still a part of Southampton. We went to Romsey World of Water, which is actually a supplier for aquatic stuff like fountains. I doubt any students are going to put a fountain in their garden, but apart from that they have a lovely cafĂ© there and everything from coral reefs to turtles that you can purchase. They also have a massive pond with lots of fish in it and the possibility of buying fish food for a pound, so you can feed them. We went on a very sunny Sunday, so perfect weather for a day out.

My boyfriend, James and I tried to feed the fish, but in the end we gave the fish food to the ducks.

Exam motivation right there - I want one of these in my future garden.

Last weekend also took me down to Portsmouth. We spent most of the day at Gunwharf Quays, which is an outlet shopping city where you can make a good bargain on items which I’m assuming most students can’t usually afford. To be honest, you don’t really need to buy anything, because there are several places you can sit down by the ocean and have a meal or a pint!

It was quite busy there on a Saturday as one would expect, but since you walk outside it was still pleasant.

Portsmouth is also reachable by train from Southampton Central station, tickets are often cheap and the journey is usually not more than thirty minutes.

Along the promenade at Gunwharf Quays

Let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions of local places I can explore!


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

How to survive an all-nighter (if you have to!)

Okay, so this post is not at all endorsement of ‘all-nighters’. Everyone knows how important sleep is for your concentration and memory. If you’re revising, the only way you can retain information is through your sleep cycle.

However, even the most organised student has to go through staying up late or, even not sleeping at all. Maybe this is because they have not anticipated that that one essay was going to take so long. Perhaps they have forgotten that they had an assignment due the next day in the midst of other coursework and exam prep.

Either way, all-nighters are almost like a rite of passage for students!

In this blog post, I compile a list of 10 student approved* hacks to getting in those extra hours of work especially now that exam season has dawned.

…if a picture had to summarise my exam season, this would be it.

1. Stay clean – shower or splash some water on your face

This is one of the easiest ways to maintain your productivity level. Showering offers a few moments of peace away from your notes. Additionally, it’s the best time to mull over your ideas. Research has shown that when you feel clean, you feel renewed making you more productive.

2. Caffeine is your friend …but vitamin supplements may be your BEST friend

Caffeine and energy drinks are effective in keeping you up and improving focus. However, it is best to make sure to only drink these later on at night. Drinking throughout the day actually reduces their effectiveness. You’re better off keeping yourself awake around the 9pm mark by getting fresh air or going for a quick shower than finishing off a can of energy drink.

On the other hand, taking vitamins won’t offset an unhealthy lifestyle (…such as frequently pulling all-nighters) but you can’t really go wrong by adding antioxidants into your body. Vitamins B is best for memory retention and can be naturally sourced from green veggies such as spinach, broccoli and fruits such as oranges.

3. Turn your break into a gym session

It’s 3pm and you’re already getting lethargic from that sandwich you had for lunch. You need a nap. Well why not shoot two birds with one stone by dropping by at the gym for a half hour session? The Jubilee Sports Centre on Highfield Campus is open until 10pm. Even non-members of the gym can join in selected activities such as swimming, ball sports and fitness classes by paying a one off fee. Did someone say Zumba?!

4. Eat protein, not carbs

Sure, your body needs to release energy throughout the night and although carbs are the most obvious source of this, too much of it can actually make you sleepy. Carbs store energy for later but can even make you sleepier in the short term. Go for protein instead.

5. Don’t get too comfortable

The summer weather is upon us, finally. However, this means that everywhere we go it’s going to be warm and cosy and, simply, fantastic! But not if you want to finish off that Biology report for the next morning.

If you’re working from home, try not to do your work in bed whilst you’re snuggled up to the duvet. You’ll most likely end up snoozing off by the time the birds start chirping outside. On the other hand, now is the time to turn your heating off and open wide those windows to let the cool spring air in! If you’re working on campus, many of the University’s buildings are air-conditioned such as Level 5 in the Hartley Library. Cool off and keep concentrating.

6. Set half an hour goals …and reward yourself once you reach them

Study smarter by giving yourself an incentive to perform your best. Of course, aside from the overall reward of competing that assignment or mastering that equation, the prospect of a chocolate bar or some fresh air can make you word more efficiently.

Why not treat yourself to some karaoke this Friday night? After all, you do deserve a break!

7. Drink water

Staying hydrated can help you stay awake by keeping your body feel refreshed. At the same time, it will keep you from dozing off by making you visit the bathroom more often.

8. Chew gum

Ultimately, the key hack to staying up all night is making sure that you stimulate your senses at all times. I find that keeping my mouth busy by chewing some gum keeps me alert.

9. Get a study buddy

Study buddies can help develop understanding, learning and confidence. Have you ever explained a concept to a friend and thought to yourself  'wow, I didn’t realise I knew that much!' If you don’t understand a concept, asking someone for help not only boosts your confidence in knowing that you have someone on your side but asking, in general, is a big part of having a growth mind-set.
Besides, at the 3am mark, it helps to have someone poking you from sleep.

10. The best tip of all: start early and stop procrastinating so you simply just don’t have to do it!

Here are just some of my tips for when I’m in desperate need for more time to work. The point of this blog is give you some help. It is definitely not to encourage you to stay up all night in a desperate attempt to get that paper in the next day. It’s not healthy at all.

But, we’re students and, like I said, sometimes, these situations are just something that we have to go through.

If you have any tips on hacking all-nighters, why not comment below? Good-luck with exams and coursework!


*…self-approved by the author through past experience…