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.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

My summer holiday so far

I’m not sure where the time goes, but after thinking I’ve been off university for one month, I just realised I’ve actually been off university for two months! So far it has been filled up with many new and fun memories that I thought I’d share.

For anyone who reads this blog regularly, you might remember that I started off by going home to Norway for a couple of days with the boyfriend.

However, with almost a month left of my tenancy I didn’t see the point in staying in Norway whilst still paying for my house in England.

So back to Southampton I went, where I got to experience the one and only Craig David at the Common People festival, which I’ve already written a post on.

I also went to Marwell Zoo for some exploring. Who said the zoo was only for children? It is most definitely not! If you fancy meeting some lions, cheetahs, zebras or monkeys this is where you should go. Marwell Zoo is not far from Southampton at all, and there are bus connections, but again it’s probably easiest to reach by car.

My boyfriend James and I decided to put our relationship to the real test and go bowling in Millbrook. I forget from time to time how fun bowling actually is and this is a great option instead of going out during the weekend. As far as I know you can go bowling in Millbrook and Eastleigh in Southampton. I lost, but I’ll be back to restore my honour!

We also went on two short day trips to Hythe and Muddiford – both very nice, although it’s a lot easier reaching Hythe with the ferry rather than driving. Unfortunately, I was sloppy and didn’t take any good pictures from either of the places. But I guess that just means I have to go back again soon, which I don’t mind at all!

After a great month of adventures it was time for me to go back home to Norway and although the places I’ve been to since then are a lot less reachable than the previously mentioned, I think they are worth mentioning.

I’ve recently been on a little road trip in Norway with my dad. If you’ve seen Norway on a map you’d know it’s quite a big country and there are still loads of places I haven’t seen. We drove the Atlantic Ocean Road and ticked off some small cities I haven’t seen before along with the beautiful fjords which I never get tired of seeing. If you’re interested, there are actually cruises going from Southampton to Norway. I haven’t been on them, but at least I know the destination is beautiful!

Right after I got back from the road trip I went to Romania where I’m currently blogging from. I can’t really say it has been proper summer weather in Norway or England, but at least here it is sunny and about 30 degrees every day. I’m not complaining about the heat just yet.

Happy summer!


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Summer in Southampton: Tudor houses and zebras on the loose

Today was the first time I had ever stepped foot in Old Town, a part of Southampton City with a treasure trove of history. My family are visiting me for a few days for my graduation so I did some research on activities they could enjoy whilst at the same time allow me to learn more about the city itself.

Despite having lived here for three years, I was surprised at the new historical knowledge I learned about my new home! Who knew there was more to know!

Tudor House and Garden

First up was the Tudor House, one of Southampton’s most significant historic buildings. It alone encompasses over 800 years of history in one site.

The Tudor House in the sunniest city in the UK. I felt like I was holidaying in the south of France with that cerulean blue sky. 

Uneven floors, steep steps and low ceilings were kept in their original state to preserve authenticity.

Much history has been uncovered about the Tudor house over the years. It was built in 1492 and has been home to a prominent Tudor lawyer, an artist, and a Victorian bonnet-maker. Interestingly, the house has been deemed by many as haunted because of alleged eerie noises and shapes that can be felt during the night. It is worth noting that the house is built on the site of earlier medieval properties.

Ready for a night out in town… in a classic Tudor dress

A Tudor kitchen

Looks like a boring old wall with scratches right? These marks actually date back to about 1570 and 1620 and show caricatures of people, ships, animals and more. The house was owned by ship-owners at some point so these are likely etched in by sailors.

A real air-raid shelter in the cellars of the house where a family took refuge in during WWII. This was a wine cellar during the Tudor times.

King John’s Palace. Built as part of King Edward III’s efforts to strengthen the town’s defences against the French in the 1300s. Over time, it has been formed as part of the Tudor House structure.

Bugle Street: the view from the window in the 1800s


Bugle Street: the view from the window today

Zany Zebras

Next stop was the Zany Zebra trail. Brought to the city by local Marwell Zoo, this interactive and free art trail aims to raise the profile of Grevy’s zebras and the conservation that the zoo carries out. Marwell Zoo’s hope is to inspire the generations to come to take an active interest in wildlife conservation. Overall, there are 150 sculptures scattered throughout the city, some are big and some small. The University of Southampton even has a zebra in the city! Here are those that we came across on our day out…

A Zany Zebra outside the Tudor House

A little one inside the house called ‘Zippy’

Outside the Holyrood Church ruins. It was originally destroyed by the 1940s blitz which heavily damaged the city. Its shell was subsequently dedicated to the Merchant Navy sailors who sacrificed their lives during the war

Outside the O2 Guildhall where many bands such as the Foo Fighters have played in recent times

My mum posing with this artistic nod to one of the biggest names in music 

After traversing through the city, it was high time for some lunch! It took us no longer than a lovely five-minute stroll to get to Old Town to the modern areas of West Quay and the Marlands. Two shopping centres at the centre of Southampton which when combined together has around 200 shops!

Lunch with a view of the docks. The Harmony of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship, set sail from here on her maiden voyage.

Our day was simply amazing. Until now, I never really had a fuller grasp of the rich and vast history Southampton really has. The stories displayed in the Tudor house has given me a glimpse of the city, its people and the wider world throughout the years. On the other hand, the Zany Zebra trail was a brilliant interactive activity for the whole family which my five-year-old brother certainly enjoyed. It didn’t hurt to have the shops and restaurants close by either.

If you’re about to join the University of Southampton in the next academic year or plan to stay in the city during the summer, don’t hesitate to do a little research on what else you can get up to.

Southampton certainly has plenty of shops for you to choose from but there is more to it than meets the eye.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Books to read over the summer

July is not only high season for university Open Days, like I mentioned in my last blog post. July is also high season for a proper Summer Holiday.

Most undergraduates finish exams at the latest in June and none of us are back at university until September. This means that July and August are months for appreciating the freedom of not having any assignments due or required reading.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t use the Summer Holiday to be productive. There’s definitely more than one way of being productive over the summer, but one thing I will do is read – a lot.

The thing about being a university student is that we read a lot – all the time, and at some point I stopped reading books I chose and read course books nonstop. Through university and my course I read a lot of deeply interesting pieces, but I can’t remember the last time I picked a book myself (during term time) started reading it and actually finished it. Therefore, there is no better time than right now to read some good books, which I’m sure will be very relevant for my course as well.

I’m going to share my top picks that I have read or I’m planning to read before my third year begins in September. It’s a little mix between academic and fiction!

Inequality and the 1% by Danny Dorling

This is a book I have already read and enjoyed so much I think I spent three days reading it. Danny Dorling asks whether we “can afford the superrich?”. I’ve always been aware of inequality, but it is through this book I have really understood just how much it affects us. I’ll admit that I read this book last summer, but it is still as relevant as ever. When Danny Dorling actually came to the University of Southampton earlier this year to hold a lecture on inequality, I was quick to book my place. This book has been relevant to not only the economics and statistics courses I have done, but also my politics ones.

Intelligent Governance For the 21st Century – A Middle Way Between West and East by Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardles

This is the book I’m currently reading, and so far it is very interesting. Don’t let the very academic title fool you; it is a very interesting read if you are interested in China and Chinese governance. Personally, my excitement for China and Chinese politics came after I did a module on Chinese Politics last semester. If you are doing a Politics or Humanities-related course and have the chance to chose Chinese Politics in your second or third year with Dr. Monique Chu – DO IT! It’s one of the modules I have enjoyed the most so far at the University.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker

When I finish the book I’m reading now, I’m planning on moving on from academic books to this one - a little break in between all the academic English I read doesn’t hurt. I have the Norwegian translation of the book and I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a book in Norwegian, so this will be a nice change. The book is much as the title implies; a romantic novel. It has sold over one million copies, so I’m counting on this being a good read as well.

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

Okay, I admit it (again); I read this one last summer, but it is worth to mention because it is a beautiful book and, although it is fiction, the setting is very realistic because it’s based on a real-time event; Cyprus during the war with Turkey. Victoria Hislop does not only write a beautiful story, she writes diplomatically about the actual conflict and does not try to shift the blame on either side, which makes you only focus on the actual story she tells. She ends the book by saying; “I wanted to tell a story that showed how the events in Cyprus were a disaster for both communities – and to suggest that the issue of “good” and “evil” is not a matter of ethnicity”, which I think she did brilliantly.

My entertainment for the next weeks.

If you’re still in need for some inspiration on books to read over the summer, you should check out our blog post for the world book day.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Preparing for your graduation day

It’s here! I am finally graduating after three years of studying on the 20th of July 2016!

Graduation is a great time to reflect on how far you’ve come along as a person during your time here at the University of Southampton. I can imagine the day to be exciting – we even had a marriage proposal during one ceremony last year!

Even though graduation symbolises tradition and, some may say, is all about pomp and ceremony, the whole day is not just about the gown nor is it about the hat, and it certainly is not just about the speeches. The day is to signal to your friends, family and yourself that you are in fact moving onto the next stage of your life. Your days as an undergraduate student have ended. Your life as an adult is approaching.

I’m writing this post today as I am in the middle of preparing for the event. The whole preparation experience needn’t be stressful. However, it would make your day go smoothly if you do a few things in plenty of time before the ceremony. You can think of this post as your checklist!

Preparing for the day

Outfit. First thing’s first, you need to get your style on! Luckily, the University has partnered up with a gown hire company, Wippells. Just go to the Graduation website to rent your gown and hat. Measuring yourself is so easy that you can do it yourself. When you’re done, simply enter your measurements and pay. You can pick up your robe and hat before the ceremony from the Union CafĂ© in Building 42.

I’d imagine there to be a lot of standing involved. There will be a reception marquee on the grass outside so the day will involve standing on grass too. So in terms of footwear, I plan on wearing small but smart heels. For me, stilettos are a no go. I’d like to spend my day outside and running around on the grass with my little brother!

Accommodation and Travel. 

I am staying in the city over the summer so I have a place where my family can stay with me for a few days. If you need accommodation for a few days, plenty of students are offering spare rooms over the summer; perhaps ask if any friends can let you stay. However, the city has plenty of hotels and B&Bs if you need to find one.

If you plan to commute down to campus for the day, the University has a Park & Ride service. An all-day ticket of £8 for one vehicle gives you a permit to park Wessex Lane Halls. You also get a Uni-link Bus voucher to enable all occupants of one car to transfer to the Graduation Ceremonies. A bus return journey is included in the price too. You can pay online now or pay the parking attendant on the gate. Alternatively, Southampton has excellent railway links! It’s just over an hour away from London and Southampton Airport Parkway station is only a 10 minute bus ride away from campus.


Now for some information about tickets. The actual ceremony and two complementary tickets to the ceremony are free. In some instances, there may be a few spare tickets on the day which are an extra £10 each on entry to the hall. To find out more on the day, look for your Deputy Halls Manager in a purple robe in the venue about 45 minutes before the ceremony. You’ll have to listen out for your name if a seat becomes available.

However, you are welcome to invite as many friends and family you wish to share in your special day, even if there are no spaces in the ceremony. There are plenty of viewing areas with live ceremony streaming which do not require an entrance ticket. There is even a family marquee outside for little ones. I will have my five-year-old brother coming with my mum and my sister so it helps to have facilities that can accommodate him. I’m sure the little ones would appreciate not having to sit through such a lengthy and formal event.

Your faculty will hold a reception for you after the ceremony. You should have received an email invitation for this so if you haven’t registered, check your emails. The reception is typically free for you and two other guests. Light refreshments, sparkling wine and soft drinks will be provided for all.

On the day.

For a stress-free day, I plan to arrive in plenty of time. Luckily, my ceremony isn’t until 3.30pm which means I even have time to sleep in! The University recommends arriving at least two hours before entry into the hall which starts 45 minutes before the actual ceremony. This should give me enough time to collect my gown and hat from the Union building and leave some time for photographs to be taken.

In addition, you can treat your friends and family for a bite to eat at the numerous food establishments in and around campus. I don’t know about you, but I anticipate the day to be long. The last thing I’d want is for my stomach making noise whilst speeches are going on! Anyway, giving myself some time means I could even show my little brother the ducks on campus.

Don't forget to share your experience on social media too!


After graduation.

Congratulations! The ceremony is over and the tassels have been moved to the left side of the cap! Time for more celebrations with friends and family. The city has plenty of shops, clubs and restaurants for you to enjoy.

However, the perks of being a Southampton student don’t stop after graduation. As a University of Southampton graduate - and therefore a member of the Alumni community! - you are eligible for a 10 per cent discount on tuition fees for postgraduate study at Southampton.

You can also become as lifetime member of the Students' Union, Union Southampton, for a one-off payment of £15. This gives you great student rates such as discounted entry to Union films. You can even get involved in your choice of 300 student-run clubs and societies or volunteer during RAG (Raise and Give). This is perfect for someone like me who wishes to work in Southampton for a while before moving on. Southampton has become my new home and I’m not quite ready to leave it so soon yet!

Good luck and enjoy your graduation!