Clubs and societies, Course, Nightlife, The city

A fresh start at University

Half an hour ago, I was sitting outside a café with some of my classmates. I don’t know them that well, but sipping at my overpriced mug of coffee, we were laughing and it felt as if I could have known them for years. All my fears of not making new friends had totally evaporated.

I didn’t always want to go to University, yet it is not my first time at the University of Portsmouth. Two years ago, straight out of college, I had come here without a purpose. This year, I decided to return, to start afresh.

You see, the history and culture of North and South America is something I have never taken any interest in. It was precisely because of this that I choose the course. I’m taking American Studies.  I just wanted to learn something new! When I met the lecturers at the open-day in March, I knew I would be in safe hands. My lecturers are really passionate about their subjects and I feel I can approach them about anything. I have been particularly impressed with Park Building, which is the hub for all my classes. Like a grandfather clock, the building feels old, prestigious and yet reassuring. That’s not to say it’s out if date! It has computer suites, a café, TVs for free use, a selection of videos and DVDs to watch or borrow and quiet areas for studying. Everything I need is right here. The great diversity of people in the School of Languages and Area Studies (SLAS) is something I admire. So many different types of people, speaking different languages and wearing different clothes – I find this diversity fascinating, comforting even. In such variety, how could I feel out of place?

Like everyone, I was apprehensive during my first few days, especially as I was now twenty years old. I already felt like an old man! Yet I have met many other students who have taken gap years or changed courses like me, so I don’t feel out of place at all. I have learned you are never too old to attend University.

During Fresher’s Week, I mashed the proverbial butterflies in my stomach into a pulp and joined the ASS. Before you get any ideas, I should tell you that it stands for the American Studies Society. We’ve already been to see ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ at the New Theatre Royal and had some drinks out. The members are really friendly, and I soon felt like one of the group.  I’ve also registered with the IWLP and am taking beginner’s Japanese. It’s not often that you get the chance to study a language so different to our own, and I am thoroughly enjoying it!

University really is a good place to be, but you have to put in the effort and make the most of it. If you don’t put in the effort to study, you won’t get the most out of your lectures, and if you don’t venture outside your comfort zone, you won’t meet new people and have new experiences. Take every opportunity, that’s what I’d say! Of course, there’s plenty of work to be done, although I’m actually very pleased with that. I didn’t want it to be easy. Every day I’m learning something new and challenging my perceptions of the Americas. More importantly, I’m challenging myself. The truth is, University’s not only about improving your knowledge – it’s more about improving yourself.

And I can already feel my confidence growing.

Course, The city, Travels

I actually missed university over the summer

I’ve never thought I’d say this, but I actually missed university over the summer. What I didn’t realise was that this year wouldn’t be as easy going as the previous one.

As a second year student, I no longer have a “privilege” of living in student halls, so with a reasonable amount of time in advance my friends and I got a lovely three-bedroom house in Fratton. Moving in went smoothly. Settling in wasn’t that big of a deal this time; after all, we’ve all done that before. What I found the hardest about the new situation was something that was really just a formality – sorting out the bills. Seems easy, right? Well, it wasn’t. Not for me anyway. I’ve never really overcome my fear of phone conversations and I found overtaking of the bills quite stressful. But I’ve finally pulled myself together and made the phone call. In the end, it turned out to be not that big of a deal. So what was left for me to do before university officially started was to decorate my room to make it feel as homely as possible. Four weeks into the semester – I’m still in the process. All that’s missing is a few posters that are already on my watch list on Ebay.

Four weeks into the semester. I still can’t believe how quickly the time is going. The first week of lectures was okay; they were mainly introductory lectures. It was the second week that I started hating my new timetable. With four days of lectures, three of these have a 9am start! What I really can’t get over is statistics lecture first thing on a Monday morning… What keeps me going is the thought that in eight weeks we will break up for Christmas, and when we get back in the New Year, the timetable will change.

But, of course, university isn’t just about lectures. Last year I became interested in a few societies after attending the Fresher’s Fayre, yet I haven’t joined any of them. It was only before Christmas that I’ve finally committed myself to one – Film & Photo Society. But to be honest, the only reason I joined was the opportunity of going on a Venice trip over the Easter holidays. I attended a couple of compulsory meetings for the people going on the trip, but that was about it. Venice was absolutely amazing! I had a really good time and I’ve met a lot of lovely people from the society. Yet I couldn’t help but feel slightly awkward around them because they all knew each other before the trip. At that point I promised myself to get more involved. That’s how I became the new Social Secretary for the Film & Photo Society for the new academic year.

What came with the position were new duties. One of them was attending the Fresher’s Fayre. As much as I loved strolling between the stalls and crowds of people in my first year, I loved being on “the other side” even more! I had a lot of fun talking to all the new people, advertising the society and sharing interests at the same time. It was a great experience which I would recommend to anybody, but it also involved a lot of hard work, starting with putting the stall together, through printing fliers and banner, ending on the actual promotion. By the end of the two days I could hardly speak… Another thing was running the society. I never realised how hard that could be! Organising the meetings, events, trips, tutorials and socials; trying to arrange them on the calendar… That took us two whole days. But there’s nothing more gratifying than all the positive feedback we get from our members.

What’s coming over the next few weeks is filling my time with gym sessions, job hunting and, what’s most important for me right now, “relevant” work experience – opportunities of which I am still looking into! Second year is going to be much busier than the first. After all, this is the time where the real student life begins; time, where everything starts to count.

Clubs and societies, Course, Nightlife, The city

As summer came to an end

As summer came to an end and I cycled into university on my shiny new bike that I bought as soon as I got back to Portsmouth (after living in the Langstone Student Village for a year, I longed not to rely on buses anymore), I remembered why I fell in love with this city in the first place. I returned to Portsmouth ready to embark on my second year of University, preparing myself for the somewhat daunting, but exciting, times ahead. Last year I was determined to make the most of my Fresher year at university and, if I’m honest, I spent a lot more time on Guildhall Walk than I did in the library, but now it’s time to knuckle down and work hard. It’s important not to stress out though and to have a break from time to time, so I’m sure I’ll go on plenty more nights out, just as soon as I’ve finished my essays!

As I moved into my new house in Southsea with some of the great friends I made last year, all of a sudden I felt very grown up. There’s rent to pay, bills to sort and the mysterious problem that took a month to solve: what day is the rubbish actually collected? (I’m not sure we even really know, still!)

Freshers’ Fortnight was a bit manic for me as I am now on the committee for the UPSU Rock Society and Freshers’ Fayre is a lot more stressful when you are busy recruiting new members. It was still great fun though and even though I didn’t manage to nab a free slice of pizza, I did manage to fit in a cheeky snakebite or two. Everything went extremely well for us and on the following Monday we had our first social. The turnout was amazing and I know we felt extremely proud that all the hard work we’d put in over the past few weeks had really paid off. I wanted to sign up to write for Pugwash News but I realised that at the moment I just couldn’t find the spare time to put as much effort into it as I’d like to. I’m definitely going to get involved next year though! I really do think it’s important to try new things at uni as the Union offers so many sports, activities and societies and it’s so easy to get involved.

Also, a couple of weeks ago I managed to get down to a gig at the Wedgewood Rooms and it was amazing. Another reason Portsmouth is a great place to live is the diverse music and club scene. Gunwharf Quays and Guildhall Walk have nights playing all sorts of music from chart to dance to rock and indie, and The Registry has a great reputation for its dubstep nights. If you want to venture even further afield you can pop down to Albert Road where there are often local bands playing and occasionally, like White Lies and The Vaccines this month, big names playing small DJ sets. There literally is something for everyone and, as someone who would quite happily go to a rock night on a Monday and a dubstep night on a Friday, I couldn’t ask for more from the Portsmouth scene.

When the weather was at its best, my friends and I all rushed down to Southsea Common and spent a lovely day there enjoying the sun. I wish we had taken a barbecue but dinner at the pub was a good replacement. Coming from the middle of the country, I still get excited about living by the sea.

In terms of my course, the workload is coming on thick and fast. I study English Literature so I have to read at least three novels a week and at times it can get tough. It’s so important to try and stay focused but I learned last year that, if all else fails, a rainy Sunday spent in the library two days before the deadline is due might be your only hope! I’m really enjoying my course though and that always helps when it comes to doing the work.

For now, I am looking forward to the rest of my year here. You’ll find me with my nose in a book, frantically typing up essays in the library, chilling at the Union, or looking windswept and, er, interesting as I cycle to and from the University Quarter.  Enjoy your year!