A few weeks before I was due to start studying at the University of Portsmouth, I drove to the city, which was still completely unknown to me, to get an idea of the housing market and to make my first personal contact with the university. The journey from North Rhine-Westphalia including the ferry crossing from Calais to Dover took about ten hours. But you were greeted with the typical weather for England: rain. The Duke of Buckingham, a pub with guest rooms above, was to serve as a hostel and starting point for tours of the apartment and university for three days. At the reception of the pub, the first contact was made with a local student who immediately wanted to help with the search for apartments on the Internet.
The supply of apartments that can be rented for half a year, is diverse. There are many offers for sociable people where you can rent a room in a shared apartment. In general, the condition of most of the apartments cannot be compared with German standards. The climate gnaws at the building fabric, which is why moisture and mold are widespread, especially in winter. So it’s worth taking a look at the corners. Also, if you are staying in winter, care should be taken to rent an apartment with central heating, as most other apartments only have electric radiators, with running costs of £ 80-100 being not uncommon. You should also ask the landlord what other additional costs will be incurred (gas, water, sewage, heating, electricity, internet, television, etc. ). A suitable apartment could be found quickly on the first day thanks to the realtor, however, the rent for the six months’ stay should be paid in advance (a very questionable method from a legal point of view, but one that seems to be common with many realtors). After paying a deposit of £ 100, the apartment was secured for the time being. The rent should then follow before moving in.
On the second day there was an appointment at the university. After some orientation difficulties, I arrived in the right building and was welcomed in a very friendly manner and accompanied to the right room, where the mentors were already waiting to tinker with the schedule. Since I was almost finished with my studies, the choice of course was only determined by interest, as I had not planned to have the courses credited to me. The range of courses was very diverse and enticed with interesting titles. I decided to take the four courses that appealed to me the most, which was not a problem. I was advised not to take more than four courses, as the load is sufficient, which should turn out to be correct.
Now that my assignments for the three days were checked off, I had more than a day to explore Portsmouth. Since the core of the city is quite small, it made sense to do it on foot. Starting at the new harbor with the Spinnaker Tower, the city’s landmark, I worked my way along the coast towards South Parade Pier. At the harbor there are many nice but quite expensive restaurants as well as an outlet center called Gunwharf Quays with a variety of shops as well as a cinema, bowling alley and other opportunities to spend your free time.
The path along the coast is popular with joggers and walkers, as one has a beautiful view of the sea and the Isle of Wight from there. As long as a storm does not blow everything away, the beach is a pebble beach, but it can still be reasonably comfortable. In January 2014, a storm caused the pebbles in part of the coast to be carried from the beach to the road. So before the excavators had returned and distributed the pebbles, Portsmouth briefly had a new sandy beach to the delight of its residents.
Furthermore, there are quite a few tourist attractions and sights on the coast, but many of them are rather expensive and not very worthwhile. An exception is the Mary-Rose Museum, which opened in 2013 and has attracted many tourists since then. However, the popularity can also have a negative effect if you can barely see the exhibits in front of all the people in the museum. You should therefore make sure to come at times when only a few other visitors are there.
After the coast got boring, I made my way to the city’s student center, Albert Road. This street is home to numerous shops and pubs as well as apartments above and is probably the right address for all those who want to be a little more colorful during their semester abroad. The Albert Road is one of three places where the nightlife Portsmouth’s happening. Next to her are the Guildhall Walk and the starting point of my sightseeing tour, Gunwharf Quays.
From Albert Road it went back to the Duke of Buckingham and finally back to Germany for the time being. A few weeks later, the adventure semester abroad should begin. Two weeks before the first lectures began, I packed the car up to the roof and drove off towards Portsmouth. Once there, the agent first went to pick up the keys and then to the apartment. Fortunately, the apartment was already furnished and otherwise equipped with everything you need. Some of the last errands were quickly done by car, but you can also buy essentials in Portsmouth by bike or on foot. There is a small supermarket on every corner.
In the week before the lectures, the first event at the University of Portsmouth started, the Fresher’s Fayre. This event right next to the library offers students the opportunity to register for the next year with one of the numerous societies. These range from sports clubs to a German Society where members meet once a week to speak German with one another. Some companies and service providers also have their stands there and advertise their products and services. For most students, Fresher’s Fayre is an absolute must. Also in the evening there will be numerous events organized by the students in the bars and clubs this week.
Therefore, some students start the first week of university a little hungover. It’s good that in the first week only the course program and the type of work to be performed were presented for the most part. In the second week the lecture and the associated seminars started. As a German, I was well received and accepted by students and lecturers. The system at the university, however, worked a little differently than I was used to in Germany. The main work here was in the preparation and follow-up of the courses, while I was used to it from my university in Germany that you were a lot at the university and actively participated in seminars. At the University of Portsmouth, on the other hand, I was only present for ten hours with my four courses. The reading effort was therefore enormous, especially in the literature courses. We therefore advise everyone to take a close look at the course descriptions. So I spent many hours working through my materials in the beautiful library at the University of Portsmouth. I found working there very pleasant. The staff are friendly and helpful and there is more than enough literature on the courses. However, you should come early at the end of the semester, otherwise most of the places will be occupied.
So the lecture weeks flew past me one after the other and the end of the semester came closer and closer. In my courses there were no final exams but essays. So I spent the weeks around Christmas time writing the theses, which were due in January. Anyone planning to fly or drive home over Christmas should definitely get literature early enough in advance and take it with them or write the essays early enough in England, as there is little specialist literature on the subjects of the courses in German libraries. So the semester was over sooner than expected and I had a few weeks to explore the area a little more closely. The train connection from Portsmouth to London is very good and cheap at around £ 20 for a return ticket and use of the London Underground. London is certainly always worth a visit, but cities such as Southampton, Bournemouth or Oxford are not far away and attract many tourists. A hovercraft ride to the Isle of Wight is probably one of the easiest, most exciting and most obvious excursion destinations when the weather is nice.
Overall, I can say that the semester abroad at the University of Portsmouth was an interesting and positive experience that I can only recommend.