Monthly Archives: May 2017

Making Friends

One of the best parts of university is all the friends you make. Some you meet in your lessons, some in your accommodation, others in societies and clubs, and others just by bumping into each other at the right place and time!

I was lucky to make friends with someone in my halls on the very first day of university, and now almost 3 years later, we still live together in a student house! While you can’t really make friends by living together during your school years (unless you are close to siblings), there are lots of other things you can try to have a healthy social circle.

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Classmates are often the people you are surrounded by most often, both in school, college, and uni. These guys up here are brand new uni students on their first day of lessons! The most important thing to remember when meeting new people and trying to make friends is that almost everyone is in the same boat as you. As classmates there’s also lots of things you’ll experience together that gives you something to talk about – from difficult maths homework to what you think of the new paintings around school.

In university this works too. Even though I came to Portsmouth from abroad I found that I’d had lots of similar experiences to people from England, and had things to talk about and bond over!

If you find that you need more in common with people to be friends with them, why not try looking for a club or society that is dedicated to something you enjoy? Your school might offer some, or be able to help you find some nearby you can join to meet people interested in similar things to you.

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Remember, clubs don’t always have to be something sporty if you’re not into that – whether you like art, theater, music, charity work, creative writing, etc, find a place you can do your hobby with others. The more the merrier!

If you’re still at a loss of what to do, you can always sign up to a one-off kind of event, like the kind that the University of Portsmouth run for school and college pupils. Here are some South Downs College students trying out the forensic science equipment to investigate a crime scene.

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Our events can be signed up to with the link under “Events” on the right. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can make friends when doing exciting activities together!

The most important thing about making friends is to remember to actually be open to meeting new people and getting to know them! Just because the very first conversation you had didn’t go flawlessly doesn’t mean you’ll never be friends, maybe one of you was too shy, nervous, or had a bad day.

Smile, and try to be the type of friend that you would want to have yourself.

Tackling Coursework

We’ve already covered exam tips, so here are some tips for the other kind of work you will be facing in your time at school, college, and university – Coursework!

Coursework comes in lots of varieties depending on the subject it is for, such as essays, projects, research, posters and portfolios. What sets them apart from exams is that you have much more time to do them.

1. Think ahead

AKA. Time management!

When is your coursework due in? You might want to plan backwards from that day – so if it is due in on a Friday, plan to finish it by the Wednesday at the very latest, so that you have a chance to read over it after a night’s sleep and spot any mistakes or last minute changes you might want to make.

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  This is a study timetable I drew up for myself while working on my dissertation, which is a massive essay I had to do this year at university. A quick google will show you loads of templates to use to plan out your work time. You can see that I don’t only plan myself working time, but also gym, meals, and free time. If you start early enough you don’t have to dedicate 100% of your time to working, you can timetable yourself a bit of a life too! Take your time, and plan your work time well so that you don’t find yourself rushing as it gets closer to the deadline. 2. Plan before you start writing Don’t just open a blank page and go wild, think about what it is you are going to be writing about! Take a look at the title, question, or aim of the coursework and write up a plan before you start. Even a short bullet pointed list will give your work some structure. You’ll probably need to refer to sources in your coursework, and its a good idea to have those prepared before you start writing, rather than trying to do research and writing at the same time. Take your time to pick out the quotes or books you want to talk about and make a note of them in your plan for easy access. 3. Ask for help Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers for help. They are there to help you and will always be willing to clarify anything you don’t quite understand. Just make sure you know what you are asking. “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing” doesn’t really give the teacher something to work with – be specific about what it is you’re confused about. Is it the question, the books you should be using, or how to start? 4. Introduction and conclusion Make sure everything you have written is relevant to the question or point of the project! Did you actually talk about the things you said you would in the introduction? Does the conclusion nicely summarize everything you’ve argued? Most importantly – have you answered the essay question, or completed the project as you were supposed to? 5. Draft your work The best thing about coursework is that unlike exams, you can go back to it and make changes after you’re done. Check for mistakes, and ask someone else to proof-read it for you. Look over it when you’re done and think – is there anything you feel is missing? Is there more you could say? Does the third paragraph need another quote or two to prove your point? Print it out and hand write on it if that helps.  

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This is your chance to turn your work into the best you can do before you hand it in to get marked!

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Revision Tips

Learning how to prepare for exams is an important part of your education, whether you are in school or in university. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your revision time!

1. Organize Yourself

Make sure you know where all your notes and books are, and what it is you need to study!

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How many exams do you have and what topics will you cover? Make yourself lists and timetables so that you can see exactly how much work you can do in the time until your exams. Use mindmaps to split each subject into its individual topics, and break all your work down into manageable chunks.

2. Be Creative 

Not everyone revises best by writing out notes, maybe try more visual-based revision like drawing diagrams and pictures.Do you learn best explaining something out loud? Teach your dog/cat/desk lamp about the subject you are revising! Some people even create songs to help them remember things – find what works for you and do it, even if it doesn’t seem like “traditional” revision.

3. Practice

Get yourself used to doing exams by simulating them at home. Print out some past papers and set yourself a timer so you can see what the real exam will be like. This lets you see what kind of questions might come up and will help you find out what topics you might want to revise in more detail. Also, by the time you are sat in your real exam you’ll be so used to these papers that you won’t stress yourself out too much.

4. Take Breaks & Reward Yourself

No one can work non-stop all the time, so make sure you give yourself breaks. Step away from your desk you are working at to give your brain a change of scenery. Aim to work for 45 minutes at a time, and then give yourself a 15 minute break. Use this time to reward yourself – save your social media scrolling for these breaks, or go grab some food.

5. Stay Healthy

Remember that if you body isn’t being properly looked after, your brain won’t keep up either!

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Reach for some tasty fruits instead of chocolate during your breaks, and remember to drink lots of water. Sugary drinks may help you feel awake but the “sugar crash” is real and will have you burning out eventually. Go for a walk and get some fresh air to take your mind off your notes for a little while. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint!

5. Keep Going

Once you’ve covered everything revise it again. The more often you rewrite your notes the better your memory of them will be. Repetition is how you get your brain to remember things more permanently, and will stop you from going blank in your exams.

Most importantly, remember that your exams do not exist just to torture you – think of them as a stepping stone to your future, whatever you might want that to be.

Beating revision stress

Studies show that spending time with animals can reduce stress and clear your mind.  So the University of Portsmouth Student’s Union brought a petting farm to campus.  And the students in the library didn’t need much convincing that a break away from their books could be a positive thing when the animals are as cute as these!

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Abbie’s Kefalonian adventure

The chance to travel or study abroad as part of your degree is is one of the many great opportunities that you get whilst studying at uni.

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Last summer Abbie, a third year University of Portsmouth BSc (Hons) Marine Biology student, was lucky enough to go on an Erasmus+ placement to the Island of Kefalonia (Greece) .  Abbie spent two months out there, working as a field assistant on a sea turtle conservation project, whilst also conducting research for her final year project.

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On Abbie’s course, she’s learnt about a broad range of marine life and carried out a lot of field and lab work. The placement allowed her to gain a more in-depth knowledge of sea turtles, and learn new surveying skills.

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Whilst working as a field assistant, Abbie also conducted harbour surveys and turtle tagging. This was a hands on experience working with large animals, and also helped her gain confidence chatting to tourists on the harbour about sea turtles and their conservation.

On the left, is Barb, a famous local sea turtle, and the left is Abbie safely restraining a turtle ready for tagging.

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Whilst in Kefalonia, Abbie conducted research for her final project. She planned this research herself and carried it out with the help of other field assistants. When she was done, she brought it back to the university and wrote up her report.

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When you’re on placement, it’s not just about work, it’s also very important to go and visit the new country you are staying in! This is a picture Abbie took of the Melissani Cave in Kefalonia. Just look at the crystal clear blue water!

Abbie was also able to experience some of the local food and even learn some of the language in Greece.

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As well as this, Abbie also got to spend some of her free time snorkeling, and even made a few turtle friends along the way!

Look how cute they are!

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Whilst Abbie was out in Greece, she also celebrated her 21st birthday! Her team and volunteers decorated the apartments and bought her a cake to celebrate, which shows how being on placement allows you to meet new people and create lifelong friends.

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Conducting this research and conserving sea turtles was an incredible experience for Abbie, and is a brilliant start to her career. It will look great on her CV, and is definitely one of the highlights of her time at university!

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Abbie’s placement was a part of the Erasmus placement, so she received funding to help with the cost, and help from the University to organise it. She carried out the placement with Wildlife Sense, a sea turtle research and conservation project who take on volunteers from around the world.

That’s all for now, so let’s wish Abbie lots of luck with the rest of her studies and her career!

Keeping it social!

Clubs and societies are an important part of student life at uni.  At the University of Portsmouth there are over 190 sports clubs, societies, media groups and volunteering opportunities.

We caught up to with Vicky, a BSc(Hons) Biomedical Science student and member of the University of Portsmouth Equestrian Society to find out what it’s all about.

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Vicky is on a work placement at the moment but will be back on campus in September to start her final year.

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Whilst at uni, Vicky is also a part of the Equestrian Society. This society offers riding, jumping and polo lessons.  Even if you haven’t ridden a horse before. Not only that, but there are socials and the chance to compete against other universities!

Check out this video of when Vicky’s team went to play at the University Nationals. Their polo tournament is know as SUPA, which is the Schools and Universities Polo Association. It runs twice a year, in the winter and summer, and takes place over four days.

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For polo, Vicky’s team travel to Guildford, where they are lucky enough to train at student prices. They usually take the train or car share, which gives them a chance to chat about the lesson and make preparations for any tournaments.

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In the Winter, Vicky went to SUPA. Their teams did really well…including the beginners team placing 1st, and their novice team placing 4th! Vicky has been to four SUPA tournaments, and here are some of her pictures, including one from her first tournament and when she received second place prize.

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Apart from tournaments, the club also organises socials and events for the team to get together and chill out. Here are some snaps of when Vicky went to the riding holiday in Sicily, and from their Christmas meal.

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Here, Vicky showed us what you need to join the club, but what you really need to get is a traditional riding helmet! The club provides kit, such as mallets, knee pads and team tops. But, the option is there to get the full gear if you want to.

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Unlike clubs run at school, sixth form or colleges, university clubs and societies are run by the students themselves, and they are helped by the students union. Each club or society has a committee, which is a group of students elected by the club. Taking on these responsibilities is a great addition for your CV and helps you to develop great skills.

Vicky put herself forward as part of the club committee for organizing the polo committee, and was elected into the role, which she’ll begin next year.

Let’s wish her lots of luck!

Not so secret life of a uni student

As it reaches May, it’s almost the end of the academic year for most of our students.

We decided it would be the perfect time to take a look back at the past year for one of our Student Ambassadors, Richard.

Richard is a final year BSc(Hons) Geography student, some of you will remember him, from his @NextStepUoP Instagram takeover.  Here he is, just after he finished his dissertation!

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Richard started this year by going off on a fieldtrip to America! The trip was lots of fun, but the most important part of the trip was to make it to the summit of Mount Washington, to potentially record some of the fastest wind speeds on Earth.

Here is the first stop of the trip, Boston!

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Richard clearly had an early start on the summit day of his climb of Mount Washington…look at that sunrise!  Here is a view of the Appalachian Mountains at dawn that Richard took before he had to jump in a jeep to ascend the mountain!

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This is a view above the clouds, facing the Atlantic Ocean. Doesn’t it look amazing? Richard and his coursemates had the opportunity to record their own data whilst up here.

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On the way back home, Richard had time to stop off at New York City after a long nine hour journey by coach. Here’s a picture of the World Trade Centre in the evening…doesn’t it look incredible?

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After the field-trip and some deadlines, it was time to go home for Christmas. After a long time away at uni, it’s always a great feeling to relax at home with your family…especially the pets! Check out Richard’s cat chilling out in all the presents!

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In January, after coming back to uni, Richard went to visit London with his girlfriend for their anniversary. One of the opportunities at university is the chance to go and check out new places, and at Portsmouth it’s very close to places like London and has great travel links via train.

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During dissertation month, it’s also important to remember to take a break! Richard and some friends decided to escape the University Library and head down to Southsea beach for some fresh air. Being outside really helps to clear your head after so much studying, and look at that sunset!

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Here is the Brighton Dome…Portsmouth is about an hour away by train to Brighton, so it’s very easy to go and visit for the day. Both cities are seaside cities, but are very different places.

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Last of all, to celebrate finishing his dissertation Richard went rock-climbing in the Fontainebleau Forest, France. A uni there are loads of opportunities to carry on with any hobbies you enjoyed before, and to try out some new ones.

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That’s all for now…there are still one more month of uni left for Richard, so let’s wish him luck with the last of his studies!

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