Portsmouth – “the great waterfront city” and the seat of a well-known British university on the south coast of England. Here are my experiences from one semester at Portsmouth Business School:
Application and apartment search
After doing some research, I decided to apply to the University of Portsmouth and with the support of MicroEDU the application process went smoothly and I was quickly accepted for a Study Abroad place.
After that I was on my own for the time being and started looking for an apartment for 4 months from Germany. The university offered me a platform similar to WG-sucht, on which students can offer and search for rooms in shared accommodation. At the time of my acceptance, the university dormitories were all booked out, so I wrote to many landlords and students and got one rejection after another. After a few weeks I was lucky and got a room in a shared apartment in Southsea. You have to be really persistent, because many landlords understandably prefer to rent their rooms for longer periods of time and to students who can introduce themselves personally. Of course, if you have the time, it would be best to fly over for a few days and take a look at the apartments. You also have good chances if you search for Facebook groups like ‘Portsmouth Uni Freshers’, ‘University of Portsmouth – Mix and Match’ and ‘Portsmouth University Student Housing’.
The cheap dormitories near the university are pretty shabby and the fire alarm was often going on. These are clearly better suited for pre-drinking and meeting friends than for living there. In the dormitories in Langstone you live a bit outside the city, but the university buses have good connections to the university and it offers much nicer rooms and more pleasant living.
I am studying International Business Studies in Germany and have been able to choose from a number of courses that are suitable for credit. The service of the International Office is very helpful when it comes to choosing a course or general questions.
Each course has a lecture and a seminar in smaller groups. What I particularly liked is that the seminars are more practical than I know from Germany and that the support is more personal. In the ‘ Enterpreneurship ‘ course, for example, we opened our own shop in groups and had to offer a finished product for sale at the end of the four months. The professors make no distinction between UK and exchange students but they were very helpful with questions. I had to get used to the fact that they were addressed by their first name, but that made the learning environment more relaxed and personal.
As exchange students, we did not write exams, but handed in elaborations such as essays and portfolios and gave presentations. I did 60 credits (= 30 ECTS) myself. This took a lot of time, but compared to the exams that I am used to at my German university, the effort was less and the grades were very satisfactory in the end. The Business School even offers international students the opportunity to proofread the essays, which has always been of great help to me personally.
In retrospect, I would recommend not to postpone the essays to the last minute, but to start early enough, because at the end of the semester you would prefer to enjoy the rest of the time and be out with friends instead of hanging out in the library for hours. The library has only recently been rebuilt and offers a considerable selection of literature and internet resources.
I would definitely recommend taking part in the orientation week at the beginning. Even if there is not a full program every day, you have the opportunity to settle in, get to know the city and get used to the university. In addition, most exchange students are there earlier and you can make many contacts and get to know students from many different cultures. I myself had lived in England for a year before and was therefore used to the British culture, but for some others it took a while to get used to the British mentality, all the small talk and (especially) the food. The first two weeks were like vacation we spent on the beach, at university events and parties.
A negative point is that only in some courses exchange students and British students are mixed, in other seminars there are only exchange students and the majority of them are mostly German. British students are therefore usually difficult to get to know.
Portsmouth – a historic port city
The city itself may not be as exciting as Brighton or as affluent as Southampton, but it certainly has its own charm. On rainy days everything looks quite gray and depressing, but as an old historic port city it offers a beautiful old town, but also a modern outlet center by the sea and of course the promenade that runs along the entire city. Many historical landmarks can be found there as a base for British navigation systems.
When it comes to leisure activities, Portsmouth has something for everyone: the Spinnaker Tower, the city’s landmark, attracts many tourists and offers exceptional views. There are also some museums that tell a lot about the history and an exhibition of old ships at the harbor that you can visit. Gunwharf Quays Shopping Center is one of the most popular outlet centers in England and there is a lot to offer from Ralph Lauren to Ted Baker. The shopping street in the city, on the other hand, offers cheaper alternatives for the budget of the average student.
For football fans, a game of Pompey is recommended, although the tickets are quite cheap. The university also has many sports societies for all tastes that I would highly recommend. I myself have very much regretted not having enrolled with anyone, because we were not told that exchange students can also only have to pay for half a year. Otherwise the annual fee is quite high. The societies have weekly training, you come into contact with locals, play against university teams from all over the country on weekends and celebrate legendary socials every Wednesday.
While we’re partying: Portsmouth’s nightlife shouldn’t be underestimated either. In addition to the larger clubs like Tiger Tiger and Liquid / Envy, there are the usual British pubs and smaller student clubs. Every few weeks there are also international parties, at which there is always something going on. If you keep an eye out next to the normal party scene, you will also find many small, inviting pubs and bars in Southsea and of course on Albert Road.
Many cities in the area can be reached quickly and cheaply with the National Express buses, it takes about 2 hours to get to London, but saves a lot of money compared to the train ticket. The International Office also offers many student day trips to explore the UK. From Cardiff, Oxford, musicals in London, Windsor Castle to Bristol there is a lot on offer. Sometimes you can get to these cities cheaper with the National Express if you book early enough. A trip to the Isle of Wight is also highly recommended, with the Hover Craft you can reach it in just 10 minutes and explore a lot there.
The cost of living in England is a lot higher than in Germany, regardless of whether it is rent or groceries. The BAföG abroad gave me support for the tuition fees, but you have to be aware that studying and living in Germany cannot be financially equated with studying in England. In addition, the standard of living in the apartments is not as usual, as the British do not take insulation and heating too seriously. I have heard from everyone I know that the rent was usually between 300 and 450 pounds a month, including me, with the additional costs and especially the gas bill, which can be very high in the winter months. The university also offers help if you have questions about financial problems. Temporary jobs can also be placed with exchange students for a few months.
Personally, I would highly recommend the University of Portsmouth. Studying there was a very pleasant experience and I really enjoyed life in the city. During the semester abroad, I made a lot of friendships and had an unforgettable time. If the costs weren’t so high, I would have liked to stay for a second semester.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me!