I am studying business informatics and I was in my third master’s semester at the Solent Uni in Southampton, UK. The semester ran from mid-September 2019 to mid-January 2020.
As a freemover, I turned to the placement organization MicroEDU, which helped me with my application for the Solent Uni. I came to the Solent Uni in particular because my TOEFL language certificate was statute-barred and the Solent Uni also accepts a DAAD language certificate for master’s students, which can be provided free of charge.
The preparation time has proven to be difficult and very lengthy, as MicroEDU had little experience with the Solent Uni at the time. For example, it took a long time for the Solent University to tell us how to find the syllabus for a course.
! Be careful with the terms in English!
Course (= study program), unit / module (= course), class (= lecture).
I started to find out more in February 2019, but the Solent Uni is more suitable for students who want to go abroad spontaneously. Real certainty about your concerns and preparation issues (information for BAföG abroad, access to the housing portal, semester dates, introductory information, course completion, final confirmation…) will not be given before July / August. The long wait cost me a lot of nerves, so I would recommend the Solent Uni to spontaneous free movers, but not to students who need certainty six months before the start of the semester abroad.
To choose a course, I first went through the courses on the Solent homepage and looked at which courses they contained. In the Moodle (“Solent Online Learning”, SOL for short) at the Solent Uni, I was then able to read through the “Unit Descriptor” of the course as a guest user, which corresponds to a German syllabus and is suitable for the content comparison of courses when preparing the learning agreement. If you have found four to six interesting courses, you can fill out the application form. The full application to MicroEDU then included:
- Signed General Application Terms MicroEDU
- Completed MicroEDU contact form
- Copy of identity card
- Completed Study abroad application form from the Solent Uni
- One-page letter of motivation
- Certified Master’s transcript of records
- Certified bachelor’s certificate
- Notarized DAAD language certificate
MicroEDU may provide feedback on the application and then asks Solent Uni whether the applicant meets the admission requirements. If this test is positive, MicroEDU will take care of the online application to Solent Uni after consulting with the student. Usually the student then receives an offer letter a few weeks later and accepts the offer by sending back the signed Course Acceptance Form. This happened at the beginning of August and only then will you be informed by the Solent University about the organization of the semester abroad. Read more experience for studying abroad on Topschoolsoflaw.
Visa and Funding
As of September 2019: German citizens do not need a visa and do not have to present financial evidence. Freemovers do not receive any ERASMUS funding. Foreign BAföG and the assumption of the tuition fees (up to € 4800.00) by the BAföG office are possible. In my case, the tuition fees were around 3000.00 euros.
Courses and Learning Agreement
Before starting, it is advisable to draw up a learning agreement with your home university and have it signed by all parties. However, it took the Solent University a long time to tell me that I could not take the courses I wanted, as many courses only start in the second semester or last a full year. In the end, I decided to take the Computer Fundamentals, Business Skills and Leadership and Data Management courses. Choosing a course from different courses and faculties is therefore no problem at the Solent Uni. The Solent University even checks in advance whether the selected courses clash in the timetable. Changes can then be made on site.
- Computer Fundamentals:Was led by a rather chaotic professor. Accordingly, the connection between the individual topics was poor and the structure of the lecture left a lot to be desired, which was also criticized by the British fellow students. The subject deals with hardware and software basics, as you can take up a master’s degree in England without any specific prior knowledge. Accordingly, many fellow students from outside the subject were in the lecture. The lecture requires weekly participation and constant preparation of small chores. In the end, everything is packed into a report and you can achieve a very good to good grade with the appropriate preparatory work. In my experience, getting feedback before submitting graded reports is always good and is welcomed by professors.
- Data Management: Not to be compared with really complicated topics like data analytics. It’s more about maintaining and filtering data. The lecture is on a simple level, because if you stick with Python programming, you can get a very good grade. I should create a movie recommendation system, compared to the user-based recommendations at Netflix, in Python with data in JSON or CSV format. Conclusion: interesting, you sometimes learn new things, but it’s more hard work than a headache!
- Business Skills and Leadership: The very interesting lectures are about learning the theoretical basics of a manager and leader. Then you should apply the theory yourself through exercises and / or literature research and describe in a self-reflective homework what you have learned. With a lot of effort, you can get a very good / good grade in this subject.
Since I went to Southampton on my own, I diligently read through all kinds of testimonials on the Internet to know what to expect. But it turned out differently than described there:
I can confirm that the Solent Uni dormitories are very expensive, but almost all of the internationals live in the dormitories. There were hardly any people like me who looked for a place to stay on their own. Fortunately, I took part in many of the activities during the orientation weeks and got to know a lot of people there, otherwise it might have been a lonely semester. I found a modern room online in a cheap private dorm (Columbia Lodge) which was just outside of town. In general, Southampton is not a small town and many of my friends like me have bought a used bike for longer distances (I got mine at Monty’s Bike Hub) in order to cover distances faster – which leads to the next topic:
There are many different bus companies in Southampton. I found UniLink and Bluestar to be the most practical. These are different operators, but you can use them with the same ticket. Local public transport is not great, but okay (buses run until midnight). The bike is suitable for medium-long distances. For shorter distances you can also just run. The company Radio Taxi gives students a 10% discount and there is also the slightly cheaper Uber. Southampton has an airport that is largely uninteresting for Germans. However, Southwestern Railway goes to London in 1.5 hours(You can get a Railcard for 30 pounds, then you save 33% for one year). I got the CoachCard for 15 pounds, which gives you 33% off the National Express coach network for one year – it operates throughout the UK and takes you to London in 2 to 2.5 hours.
Pack your suitcase and travel
I took a lot with me from Germany for my time in England, because purchases, like everything else in England, are usually more expensive than in Germany. I took the following with me and needed:
- Sports equipment (pants, shirts, sports shoes, towels, sports bag)
- Blanket, duvet cover, pillow, pillowcase, sheet, towels, washcloth
- Slippers, thermos, umbrella, rain jacket, backpack
- Vaccination certificate, ID, certified application documents for the Solent Uni
- Cell phone charging cable, power adapter, laptop, if necessary hair dryer
- T-shirts, shirt, polo, autumn and winter jacket, socks, winter boots, pants, scarf, gloves, sweater, underwear, sweatpants, belts, sleepwear
- Bathroom stuff and first-aid kit
I took the TGV to Paris and from there took the Eurostar to London. Southampton is only 1.5 hours from London with Southwestern Railways. Flying was not necessary in my case.
Getting warm with the university
The International Office is available as a contact person for exchange students on site. The staff are always friendly and helpful. They also organize a small free orientation phase. This is followed by Freshers Week, i.e. the orientation week for English freshmen students, in which the internationals can also take part. Both are recommended to get to know the university, the city and the people. You have to arrive 1.5 weeks before the start of the lectures.
Warm up with Southampton in the winter semester
I visited the following things in Southampton (* very bad, ***** very good):
- SeaCity Muesum (~ 6 pounds, ****)
- Shopping malls WestQuay (*****) and Marlands (***)
- Yates (****)
- London Brewery house (****)
- The Lion (****)
- The Angel (****)
- The Alexandra Pub (***)
- Turtle Bay (***)
- The Frog and Frigate (*****)
- the cheapest are the Wetherspoon pubs (****)
- German Christmas Market (****) with Christmas events
- Ocean Village and Harbor (****)
- Bowling (****)
- The Common Park (****)
- Mayflower park (***)
- Weston Shore Promenade with Netley Abbey (****)
- Switch Club (****)
- Oceana Club (****)
- Cafe Parfait Club (****)
- Orange Rooms Bar / Club (***)
- Buddha Lounge Bar / Club (***)
- Manford’s Comedy Club (*****)
- The Bill’s (***)
- L’Osteria (***)
- COSMO (****)
- Casa Brasil Southampton Westquay (*****)
- Southampton FC football match at St Mary’s Stadium (****), cheap tickets are often available on campus
- Play mini golf in EastPark (*****)
- Grab Meal Deal at Tesco Express (*****)
- Brewhouse kitchen (*****)
- if you are homesick German Stein Garten (***) or German Döner Kebab (***)
Compared to Germany Studis often receive in England on demand in shops and restaurants student discount. We also recommend the Unidays offers for students in England, as you can save a lot of money in different areas of life!
Travel and leisure
Because of the location and size of Southampton, you are usually well connected to other cities in the UK by train or long-distance bus. So I can recommend traveling a lot. I also used the time after the end of the semester to travel and had a great time despite the winter (* very bad, ***** very good):
- Day trip south coast Durdle-Door, by train from SH to Wool (*****)
- Weekend trip to the Isle of Wight, with the RedJet from SH Port to West Cowes (****)
- Weekend getaway Glasgow, Edinburgh (*****)
- London with the National Express coach (*****)
- Winchester day trip by train (****)
- Brighton by train (*****)
- Oxford with the National Express coach (***)
- Bournemouth with the National Express (****, more like a summer town)
- Portsmouth on the National Express (****)
- New Forest: Lyndthurst (****), Brockenhurst (***)
- Bath by train (*****)
- behind Bath is directly Bristol (****) and Cardiff (***)
- in Wales for nature lovers the Gower area (*****) and Pembrokeshire area (*****)
- in Ireland: Dublin (****), Galway (****), Killarney (****), Cork (***)
- Liverpool (*****)
- Manchester (****)
- York (****)
You can withdraw money free of charge anywhere with the DKB credit card and you can pay with a credit card anywhere in England or, even easier, with a contactless credit card. If someone wants to open an English account for only six months, all banks will refuse you, with the exception of the somewhat chaotic coop bank. After all, the account is free here and once everything has been set up, everything works via online banking.
The average cost of living for me as a student who did not live in a Solent dormitory and did not sit permanently in his booth, but experienced and discovered the university, Southampton and the UK, is approximately:
- Rent: £ 410.00 / month
- Everyday purchases: £ 170.00 / month
- Leisure, culture, going out: £ 195.00 / month
- College Sports and Gym: £ 30.00 / month
- Shipping (in SH & UK): £ 150.00 / month
- Travel: £ 100.00 / month
- Purchases: £ 30.00 / month
That’s an average monthly cost of living of: £ 1,085.00.
The information is extra in pounds, as the exchange rate from euros to pounds can change.
Everyday university life
The Solent Uni is very well equipped and has a new building (“The Spark”) as well as a new sports complex with a new gym / fitness studio which can be used for a fee of around 24 pounds / month. The Solent Uni is in a prime central location, has two cafés and a small cafeteria. The Student Union is well represented and has a lot to offer. You can join sports teams and societies.
I joined (* bad, ***** very good):
- Gym (****)
- Volleyball (just for fun, ****)
- Computing Society (***, Societies are interest groups at the universities)
- SSAGO Society (***)
I have to admit that after the initial stress with the lengthy application to Solent University and the thought of winter in England, I was only pleasantly surprised. It is a shame, however, that there was no real group feeling between all internationals, as the International Office did not offer any more events or trips together after the O phase. Thanks to the good O phase, however, you can quickly find friends and organize the semester abroad together.
In my individual courses, which were all from different faculties or courses, I was barely able to make contact with the British. Most of my fellow students were foreign students who often came from India. You should be prepared for this, as group work with completely different cultures can often be difficult. If you want to get to know the British, you have to play sports with them or join the aforementioned societies.
Even if the Solent University can sell well, it is technically anything but in the top scientific league in England. It is a media-savvy university with many niche courses that specialize in creativity and practical relevance (hard work instead of complicated headaches). If you don’t mind, I can warmly recommend the university.
The city of Southampton is not ugly, but neither is it beautiful or special. This is particularly noticeable when you leave Southampton and visit other cities. I remember Southampton as the city with lots of greenery, an industrial port, cruise ships, shopping and great nightlife.