University: University of Portsmouth
City and country: Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Major: LLB Law with European Studies
Year: Just finished second year
The educational system is a lot different to the one we are used to here, in Bulgaria. The latter is very much the same as it used to be once upon a time – strict and following the protocol and the textbook, whereas in the UK everyone is encouraging you to always go beyond the mainstream and to step out of that box. Other huge difference that I find is that no one comes to you and says “You need to study in order to succeed.”. It’s very much up to you how much you will expand your knowledge. If you are ambitious and motivated enough, all the materials, all the literature, all the help of the lecturers is there, waiting to be given to you. So you are just given the freedom of choice to choose how much you want to know and get out of the education. Also, people have understood that it is not all about learning it in theory so there is always putting all the skills into practice. For example, all year long as law students we have mock trials on real cases that are happening in the present time.
My course is the so-called straight Law combined with European Studies as a joint degree. This means, the course covers many areas of Law, such as Criminal Law, European Law, Land Law, Human Rights Law, Tort Law, (not going to bore you anymore), etc. In terms of the European Studies, it is just the standard studies of history, politics, and social studies of Europe, and in-depth studying of the European Union. After graduating, I have the choice to specialize in a specific area of law and become a barrister or a solicitor, or not going so much in depth – to be like a legal advisor. Basically, the degree gives a standard legal knowledge, and the career perspectives are very broad.
Difficulties experienced during the first year
The most difficult thing for me during the first year was to catch up with the requirements and all the criteria I had to meet. Oh, and the referencing systems… That was my nightmare. Not considering plagiarism in Bulgaria is a real drawback, whereas in the UK it is considered illegal and is punishable. So all students must be very careful, therefore using referencing correctly, could save you (really!). Having the joint degree meant we had to use two different systems and the confusion was there. Anyway, after a while you get used to them and it’s alright. Other than that, I don’t think I had many other difficulties.
University library & literature
My university is not known for having the biggest of libraries, but I think it has all the student needs for a very sufficient research. Might not be the biggest, but it is known as the warmest place to be in the winter 🙂
Career Center and professional development
As every university in the UK, University of Portsmouth has a career center, called Purple Door. All year long they have all kinds of trainings to prepare you for a job interview, to make the most of your CV when applying for both full-time and part-time positions, and what you can do in your area of studies when at uni. Through this center you are able to find a placement or voluntary positions country-wide. The options are right before you, just motivation is needed.
In terms of sports, Portsmouth and the University are very suitable for all kinds of sports. Being at the seaside, gives opportunities for water sports, even the weirdest like octopush (underwater hockey). There are a few very big leisure centers in town, fit for both indoor and outdoor sports. In campus and mainly for student, there are three fully equipped gyms. Plenty of opportunities are available, but even going for a run on the seaside is enough to make you feel very good.
Leisure time, cultural and social events
As a typical English city, there are gigs almost every night and they are pretty good. The only thing is that there rarely is a concert of someone famous, but London is just 1.5h away 🙂
Cut the costs
Students are profound to the ones always able to find a very cheap way of living. In England, the case is that you need to know what to buy from where, because unlike Bulgaria, there is an actual big difference in prices between the shops. And when something is on offer, it is really discounted. A few clothes shop offer student discounts with just showing your student ID. Not really sure how to give some advice how to find the bargains, because I think you learn as you go. I can only say that is completely manageable to live for less than you would normally will in Bulgaria – I’ve managed.
Insurances and transport
Traveling from and to Portsmouth is really easy with regular trains and coaches. And like I said above, London is just 1.5h away which opens all doors to everywhere; to go to the airports takes about 3-4 hours.
Job and work permit
As a student, one has the right to work 20 hours per week and there are opportunities for work very basic and easy jobs, some are even in campus and uni establishments. And these hours are enough to cover the weekly needs, so it’s quite a deal.