The University of Southampton

Discovering an unexpected highlight

Competing in a ballroom dancing  competition in Blackpool – we came third!
Competing in a ballroom dancing competition in Blackpool – we came third!

One of the reasons I chose to study at Southampton was the wide variety of clubs and societies available, providing opportunities to socialise and learn new skills alongside my physics degree.  

An unexpected highlight of my university career has been discovering my love of ballroom and Latin dancing with Southampton University Ballroom and Latin Dance Society (LUBDS). Having never danced before, I thought I’d try something new and in two short years I found myself in the Latin semi-final at a national competition in Blackpool! It was an incredible experience and something I’ll never forget.

My physics family

Coming straight from A-Levels, I was initially apprehensive about the workload and adapting to lecture-based learning rather than being in a classroom. I was worried that if the pace was too fast, I wouldn’t be able to catch up, and that if I didn’t understand something, I wouldn’t be able to ask a question.

I was first reassured by students in higher years, who I was connected to via the ‘Physics family’ system. This is where first years are given ‘physics parents’ that can offer support and answer any questions. They assured me that there would be plenty of support available, one example being weekly drop-in sessions, where you can talk to a PhD student about anything you need some extra help with on your course.

My worries were further reassured when, during the first week, lecturers were very friendly, and open to answering questions, both during and after lectures. This made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions or to ask to go over something if I didn’t understand it the first time.

Working in the laboratory  with one of our lovely lab technicians, Sanja!
Working in the laboratory with one of our lovely lab technicians, Sanja!

I’m loving practical physics

My favourite part of the course has always been the practical labs modules. This is where you get to see how the theoretical physics that you study in lectures works for real-world applications. It also gives you a solid basis in experimental techniques which will be essential to a future career in experimental research (which is what I’m hoping to go into).

I consider my summer placement within the University’s Integrated Nanophotonics Group to be an invaluable experience and a highlight of my time at Southampton. During my placement I worked in collaboration with PhD students and post-doctorate researchers. This gave me an insight into the practicalities of research and allowed me to implement the skills I had developed in practical labs modules, but with increased freedom and independence.

During my time at Southampton I have also studied German and taken part in a teaching placement. I have really enjoyed trying new things and developing new skills outside of my overall discipline as it keeps things exciting and interesting.

Since beginning studying at Southampton, I have become a more conscientious person, allowing me to juggle my academic commitments as well as a social life and new hobbies and activities.

Before coming to university I may have felt anxious when approaching an unknown topic, subject area or problem. Now I am more confident in these situations, as I know that I have the skills to breakdown information and complete a given task, even if it at first seems too difficult.

Ana Hammer
MPhys Physics, fourth year

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