Portsmouth for Beginners: Part 1

Nica Tomasiello is an Italian award-winning short story author, novelist, comic book and film writer, interactive fiction storyteller, and freelance translator, currently studying at the University of Portsmouth. In this article, originally published on her blog, Nica answers a series of questions from a potential Portsmouth student about her experiences of the city. 

Lunablush is from Northern Ireland and she has recently applied for Digital Marketing in Portsmouth. She doesn’t know much about the city, so she asked me to answer some very interesting questions on this thread. Here are my replies.

#1: How are you enjoying it personally?

I’m in love with my course. I think it’s the most important criterion for a student: if you like what you’re doing, then you will enjoy yourself no matter what, because studying is at least 75% of your experience in Portsmouth.

Another decisive factor for me is also the size of the city. Coming from a small town with a lot of clothes shops, which I don’t care about, and only one bookshop, which I care about very much, Portsmouth is a whole other universe.

For instance, being able to walk to the cinema instead of driving for thirty minutes is priceless. At the same time, you can easily go everywhere either on foot or by bike, saving time and money in terms of gas or public transportation. Without suffering from the drawbacks of living in a huge, busy city, you get to enjoy its benefits at the same time: stores, pubs, bookshops, game shops, theatres, gyms, music venues, and any other place you could think of. The beauty of the sea is also a not unwelcome bonus.

#2: What are the people like?

Those I’ve met so far have been nice and helpful. At uni, my lecturers know their business, while being kind and easy-going. You can always count on them to check your work, even multiple times, ask questions, and basically harass them about random stuff you feel uncertain about because you’re really, really, really paranoid. (Every “you” in the sentence above is spelled ‘I’, in case it isn’t obvious.)

In Bateson, the staff members are lovely: the supervisors have a soft spot for my hair dye – this may be or may not be unrelated and irrelevant, but I’ve already mentioned the quality of the service, anyway – while the cleaning lady that comes to my flat three times a week is like a sweet Chinese fairy godmother, and keeps complimenting us for the state of our kitchen. She must have seen prison cells or something, or maybe I’ve got a bit of an OCD where hygiene is concerned.

Take advantage of the first few weeks to get to know other freshers: you’re all on the same boat, having just moved to a new city without knowing anyone, therefore most students will be much more sociable than later in the term, when they’ve already met a few people and have forged a network of friends.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re polite, they will be polite, too. That’s England for you.

#3: Do you find their local accent easy to understand?

When I moved to Portsmouth, I was much more used to the American accent thanks to films, songs, and living in the USA for six months. I’ve also been to Dublin and London, and I’ve watched films and TV series with Scottish actors. I wasn’t familiar with Southern accents at all.

First off, don’t worry, Portsmouth isn’t Scotland. (My fellow Scottish readers, please, don’t take offense. I’m just joking. I love you, though, admittedly, your accent is challenging. Don’t kill me.)

To be fair, it depends on the person you’re talking to – some people may have a stronger accent than others – but, in general, I find it pretty easy to understand most of them. I’m not even English to begin with, so it should be a piece of cake for you.

#4: What are the facilities like?

I don’t know if you’re going to apply for halls, but at the moment I live in Bateson and you can find a detailed summary of what it is like here.

The university is spread all over the city centre and I haven’t been to all the buildings myself. Most of my lectures take place in Eldon Building, Park Building and St. Michael’s; during the first term, I also had to go as far as St. George’s Building for one of my weekly seminars.

Eldon is my favourite, where my faculty – CCI, that is “Creative and Cultural Industries” – is based: it’s one of the most recent and most modern compounds, with white walls and colourful glass windows. There are IT rooms equipped with Macs, printers, and tools for courses such as Design and Animation; TV studios for TV and Broadcasting and the like; and other laboratories that are specific for certain degrees, like Fashion and Textile Design. Every room is available to all students, the technology is incredibly up-to-date, and you can also borrow the equipment – cameras and microphones, for instance. Moreover, during the term Eldon stays open until late, so you can work there if you don’t want to stay at home or go to the library.

However, older facilities such as Park Building are in good conditions, too. In fact, “old” is a relative term, because the uni is one of the top 100 under fifty, and often invests in renovations and improvements. Eldon Building was expanded in 2013 and the White Swan Building was added to the uni facilities last year. The downside is, you have to get used to the scaffolds – as one of my lecturers put it, “they are everywhere!”

Nica continues with her beginners’ guide to Portsmouth next week. You can read her blog here.

Photography by Sarah Cheverton.