The University of Southampton
Life at Southampton

Catching up with Southampton Alumni

Recently, I have had the pleasure to chat to two people who graduated from the University of Southampton. I spoke to Pete and Rachel about memories of being a student. Both now work for the Civil Service and both absolutely loved their time here!

Here’s what we chatted about:

Name: Rachel Councell

Graduated: 1989

Studied: Mathematics 

So, where did you stay in Southampton?

“I graduated in 1989. I lived in Connaught Halls in my first year, down Burgess Road in my second and at Montefiore Halls in my third year. I liked both Connaught and Monte for different reasons, however I found Connaught great for the first year as it was nice to have meals cooked for me. Block B was an amazing place to live in – the rooms were very big.”

Did you have any favourite modules? 

“I enjoyed my statistics modules. My favourite ones were to design and analyse surveys. I’m fascinated by them and the way you can devise something to collect info and how choosing the right sample and asking right questions in a certain way has an impact.”

What did you do outside of academia whilst you were a student?

“I did some fundraising and I used to volunteer at the day nursery back then.”

What is your best memory of Southampton? 

“The nights out and the student discos at the main Students’ Union building. Jesters was alive in 1989…”

What can you remember from that?

“…Not a lot.

I also remember the Frog and Frigate pub near the docks. Back then we had no email, no social media… we relied on telephone calls and letters to schedule nights out. There was simply no way to meet people online.”

How did you get to where you are now in your career?

“Hard work. After I finished University I worked in retail, then I joined the Civil Service and became a temporary assistant statistician. After passing the Civil Service selection board fast stream I worked at the Department for Education and looked at 1st year primary school performance modules. I also undertook a part-time Masters.

What I learnt in my undergraduate degree has helped me as a statistician. We didn’t need IT skills that much when I was at University since we didn’t really use computers then. However, it helped to have learnt problem solving skills.”

If you could change one thing about your last year of University, what would it be? 

“I wouldn’t be so worried about getting the right job at the end of University. This is time to focus your mind. You can make mistakes – it’s OK to make mistakes. You don’t have to make everything perfect.”

Thanks Rachel!

Name: Peter Benwell

Graduated: 2009

Studied: Politics and International Relations 

Did you have any favourite modules?

“I found Russell Bentley’s American Power (PAIR2009) module really interesting. When I was at University, I enjoyed learning more about foreign politics more than British politics which is ironic since I work for the British Government now and just absolutely love it.”

Did you join any societies? 

“I was part of the Theatre Group (TG). I worked with different types of people and personalities during my time at the society. It proved to be really helpful since it taught me more about collaboration skills.”

If you could change one thing about your last year of University, what would it be?

“I would’ve started my dissertation earlier. You will get it done in the end but it helps to start as early as you can! Also, to make the most the student lifestyle. With your workload you can forget to have fun. Of course you can still go out and make friends when you graduate but your social life when you leave University is just not the same! I remember every Wednesday we used to have AU Nights…”

AU Nights?

“Athletic Union nights when drinks were at their cheapest!”

What advice would you give to students that you wish someone had told you when you were one? 

“To not expect to get the perfect job straight after uni… It’s not the end of the world if you don’t. And also to start your dissertation as early as you can! I cannot express how I wish I’d have done exactly that.”

Thanks Pete!

Chatting to Pete and Rachel made me realise just how much I’m going to miss the University when I go next year. It was comforting, however, to hear them say that it would not be the end of the world if I don’t get my dream job straight after graduation. In fact, most people don’t. You could travel, continue onto a Master’s degree or take a gap year volunteering. Life is an ongoing development, not just about graduating and getting the perfect job.

As for me, my second week of the new term has been exciting to far. Here are the best bits:

I went to a Nepalese Momo Party…


Courtesy of the Nepalese Society

If you’re wondering what a “Momo” is, it is one of the most popular dishes in Nepal. It is dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables and dipped in a variety of sauces. I chose the spiciest dip which, immediately after consumption, I realised to have been a grave mistake!

I went to a Burlesque and Cabaret Show at The Bridge…


A glass of wine, candlelight, and fun performances on stage: a perfect way to unwind with friends.

It was a luxurious evening with mime performances, classic burlesque dancing, and magic tricks.

And, I sang karaoke at The Stags…


Norah Jones here I come…

Thursday Karaoke at the Stags is very popular at the Union. It gets pretty packed and cheerful which is what makes it so good! It doesn’t matter if you’re not the best singer. Trust me, I’m not either but I still went up and slayed ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ (perhaps literally, even!).

It was a good idea to simply indulge in more chilled nights out my friends since the readings and assignments will soon pile up one by one if I don’t get stuck in.

I hope you’re all settling in very well indeed!


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