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Geography and Environmental Science

Piers Luxton BSc Geography with Oceanography, 2015

Currently studying MSc Hydrography at the University of Plymouth

Piers Luxton's Photo

Hi, I'm Piers Luxton and I studied BSc Geography with Oceanography within Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton.

The highly specialised course combining both Geography and Oceanography was a major draw, as was the option of combing my course with a language to develop skills in two areas.

Q: Why did you choose the University of Southampton?
The highly specialised course combining both Geography and Oceanography was a major draw, as was the option of combing my course with a language to develop skills in two areas. The opportunity to study at the NOC was also a major draw, with its country leading facilities. An additional attraction was the setting of the University. Being from a village the amount of greenery around campus and the city was a relief for me, and made the entire campus appear much more appealing.

Q: What did you enjoy about studying at Southampton?
The teaching and course content was interesting and engaging, and there was also a focus of employability and technical skills which would be of use in the workplace. As well as this I was fortunate enough to take part in numerous fieldtrips, including two boat trips which then sent me on my choice of masters. I was also lucky enough to take part in the Erasmus exchange programme, which was a fantastic opportunity. In addition the SU present a wide range of activities and clubs to get involved in, which really made my university experience. Within these I was lucky enough to have represented the university at national finals in two sports (Water Polo and American Football), which are experiences that I will never forget.

Q: Were you involved in University clubs and societies?
During my degree I was a member of Water Polo, American Football, the Geography Society, the German society, the Erasmus society and the Sign language society.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
I am going on to study MSc Hydrography and Plymouth university, with the aim of becoming a hydrographic survey and working in the Oil and Gas or Port authority sectors.

Q: Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about studying at Southampton?
My main advice would be to visit to take in the atmosphere of the University. As soon as I set foot on campus I knew that Southampton was where I wanted to spend the next three years of my life. I would also say to check out the SUSU website, just to see the huge amounts of clubs and societies present at the university and available to join.

During Year 2 Piers took part in the study abroad scheme, spending time studying at Universität Hamburg, Germany:

What made you decide to apply for an exchange?
In school German and Geography had always been my favourite subjects, and although I decided to apply for Geography at university, I had always wanted to be able to use all those years of German. After taking a German module in my first year and seeing the opportunity within Geography to study abroad, I saw this as the ideal opportunity to combine my skills, and immerse myself in another culture whilst still continuing my Geography.

In a nutshell, how easy was the application process?
Very easy. To start with you are shown a list of institutions available, and some key points about each. You can then go research them yourself, to see which ones you like the look of the most. After then submitting a CV and a short letter with the reasons I wanted to go, I waited to see if I would be accepted or not. After acceptance the international office and my coordinator were a great help in assisting with all the forms that I had to fill out, and ensuring that I was meeting the various deadlines.

Which destinations did you consider?
Although Geography offered amazing looking exchanges to Canada and Singapore, my main motivation for taking a semester abroad was to improve my German. As a result my top two choices, Hamburg (where I am now) and Bonn, were both in Germany and the courses were taught in German. For my third choice I looked at Utrecht in the Netherlands, as I wanted to still have the opportunity to develop/ learn a new language, even if the course was taught in English and the language was totally new to me. By also looking at universities in Europe I knew that I would also receive financial support in the form of my Erasmus grant.

Could you describe your experiences so far (places you've visited, the culture, what you've learned in your studies etc.)
The  experience wasincredible. The city of Hamburg itself was a fantastic host, with numerous major sights. I visited Berlin, and Hamburg’s location meant that trips to Denmark and Poland were possible.

The culture was also surprisingly different from England. At first it seemed odd to have massive recycling machines that give you money when you return bottles and everyone waiting for the green man, but now that is just how stuff works.

Another great thing is that I had the opportunity to try and do things that I would never have done in England. One example is that I signed up for a Russian for Beginners course, which is extremely interesting, although learning a foreign language through another is not the easiest. I am also currently signed up with the Underwater Rugby club, a sport which I never even heard of before I arrived in Hamburg, but which has proven to be very entertaining.

Then there have also been the events that come to a massive city, such as Hamburg. The 825 Harbour Birthday was a three day festival down at the docks with ships and live music and stalls. There has also been a massive fireworks display for the Japanese Cherry blossom festival.

Have you been well supported by UoS and exchange Institution?
The support was fantastic from both sides. Leading up to the exchange UoS helped out in arranging the forms that I needed to complete from Erasmus, making sure that I would receive my grant. From early on I was also in contact with the coordinator from Hamburg, which was important because much of the forms for over there needed to be completed whilst I was still in England. The week before the semester beginning all exchange students from Geography had a meeting and were given a tour around the Geography building by current students, which was a great introduction.

Not being a languages student I did worry slightly about how well I would be able to understand the lectures, particularly with the subject specific vocabulary. However, whilst I have been here I have also been given the opportunity to take two “German as a foreign language” courses, which have massively improved my general language.

Whilst being away UoS has also been fantastic. My coordinator kept in touch to ensure that everything was going well, which was a nice personal touch rather that simply asking for various forms to be mailed back.

What would you say to encourage others to apply?
Do it. It will undoubtedly be the best decision you have made at university. Regardless of where you apply the ability to go and be completely immersed in a different culture is a fantastic opportunity, and will probably not be as easy ever again. You get to meet a huge range of great people, and through that get to learn not only about the host country but a huge range of countries. You have the opportunity to be based in a different country, and visit sights, landmarks and countries that would be harder and more expensive to reach from England. If you go somewhere with a foreign language it enables you to be fully immersed in that language, and either further develop your language, or pick new ones up.

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