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The University of Southampton

Vineeth Lekkala

Vineeth Lekkala's Photo

As an international student I definitely took advantage of the support on offer when I arrived. It was so helpful to learn from the experience of other international students in the years above me so that I could find out what to expect. You get to experience lots of different cultures here too – we all celebrated Chinese New Year this year – the cultural mix is fun.

I chose to study at study at Southampton because it was close to the beach and it’s one of the sunniest cities in England - I didn’t want to be somewhere dark and grey! I didn’t look at rankings, but I got a strong UKCAT score I knew Southampton favoured this, so I applied strategically because I knew I stood a better chance of getting in.

I really wanted a campus feel and I like the fact we get to go to have a university experience on campus as well as a medical school experience at the hospital and we alternate between the two. It took some time to feel like part of the university, but I get to walk through the university every day now and I can feel the connection  – there’s so much to do on campus.

Moving so far away from home wasn’t easy. This is the first time I have lived away from my home country, but I found that the people here are very, very nice. I was in halls for my first year and it was a great opportunity to make lots of friends. There was a group of us who travelled to the hospital together every day, or we walked to Highfield Campus and I wouldn’t have had that if I’d been living alone. I had a week of Fresher’s activities and then another week to settle in so I was really ready to start by the beginning of term. I was so glad it didn’t feel rushed - I had time to go and buy some things to make my room more comfortable, and all my books and stationery, so I was ready to go by the time lectures started. There was lots of support and everyone was so nice; we had presentations on Southampton and there was even a session just for international students. You could just go and talk to other international students. I’m living in a shared student house now, so even though it was expensive living in halls it was very helpful in terms of making friends.

The Southampton International medics Society (SIMS) is fun and very sociable – and there’s an event every month. We try to support new international students when they arrive and we have a partnership with the Malaysian campus too, so we’re arranging an event for them as they arrive for their third year of University here. I definitely took advantage of the support on offer when I arrived. It was so helpful to learn from the experience of other international students in the years above me so that I could find out what to expect as we get closer to graduation. And you get to experience lots of different cultures too – we all celebrated Chinese New Year last year – the cultural mix is fun.

One of my favourite things that shows how friendly the lecturers are at Southampton is that they respond to your emails really quickly, normally within a few hours, which is very different to back in India. They are very approachable and make it less stressful – the help is definitely there when you need it. I also like that classes are booked in one-hour slots, but 45 mins are teaching and 15 mins at the end are dedicated to answering any questions you have, or having a break before your next lecture. So when we have really long days in lectures it doesn’t feel as bad because the day allows plenty of time to have a break.

I didn’t really consider the facilities when I applied to come here, but I have found that what I really like is that I can book a room anywhere in the university. This has been so useful when exam season came and the libraries are all busy, but I could always find somewhere quiet to go and study. The libraries are well-stocked and have everything I need in them. When I was the president of the Southampton International medics Society (SIMS) we could always find somewhere to meet.

I’d never done any research before I started my third year research project, so it was interesting but tough to get involved. I met my supervisor every few weeks and she gave me guidelines of what to do.  My research project was an audit on how patients with chronic pain are managed in the hospital, and if inpatient pain services team benefit from regular visits by a chronic pain specialist. It was part of a national audit and some hospitals don’t have chronic pain specialist coming in – we do – so we were trying to see if this affects rates of re-admission and if those stays in hospital are longer without this kind of pain management.

We also had the chance to study Student Selected units which are complementary modules not related to my course and although we had an option to do things like drawing and film-making, I chose drama. This was my first experience of anything like this and was very different from my studies. We met every Tuesday afternoon and it was a lot of fun. (We produced a play on a medicine related subject.) It was a good break from all the lectures and all the academic stuff. I also plan to learn Spanish as I am thinking about working in the USA so being able to speak Spanish would be really useful.

I haven’t really thought about specialising yet as I want to go into the my clinical placements with an open mind – there are so many interesting specialities and it’s hard to know what they will be like before I have any experience of them. I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to do because there’s so much to choose from so now I’ll just wait and see.

I have had lots of highlights since I’ve been here – some academic and some personal. This might sound cheesy but one of the best things was passing my driving test! Even though I drove in India for a few years and it’s supposed to be a lot tougher there, but it took me a long time to get used to the rules here and I failed my test here twice, so finally passing it was amazing! But I had to retrain my mind! Southampton doesn’t seem like a typically ‘English’ city but I like getting out into the New Forest and to Bournemouth and I go to London too and which is only one and a half hours away. The airport is useful if you want to get to Europe and really easy.

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