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A cloudy sunset in Hamburg, looking across the river to the cathedral.

Studying abroad gave me a whole new perspective

Published: 4 April 2022

Many of our courses give you the option of spending time at a partner university abroad. Philosophy, Politics and Economics (BA) student Martha Blackburn chose to spend a semester at the University of Hamburg. It put her out of her comfort zone, she says, but the experience brought 'massive benefits' too.

Tell us about your experience of studying abroad

It was challenging to be in a country where I didn't speak the language. It really put me out of my comfort zone to not be able to communicate with people easily in shops, cafes and restaurants.

However, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to pick up enough everyday phrases to get by without having to get people to speak English to me. And I was also surprised at the amount of people who were able to talk to me in English!

It was also challenging to be in a new country away from everyone I know. But I was surprised at how quickly it felt natural and normal to be living in a different place. It was also easy to make friends, as a lot of people around me were in the same position.

The friends I made in Hamburg helped the whole experience feel a lot less daunting, as we were all in it together. I also was lucky to have friends who helped me with German and translated things or spoke to people for me. Friends and family back home were also very supportive and were there for me if I needed advice or help.

What difference has the experience made to you?

It's massively benefited me. In terms of studying, I completed some very interesting modules which are not things I'd seen offered at Southampton. One class in particular, Feminist Coalitions, was perhaps the most perspective-changing and important class I've ever taken, and I'm very grateful for my experience in that class.

For my personal development, I am much more confident now. I am more comfortable around meeting new people. The discomfort of being in a new place and feeling out of place has changed my perspective and made me see my life at home differently, as well as participating in the process of adjusting to feeling more comfortable in Germany.

This semester has given me a clearer idea of what is important to me and what I'd like in my life in the future. It has probably been the single most life-changing thing I've done, and I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

Close up of smiling philosophy student Martha Blackburn
Martha says studying abroad is one of the best things she's ever done.

Has it shaped your plans for the future?

I'm currently at the University of Vienna for my second semester abroad. I am also planning on doing more travelling in the future.

I knew I always wanted to spend some time in other countries, but this semester has really cemented for me that this is something really important that I would like to do.

It has also encouraged me to continue learning languages after being inspired by meeting many other people who know multiple language already. I'd be happy to study further or work abroad in the future.