Enabling students to do part of their studies abroad is one of the core principles of the Erasmus+ experience. Nevertheless, your mobility should not be limited to only spending time on campus or in the city where your exchange takes place. Yes, you might have to write a few essays during your stay in Southampton, but surely you're here to explore the British life and culture too. And even if you are busy with uni work, maybe you can schedule your time better and do all the work during the week so as to keep weekends for travelling.
During my stay in Southampton I visited several cities, either for a day only or for a longer period, by always staying in hostels. I could divide my visits in "day trips" and "road trips". For example, for a day trip I went to places such as Oxford, Brighton, Isle of Wight, New Forest, and Bath.
Besides that I did two "road trips" with friends - one across Wales (Cardiff and Snowdonia) and one to the North West (Lake District, Liverpool and Bristol) - and one organized by ESN UK - The Edinburg trip.
I can recommend all these places as good options to visit!
Regarding the day trips, I promised to provide you with a few useful tips:
- Book your way in advance: You can save a lot of money if you book the trip in advance, either online or at the stations (coach central station or railway station). The extra pounds you save can be the difference between taking sandwiches for lunch or looking up on Trip advisor for the best cheap restaurant in that town. If you travel somewhere with National Express, think about getting a "Young Person coach card" (it reduces the ticket price by 1/3!!!).
-Do some homework before you go: arriving in a city and not knowing what its attractions are can mean you will end up spending your day walking around aimlessly. Although trying to soak in all the "city vibe" is a good thing, having pre-established aims to reach makes it more memorable! A quick google search for "Things you must see in [insert city name]" can make miracles.
-Take a free walking tour: If you are visiting a city, there will probably be walking tours - more specifically, I am refering to the FREE walking tours. As you arrive to a new place, it is the best way to get to know your way around with a guide instead of just relying on inaccurate information. Moreover, the guides are generally very funny and charismatic; after all, it's only at the end of the tour that they may be rewarded with some tips!
-Take a backpack: a light backpack is a must have if you're visiting a city. Besides acting as a place where you can store any souvenir you may purchase, it's also useful for carrying a quick snack, such as an apple and a bottle of water. Oh...and remember your Erasmus is in the UK... So do take and umbrella/rain coat. You never know!
-Share your plans on the Erasmus group: Yes, you may already have your 2 BFFs coming with you but there might be someone else that is planning on going to the same destination but couldn't find anyone to join them. And a day trip is the 2nd easiest way to make friends. The first is probably over a pint or two - the only thing that makes you hug someone and say that you love them just 2 hours after you've met.
As for the road trip, I’ll give you some tips later!
Enjoy your stay in Southampton, do visit other cities as often as you can, either on your own or, an easier way, with the ESN Southampton organised trips.
Your soon to leave friend,
Lucas Brink is a Portuguese one-semester Erasmus student of Physiotherapy, who chose Southampton as his Erasmust destination to get a better understanding of how the educational system and the physiotherapy are evolving in the UK.