Quirks of Great Britain – Atharva

In my six months of living in a small city on this little island, I’ve learnt a thing or two about its people, places and culture. So, here’s a mish-mash of quirks and some differences that I have noticed between the UK and New Zealand.

The people:
The Brits are a mighty tea-loving people who never stop complaining about the weather or the state of the government (Brexit is still fresh in memory). Some things that distract them from this moaning include a Royal Wedding (I must confess, I watched it live instead of studying for an exam) and a summer’s day where the temperature just enters the twenties and everybody has a sudden urge to sunbathe. When someone asks you “You alright?” or “You ok?” it doesn’t mean you look funny or have just tripped over and fallen. They want to know how you are. If you have the sniffles or a cough, you’re not just “sick” but rather “ill” or “feeling poorly”. Brits also come in different accents ranging from the industrial Northern, the sing-songy Welsh, to the BBC News refined accent and others that I still need subtitles for. Nonetheless, they are one of the most hardy bunch of folk I have ever met.

Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial. Union Jack on the mast means Old Lizzie wasn’t home.

The places:
The British Empire gave us Imperial Units then went “Wait, this Metric thing is catching up, huh?” and stuck to their precious imperial units. Distances on roads are measured in miles, so “London 120” on a motorway sign is in miles, not kilometres. You may also pass the odd “Speed bumps for the next 200 yards” sign. I still don’t know how long a yard is though. The place names here don’t always sound like they’re written. For example: Salisbury (Sawls-bree), Leicester (Les-ter) and Worcestershire (Wus-ter-sher). Staying on the theme of place names, small towns can often be boring so locals come up with entertaining names for where they live. My two favourites being North Piddle and Petersfinger. Furthermore, I think every small town follows a very similar format. If I was to make a starter pack I’d definitely include a small river, one main cobbled street with a marketplace or square and of course a church that’s at least 300 years old. Bonus points for original Tudor houses and a working mill.

Greenwich: Probably the only place where they show you how long a yard is.

The culture:
As culture varies with geographical region and age, I can best comment on urban youth culture. It’s not too different from Kiwi youth culture with an emphasis on socialising and the odd night out. I do think young Brits have better fashions sense and a greater availability of trendy clothes as major European brands and “fashionable” countries such as France and Italy are not too far from Britain’s dull shores. Unfortunately for us, New Zealand doesn’t have much of an exposure to world class brands and their products, leaving us with a more limited choice. Media of course plays a huge role in youth culture and shows such as The Great British Bake Off and Love Island are greedily consumed by the British masses.

Old and New: The Shard stands tall behind the walls of the Tower of London.

Overall, I’ve growth to appreciate the unique mannerisms of this little nation that once controlled a fifth of the world. It’s had its ups and downs in history for sure and I only wish it success and progress for the years to come, and during whatever uncertainty that lies ahead.

God save the Queen,

Adobe Spark

Campus Life – Atharva

Hello all! Summer has finally started here, exams are around the corner, and I’m in full revision mode.

The main campus is called Highfield and consists of faculty buildings such as Life Sciences, Engineering, Law and Business. The University’s library and Health and Fitness Centre are located near each other, with University Road running down the middle. A smaller campus, called Avenue Campus, is situated around a 20 minute walk away from Highfield and is home to the Humanities and Arts faculties.

Just like the University of Auckland, Highfield campus is open and spread out with University Road connecting the inner buildings to Burgess Road. There is also a bus interchange which connects the Campus to the Airport in one direction and four Halls of Residence and the city centre in the other direction. This makes the Campus very busy with students, staff and general traffic during term times.

The campus also has some lawns and small stream running through it. The lawns in particular are swarming with sunbathing students on sunny days. No patch of grass is spared. Southampton Common (or just The Common) is a large park with a few walkways which connect Highfield Campus with Avenue Campus. If you’re in a rush, a convenient bus service takes you there in about 10 minutes.

Avenue Campus, which is next to The Common, is smaller and has two main buildings. These buildings have lecture rooms and a small canteen too, with an open space for students to sit and eat their food and hang out.

I like walking from Highfield to Avenue on Fridays for my Archaeology lecture. The Common is a very beautiful area and great to walk around if you need to escape the stress and anxiety of exams. As for the campus itself, I like the mixture of old brick buildings and modern concrete ones. The bus services are super convenient and free to use if you have a Student Card.

As things start to slowly wrap up, I’d like to say that I’ve really enjoyed spending my time in and around the campus. From catching the bus on rainy days, walking in a couple of inches of snow to enjoying the rare sunshine on a cloudless weekend. With lectures officially over, it’s now time to get stuck in and study. Wish me luck and cheers for reading!

Adobe Spark

Food, Glorious Food – Atharva

There are two options when it comes to food arrangements at the Halls of Residence at the University of Southampton, catered or self-catered. My hall, Chamberlain, is a self-catered hall. The kitchen space I share with my flatmates has drawers, cupboards and basic kitchen appliances such as kettles (for that morning cuppa), toasters (yet to find the setting for a perfect toast, will get back to you on that) and our Lord and Saviour, the microwave. We also have two sets of hobs and ovens/grill.

As for supermarkets, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Coop are where I do my groceries as they are the most convenient and affordable. Speaking of groceries, I’ve discovered that fancy bread tastes really good. I was originally Team Wholemeal, but now I don’t mind paying a little extra for some seeded bread or one with oats and honey. Tip 1: Invest in some good bread! It’s life-changing.

To continue the Pantry Essentials 101 theme, milk here is sold by the pint (1 pint = 568mL), but thankfully they label the bottle in milliliters and litres otherwise I would have to guess how many bowls of cereal and cups of coffee I can make from a pint of milk. On the subject of cereal, they have Weetabix here (look out for the extra “a”), which is exactly like our Weetbix. I’ve currently switched to some hearty Scottish oats which taste even better with sliced banana – and berries, when they come into season. Tip 2: Add fruits to your cereal. You get good, natural sugars and some of your five plus a day.

Finally, Tip 3: Stay away from the Ready-to-Eat Meals aisle! Don’t be lazy and buy microwave food all the time. I know I used to! But then I looked up some easy recipes online for one pot pasta and a stir fry and now Friday dinner is officially  Pasta Night, with extra cheese. We just don’t know what preservatives go into packaged takeaway food and its always best to put in some effort and cook your own meals.

As for restaurants, there’s an area called Portswood which I find similar to Newmarket. There’s the big Sainsburys and then small restaurants and shops, one being 7Bone. 7Bone does amazing burgers and fries combos with a big variety of meats, tofu and falafel burgers along with cheesy fries and bacon fries. It’s best to go with an empty stomach because these burgers are heavy! Portswood also has many small cafés, one being Coffee#1 which as a super cozy vibe. There’s small couches to chill on and tables too, if you want to get some work done while sipping your coffee. The café also sells various cakes and savoury items.

A Burger and Fries combo from 7Bone. It’s not exactly pretty but it makes up for it in taste!

Last but not least, I have a quick and easy recipe for you guys. I’m not sure what I’d call it. Maybe “Upgraded Baked Beans on Toast”. All you need is some sliced bread, a tin of baked beans, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning and grated cheese.

First of all, pre-heat your oven to about 200 degrees Celsius. Drain as much liquid as possible from your tin of beans and empty the beans out in a saucepan. Season the beans with salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning. Mix well over a medium flame. Lay out the slices of bread on a baking tray and spoon the beans onto the bread. Top with grated cheese and bake until the cheese melts over the beans! This should take about 10 minutes. And there you go! Other versions include adding chopped onions and cooking those with the beans or using other seasons to flavour the beans. It’s really up to you and you have your very own Upgraded Baked Beans on Toast.

P.S. I’ve also included photos of the places I visited during the Easter break.

Thanks for reading and see ya next time!

Adobe Spark

Accommodation Awards – Atharva

Hello all! Firstly, I’d like to say that I am now a certified adult. How, you may ask? The other day, I bought a box of eggs and checked all six of them before putting them in my trolley. It makes me quite proud and a little emotional to witness this transformation in my personal character. Anyway, onto the main topic of the blog…

I’ve now spent a good month at Chamberlain Hall. The “hall” is in fact a group of five buildings called blocks, named A-E and all built in a loose semi-circle. My room is on the third floor and in Flat A. A “flat” comprises of 10 rooms and a shared kitchen and dining area. I share this area with nine other amazing people who are really amazing (they read my blog, so I had to chuck in a mention). Chamberlain Hall comes under Glen Eyre Halls Complex, a complex of several halls which are all in the same area.

Blocks A, B, C, D and E of Chamberlain Hall. (Google Maps)

Glen Eyre is about a 10-15 minute walk from the University and is serviced by a couple of buses. I walked to and from Uni during the first week, before I found out which buses to catch and their timings. Thankfully, that cut my freezing ten minute trek down to a warm and seated five minutes.

Speaking of, the weather has been horrible for the past few days. Folk here experience a similar weather phenomenon as we do back home. Just how we get the odd polar blast from Antarctica which brings bone-chilling southerlies, here they get winds from the Arctic and Siberia. The recent one being dubbed the “Beast from the East” which has resulted in snow and UK-wide disruption. Just as we recovered from that, a snow storm from the Channel came up on the first day of March and dumped some snow, overnight.

I made my first snow angel and ended up with a wet bum, but it was worth it!

Since the weather is like this all day, I’ve been staying in my room, cranking up the radiator under my desk and working through some assignments. Fortunately, all rooms have radiators (at least in my Hall) and double-glazed windows which keep us alive and warm.

My room consists of an en suite toilet and shower, a double bed, a wardrobe and a desk and chair for me to do my work on. It’s one of three categories of rooms which you can choose from. The other two being a smaller room with en suite facilities and a non-en suite option. My parents and I thought it would be best to go for the bigger, en suite room because I’ll be spending a comfortable six months here (before moving out during the summer break) and then hopefully coming back to stay at Chamberlain or any other hall in the Glen Eyre Complex for Semester 1.

Here’s a little drawing of my room. It’s not a mess at all. I can only blame the poor lighting for no actual photos.

So far, I’ve successfully submitted a couple of assignments, made some new friends in my lectures and labs and gone out a few times with my flatmates. Once this snowy weather goes away soon, I should be able to emerge out of my bunker and do some groceries. So that’s me for the time being. Thanks for reading…See ya soon!

Adobe Spark


First Impressions – Atharva

Hello all!

London Heathrow, 8am: It finally sinks in. The feeling that you’re literally on the other side of the planet, with four pieces of luggage, alone. I’ll be honest, I was not mentally prepared for this and had initial doubts, or even minor anxiety. But, I thought “You’re here for a year, better get used to it. Just take a deep breathe”. After some mental prep, I headed off to customs and then to the big Central Bus Station where I was to catch a bus to Southampton.

The National Express Bus took me through the British countryside and some small towns. I was relieved to see a sign on the motorway showing that Southampton wasn’t so far away now. My body clock was a mess and I wasn’t sure if I was hungry, sleepy or both. I was a 6 month old baby stuck in the body of a 19 year old. Soon, the bus arrived at the Coach Station in town and I was able to get a taxi to the AirBnB that I was staying at for the first few days.

Southampton Common: A large park with open and wooded areas

The couple who I stayed with was very sweet and they even took me down to the local Sainsbury’s (imagine if Countdown and The Warehouse had a baby) just to keep me active and to stop me dozing off on the spot. I had an early dinner and was out cold by six o’clock (still acting like a 6 month old).

I didn’t do much for the next couple of day except eat, sleep and cry – I mean try to get out of the house and explore. As my sleep schedule adjusted to the local time, I felt more active and energetic. The weather was (and still is) super cold, and even colder during the night as it would often dip into the negatives. Although snow isn’t common here, I saw my first snow on the night of Waitangi Day. Winter is in full swing here, and for a person like me, who has survived Auckland’s wind and rain, I took my mother’s advice and wore a jacket (and 3 other layers) when going out.

“Me trying really hard to smile while cold and wet.”

The city seemed very lowkey and even a bit dull at times. It’s a quiet place (the way I like it) at least during the week, but being a town with two universities, the weekends get a bit rowdy. There’s a big mall, and a giant IKEA which you could easily get lost in and even the remains of a medieval city wall and gate. There are a few parks too. They seem pretty neglected right now, but I’d imagine them being much better once it gets warmer.

A day before moving into my Hall, I did a day-trip to Salisbury (pronounced Sawls-bree, it remains a mystery why and how) and the Stonehenge. My second major is Anthropology and so I was very keen to visit this historical monument. Salisbury town is basically the starter pack for “a small European town”. It ticks all the boxes. Narrow, cobbled lanes (check), small river flowing through the centre and an old mill (check), a large cathedral (check). Bonus points because this one has the tallest spire in the UK.

The Stonehenge on a cold and misty day.
The spire of Salisbury Cathedral stands 123m tall.

Currently, I’ve been going to uni for two weeks. It’s still cold, I’ve been dished out assignments already and I’m trying to cut back on eating ready meals and cook for myself. Anyway…hope you enjoyed reading this little slice of my life. Stay wholesome!

Adobe Spark