Photo of University of Portsmouth final year student Amy Hughes

Final year student Amy Hughes shares her experiences of Portsmouth today

  • 01 April 2022
  • 4 min read

If you haven’t visited lately, final year student Amy Hughes, BA (Hons) Photography, offers a glimpse into student life at Portsmouth today.

A family away from home 


When I came to the Applicant Experience Day, I was overwhelmed. The people of Portsmouth were so welcoming and kind; I felt I would fit in right away. I’d visited other universities and did not get the same feeling of a friendly environment. 


Home to me is South Wales and it’s incredibly rural - there’s one bus a day in each direction! What I liked about Portsmouth was the large spaces with parks and the seafront. 


The Photography course has been great. In the third year, we’ve been working on individual practice, focused on what we want to do personally. It’s only a small group of 30 but we offer each other a lot of support. We’re like a little family.


The Eldon Building has had a lot of investment in new AI and motion capture suites, really adapting to new technologies. We feel so lucky that we’ve been able to utilise new facilities for our work. 


My first day as a fresher


I moved to the city in September 2018. My dad made a point of counting the 36 pieces of luggage I’d brought with me. I remember carrying each piece up the stairs to my room in Trafalgar Halls. It didn’t help that he parked miles away!


I bumped into others arriving. Once our parents had gone, we went to explore. I was so excited for this new- found freedom. It was strange, you’d just met these people earlier in the day but they were suddenly now your besties. 


It was such a busy time. I had a lack of structure in comparison to before and I was now nocturnal! I remember going to Freshers’ Fair and enjoying free pizza and learning about the societies I’d join. Little did we know this would be the last first-year group to have normalcy before the pandemic. 


Photo of University of Portsmouth final year student Amy Hughes in St John's Ambulance uniform

I think now we can all deal with whatever life throws at us, and make the most out of the worst situation. Rubbish was happening but we still made fun and supported each other.

Amy Hughes, Current student, BA (Hons) Photography

Building our resilience through COVID


It was one of the best times and worst times. 


When the lockdown was announced, seven of us were sitting in the house we rented in Southsea. The week before we’d been out for St Patrick’s Day dressed in green. The following week we were in lockdown. We were shocked. 


I worked for St John’s Ambulance throughout the pandemic, so I wasn’t able to move home and be with my family. I was working through the night and sleeping all day so I barely spoke to them either. It was tough.


Alongside work, I remember worrying  - how do I do a creative degree online? But the University lecturers adapted the course so well. It was hard for everyone, as they’d never experienced it before. It was a crazy time, but we all learnt to adapt. 


I think now we can all deal with whatever life throws at us, and make the most out of the worst situation. Rubbish was happening but we still made fun and supported each other. 


Now, we have a hybrid schedule. During lockdown, attendance actually rose and now big lectures are online and everything else is face to face. Our generation works so well online and I think they should continue it. We can have guest lecturers from all over the world, including one a few weeks ago from New York!


Portsmouth in the current day


It is incredibly diverse; both in terms of people and what it has to offer. I volunteer at Fratton Park and other community events; I meet people at one then they attend another. At each event, people are chatting together and I feel like everyone in Portsmouth knows each other - there’s a great community spirit. 


Cherished memories


Although COVID was tough, strangely one of my favourite memories was during the national lockdown. It was the time you could now leave the house in groups of six and there was a massive heatwave. 


We’d finished University for the summer. It was a 15-minute walk from our home in Southsea and for two weeks, we’d spend every day down the seafront chilling, swimming, sunbathing, reading books, listening to music and having a BBQ. It felt like a holiday. 


My favourite thing about student life is the freedom and the ability to do what you want, within reason! Earlier in the year, my friend and I found a £4.99 flight to Poland for a few days. Not only was it a great experience, but it also helped my photography as I took photos at Auschwitz and, being Jewish, it meant a lot to me.  


I’ll never be able to do this when I have a 9-5 job, I can’t just pop on a flight for four days or head to a restaurant for lunch. We might end up at the beach, arcades or in Gunwharf - but I’m making the most of the spontaneity at University. 


When I’m not working or studying, I enjoy taking walks around the city, visiting my favourite place, Canoe Lake, and enjoying Purple Wednesdays. There’s always a theme for the night, we all meet at 3.00pm for pre-drinks and head to Mr Miyagi's (formerly The Lyberry) and Popworld (formerly Babylon). We always end up getting the free Uni bus home and in bed by midnight and that’s why I love it - you’re never tired the next day!


A path for the future


When I graduate this year, my next step will be a two year full-time Masters in Paramedic Science at the University of West London. The Careers and Employability Service have helped me with interview practice. It is very different to my degree but I’ve secured it with my experience and practice through work.