Tree lined city street with blue skies

Congratulations to our International Student Ambassador Wera on graduating this month. Find out what the highlights of her time in Portsmouth were as she reflects on the past 3 years.

4 min read

My name is Wera and I’m an international student from Sweden who recently completed my undergraduate degree in Criminology with Psychology at the University of Portsmouth. These past three years have had a great impact on me, and I’ve developed a lot as a person. As I reflect on my time here, I wanted to share some of the highlights and lessons I’ve learned along the way.


Studying abroad

Moving to Portsmouth as an international student from Sweden during the pandemic was a daunting, but exciting, experience. I arrived in September 2021, and like many others, had to navigate pandemic restrictions and settling into university life.

Before moving to the UK, I took a gap year in Sweden, which gave me some well-needed experience in living independently and managing my time and budget. Despite this, the thought of moving into halls for my first year was a bit scary, especially since I was the only international student living in my flat.

Being a stereotypical, reserved Swede, it took some time adjusting to the friendly and outgoing nature of the British people. However, I made friends with my flatmates, and our group has actually continued living together throughout our university years. I’m very grateful to have lived with this kind and stable group of friends who have always been able to take my mind off any stress or worries. 

I always knew I wanted to go to university abroad, before even knowing where, or what subject I wanted to study. As I developed interest in how peoples’ minds work, and why people do the things they do, I discovered University of Portsmouth thanks to its recognised criminology institute.

Wera Manberger, BSc Criminology and Psychology

First weeks

During the first weeks, I was beyond impressed (and a little intimidated) by all the lecturers’ experience and expertise within their fields, which made me both inspired to start my university journey and scared for all the assignments I had to complete in my second language.

The academic experience, however, has been incredible. It has allowed me to learn and grow in ways I never imagined. My first essay was a memorable experience - it was nerve-wracking and scary, but exciting and fulfilling. Like most things, writing essays got easier as time went on, and with the feedback and support from my personal tutor and other staff, I quickly learned to love writing them. 

International Student Ambassador Scheme

One of the best things about my time in Portsmouth has been my job as an international student ambassador, and the experiences that have come with it. One significant highlight of my job was to experience the Festival of Cultures.

This event is a wonderful celebration of the University’s diversity, where my friends and I had the chance to share Scandinavian culture, from traditional snacks to everyone's favourite game: Kubb! It was an amazing experience, where we could both learn about other cultures and celebrate our own, and the event really showcases the university’s inclusivity. 


Another big milestone was finally submitting my dissertation. The process was challenging, but really rewarding. I chose a topic I was passionate about, but I didn’t realise that the project would become so close to my heart. At times, it felt like I would never be able to finish it, and the endless hours in the library felt extremely draining. Being passionate about my topic, and having good and continuous communication with my supervisor was crucial for me and it made all the difference.

Also, calling my family and friends as often as I could kept me sane, even though they were back in Sweden.

Completing and submitting my dissertation was a proud moment that made me reflect on all the work I’ve done throughout university. I even read my first essay again right after submitting my dissertation, and it made me realise how far I had come. 

Living in Portsmouth

Living in Portsmouth has been an adventure in itself. I’m not a fan of big cities, and the fact that almost everything is within walking distance has been a huge plus for me. The city has a rich history, nice cafés, and of course the sea.

I’ve spent countless hours at the Southsea common, having picnics, BBQ’s, playing football and listening to music. While the city is windy, it’s a lot sunnier than I imagined the UK would be before I moved here! Portsmouth has been a wonderful place to live and study.

Reflecting on my time in Portsmouth, I realise how much I’ve grown. Living independently, managing a budget, time, and balancing work and study were skills I had already started developing during my gap year in Sweden, but they have definitely been refined during my time at university.

Wera Manberger, BSc Criminology and Psychology

The friends I’ve made, the knowledge I’ve gained, and the experiences I’ve had here will stay with me forever. Each year of university brought challenges and opportunities, which have shaped me into a more confident and capable person. I have gone from being reluctant to talk in fear of saying or pronouncing something wrong, being nervous to write essays and scared to ask for help, to forming friendships, exceeding my own academic expectations and being more open and outgoing as a person. 

If I could tell my first-year self one thing, it would be to embrace every opportunity. Moving to a new country and starting university was the scariest thing I had ever done, but it’s probably been my life’s best decision. Get involved in activities and societies, connect with people from different backgrounds, explore the city. And most of all: say yes to things, even when they feel scary.

Portsmouth has been a wonderful place to call home during my studies, and I’m grateful for every moment. My journey has been filled with unforgettable experiences, and some really valuable lessons. It’s been a time of immense personal and academic growth, and as happy as I am that all the stress surrounding university is over (for now), I could not be more sad to leave Portsmouth.

My journey at the university is coming to an end, and I’ll be moving back to Sweden soon. I might leave the city physically, but I’m still not ready to leave completely. Because of this, I’ll be doing a distance learning Master’s degree with Portsmouth this autumn. This way, while I might physically be in Sweden, I’m still able to be part of the university that has shaped me into the person I am today.