Sára found her second home here at the University of Portsmouth
I have always been very passionate about foreign languages, so I knew that I needed to study them at university.
I never really had a specific career in mind but I knew that I wouldn’t go wrong with choosing what I was passionate about and seeing where it leads me. I like the idea of a staircase – you don’t need to see the whole staircase to make the first step, so that’s what I did.
Applied Languages is definitely a good choice for someone who is interested in languages but doesn’t perhaps know what exactly they want to do in the future. The course gives you the opportunity to experience different career pathways from the more obvious ones related to language such as teaching, translating, interpreting, etc, but also the somewhat less obvious ones, such as project management.
What I loved about the degree is that it allowed me to study multiple languages at the same time, with being able to start one from scratch. Moreover, the fact that you get to ‘taste’ or experience different career pathways during one degree was very appealing to me.
Before settling for a specific career, I wanted to explore what is out there first and that’s what Portsmouth helped me to do.
Portsmouth: my second home
Before university, I attended a grammar school back home in Slovakia. I always knew that staying in Slovakia wasn’t an option, so I started looking into universities abroad, and found Portsmouth. It felt extremely exciting, being abroad, able to manage my own time, my ‘own place’, simply being able to explore this new city and all its hidden gems. I especially liked the proximity to the seafront.
Portsmouth is very multicultural, vibrant and has many different areas to explore: you have the seafront, the city centre, Southsea and all its hidden gems… there is simply so much to explore here.
I also made a great group of close friends at university, mainly through having mutual classes or interests. It all happened fairly naturally, but we have been friends ever since. And the best part is that I know these friendships are going to last.
Advice for others
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to stop waiting for moments to go back home to visit my family, and instead create a family here and integrate in the community. I wish I understood earlier that every single person was in the same situation – not really knowing anyone, wanting to find friends, and feeling quite anxious at times.
The university made me feel welcome. I never had a feeling like I didn’t belong.
It was only in my fourth year, when I really started putting effort into friendships and networking, that I understood how valuable these connections are and that people really are there to support you, you just need to allow yourself to be vulnerable and seen.
Support you can count on
What I really love about the university is how they make people feel heard and seen. When I needed to chat to someone or I was seeking support, I could always find people who would help me.
I am particularly grateful for my personal tutor Sabréa in my first year. She really supported me on a personal level and kept cheering for me throughout the whole duration of my studies. She also helped me develop my character, which is the best thing you can do for another person – help them find themselves.
The Career and Employability Centre helped me create and refine my CV, seek part-time work and helped me research my master’s degree.
One of the best experiences I had while in Portsmouth is visiting China through Summer School organised by the university.
I remember walking along the Great Wall of China, standing at the top and thinking, “Oh my god!”. I literally couldn’t believe that I was actually there, in China, on the Great Wall, looking at the mesmerising nature around. It really made me realise how unimportant little worries in life are.
The whole trip was an experience that I will be forever grateful for, as it opened my eyes and made me realise how much there is to be discovered.
Making the most of university and beyond
In my first year, I was selected to complete a teaching certificate (London Trinity College), which I completed during my second year. This helped me to get a job as a language teacher in a language school back home when the pandemic started. Thanks to the certificate I was able to get some amazing teaching experience.
In 2022, I was accepted to be a UKCISA ambassador for the #weareinternational campaign. To represent the international student community and to have the opportunity to talk to educational leaders is an extraordinary experience. I am very grateful for this opportunity as I know that it will help me significantly when it comes to my personal development.
I also volunteered for various community charities while studying. This included with the British Heart Foundation during my second year and a local reading scheme, where I attended a primary school each week to read with small children.
It is definitely a very good idea to get involved with volunteering and/or work placements alongside studying as it provides a practical way of gaining useful skills.