It says something about the Southampton lifestyle that, but only two days after my latest show, Unseen (a show which was completely derived within an intense but hugely rewarding week), closed, I found myself auditioning for the summer Showcase (in which I was delighted to get a part). Three days later and I’m presenting Southampton’s Got Talent (soon to be viewable on SUSUtv) for charity! I’ve finally given up on my original objective to build up some kind of routine: things just don’t stand still here!
Exams were an interesting first taste of the standard expected at this level: whereas previously you can occasionally get away with skimming over parts of course syllabuses (though I don’t recommend trying it!), here the content of modules recursively builds up, meaning you have to use everything at your disposal, be that lecture notes, textbooks, Wikipedia (!) or other online sources, to fully understand every principle. It’s tougher, but it felt less like I was learning for 120 minutes’ worth of writing and more for a future in the field, and I believe I’ve carried most of last semester’s lessons forward as a result (along with some shiny, content-packed revision notes for future reference!).
This was particularly the case in terms of the Programming Principles exam where my flatmates often asked “Why do you get to use Google? And why are you revising?!” But, as one lecturer said, you’re not expected to be programming in some isolated submarine any time soon: it’s a practical skill, so it has a practical exam. And, by a complete stroke of fortune, the topic I was reading up on the day before, hash maps, appeared on the paper, stressing the importance of preparation.
The first semester gave us grounding principles but now the course is really kicking off; there’s nothing which quite says “Computer Sciences student” than typing UNIX proficiently into a command prompt! In the past three weeks, I’ve frequently rushed home eager to put lecture topics into practice, and I’m looking forward to grasping many new skills.
This past month I’ve bumped into groups of parents and applicants looking around. I remember my visit days at Southampton well; hailing from Chester in the North-West of England, and worrying about the implications of being that great a distance away from parents, cats and free laundry, I can recall not only being very impressed with everything about ECS, particularly just how friendly the people were, but also getting this “homely” vibe which I’ve had ever since. So if any applicants are reading this, my advice is to come and look around – immerse yourself in the place – and then just go with your gut feeling. For me, it’s been worth it.