Life in the 'Student Bubble'

Is it bad that I’ve been a student at the University of Southampton for almost eight months and yet I know near to nothing about the city itself? I’m led […]

I've walked past this many a time- still don't know what it is...

Is it bad that I’ve been a student at the University of Southampton for almost eight months and yet I know near to nothing about the city itself? I’m led by many of my elders to believe that it is. When I’m back home in there are numerous occasions whereby after having discussing the likes of living in halls, lectures and student nightlife in depth, the questions arise: “and what about the city itself?” at which point the conversation takes an awkward turn as I rack my brain for something interesting to say.

Similarly, in a current languages module I’m studying called ‘Reading the City’, my tutor was extremely unimpressed  when no one in the class could offer any detailed information on Southampton with regards to its heritage and culture. The fact of the matter is: for most of us our knowledge of the city really expands no further than that it contains a range of decent and cheap night clubs, it is home to a large shopping center and it has docks (which I have, rather ashamedly, still never actually seen myself).

Being brutally honest, I do not feel at one with any sort of community apart from that with my fellow students. At hardly any point (other than paying in a shop or getting into a club) have I conversed with someone here who isn’t involved with the university in some way- there has simply been no need. I don’t read the local paper; know nothing of the town planning or community events in the district- there is quite enough going on within the university sphere to contend with.  On my way into uni it is clear that in the run-down area surrounding Monte Halls there is a sharp divide between us undergraduates and the people who permanently live here. Despite the close proximity we are living totally different lifestyles, and so intermingling is something that just does not happen.

That is not to say that I don’t feel at home and content living here in Soton- I’ve had the time of my life here so far. It’s just all happened in a sort of ‘student bubble’- bouncing between four main destinations using my treasured bus pass. Halls of residence, uni itself, Portswood and West Quay are pretty much all a first-year student here needs in their life of sleeping, eating, working, shopping and partying- so why venture further?

It’s an odd situation really, and it probably does little good for for the city’s permanent inhabitants (having hordes of students traversing through each day and disturbing the peace at night), but I struggle to see how we can take a genuine interest in the local area knowing that its only a temporary residency and, more to the point, when we have so much going on in the university domain.  So I am sorry to the elders who expect me to have immersed myself in the culture of my university city, but ‘university’ is the key word there. The city is really just the trivial background setting to a teeming student vicinity in which we get to delight for three years of our life. After that, we will begin to immerse ourselves into the real world, promise!