The Bristol PLUS Award is 10 years old! Could you be rewarded?

The University’s Employability Award for students and researchers, Bristol PLUS, exists to recognise students who develop skills through extracurricular experiences alongside their degree. This includes activities such as part time work, volunteering, student representative roles and (many!) more.

We are celebrating the Awards’ 10 year anniversary by sharing stories from some of the 5000 + students who have achieved it. One of which was current UG Education Officer, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, who used work experience as a Telethon Fundraiser, and a society committee position to gain the Award alongside her Social Policy degree. This is what she says about her experience.

“Taking part in the Bristol PLUS Award made me a stronger candidate for my career. I honed my skills in organisation, communication and most importantly for myself – leadership. It enabled me to feel confident in realising my potential in the future career I hope to have.

Attending the workshops and career events helped me to identify the qualities that came naturally to me, which assured me that a career in the public or third sector is where I would thrive and really enjoy my work. The various skills I learnt, for example bringing my CV up to a professional standard, allowed me to secure an interview with a top organisation in the third sector. Being able to show off my skills and personality in an interview setting was something I had always struggled with, but the Careers Service events gave me the tools to improve this. The interview skills workshop enabled me to pinpoint what parts of my personality and character I should highlight at an interview and what aspects I should build on. The reflective report allowed me to identify the key parts of the PLUS Award that I felt were most beneficial to me, and in turn evaluate how much I felt I had gained from undertaking such a valuable scheme.

Being able to take initiative and be confident in myself, my work and my ideas are very important to me and I feel that I have really thrived in achieving this goal through Bristol PLUS. The Award allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and work on myself on all fronts; academically, personally and mentally. It was an invaluable experience which I would highly recommend!”

You can read more student stories on the Careers Service blog.

So what does the PLUS Award look like in it’s 10th anniversary year?

· More than 1300 students have registered so far. 252 are PGTs, 52 are PGRs. The largest group of students on the Award are 2nd year UGs with 494 registrations.

· Upon registering, 91 students told us they had no idea what they want to do in future. 297 told us they had a good idea of what they want to do. The vast majority fell somewhere in between. Wherever you are with your personal development and career planning, the PLUS Award can help.

· The PLUS Award is not meant to be onerous – almost half of students registered (562) had most of the evidence they needed to achieve the Award upon registering. They used the process to reflect and maximise their value.

· 218 students achieved the Award between October and Christmas.

 

The registration deadline for this year is Friday 14 February so it is not too late to take part – visit our webpage to book an introductory talk and find out more.

Building strong communities

Our work to improve the sense of community for our students here at Bristol has started, and initiatives like the Bristol SU Living Room are helping students connect with one another. However, our students have told us that there is still more to be done.  

Over the next two years, we plan to build on our strong platform of student-centred services by aligning many of the routes to support together under one roof. Given the centrality of Senate House, and the ongoing refurbishments that have already seen the building transformed into an easily accessible and all-inclusive hub for student activity, the plan is to bring even more services into the building. 

Already the home of the Study Centre, the largest Bristol SU Living Room, the PGR hub (for postgraduate research students) and a student café, Senate House is steadily undergoing further changes as it becomes the centre of Campus Heart.    

As well as revamping the ground floor to include a one-stop information point for all students, we hope this will become a fully integrated space that offers students access to all they need; from help and advice about fees and funding to a suite of wellbeing services. There will also be additional SU space for students to use for work or relaxation. 

Our Student Wellbeing Service and Residential Life teams are already expanding, with positive results that have seen a reduction in waiting times for counselling support and a more seamless approach to early interventions, in addition to professional support available round the clock, every day of the year.  We’re building on this success to ensure that our students can continue to access the high quality support they need. This includes working in partnership with Bristol Students’ Union, Sports Exercise and Health and academic colleagues to provide a range of activities to help build strong communities across our university.  

Find out more as we chat to Ros Elliott, Head of Student Residential Life.

Further information about what we’re doing to transform our campus including all the latest developments at Senate House, can be seen on our latest film (January 2020).  

This case study is part of a series of stories sharing findings and student views from our Mental Health and Wellbeing Surveys 2018 and 2019. It’s a chance for us to share what we have done in response to what students have told us and to share what we’re planning to do. See our webpage for further information

Lydia’s MSc shaped her career path

‘I initially chose the MSc at Bristol as I wanted practical training in wildlife health and this course stood out to me. During my Masters however, I discovered that I really enjoyed the research side. I want to be part of the answer and provide useful research to inform wildlife conservation management on a larger scale.

I’ve just started a PhD at the University of Southampton where I’m researching hunting patterns in Belize. I managed to publish my thesis, supported by my excellent supervisor, which has really helped me to stand out from the crowd and secure this next opportunity.

My MSc has shaped my career path and I’m proud that my research will make a difference on an international scale.’

Lydia Katsis, MSc Global Wildlife Health and Conservation

Read about Lydia’s research in Kenya and how this is informing conservation strategy.

 

Read why Sam’s postgraduate studies enabled him to follow his passion

Having a good relationship with his project supervisor inspired Sam to progress from an undergraduate course to an MSc and currently a PhD, all here in Bristol.

‘It’s a really exciting time for nuclear robotics and I feel my path to date has led me to an industry I’m passionate about. I’m currently researching robotic scanning of nuclear waste which could address the issue of nuclear waste storage and make it more accurate and cost effective.

I chose to stay at Bristol as the positive and open ethos within the University lends itself towards innovation and the prospect of interesting and exciting future research.

I became friends with some really fantastic people during the course and I’ve extended my professional network too. I’m sure further opportunities will open up in this field in the future and because of my postgraduate studies, I’ll be ready when they do!’

Sam White, MSc Nuclear Science and Engineering / PhD in Nuclear Robotics

A calming space to simply be : The Bristol SU Living Room

“..the SU living room space has helped with community feeling and with their various wellbeing activities are a good way to relax and take breaks.”  

 

Finding your place among a crowd of new people can be daunting, especially in the first few weeks of starting university, when many will have moved away from home and wish to feel they belong.  

Enter the Bristol SU Living Room, a space opened in 2018 by Bristol SU designed to provide Bristol students with an inviting, sociable and open environment in which everyone, no matter their area of study or academic year, can simply be. It is the first university-based initiative of its kind in the UK, developed with the help of Camerados, a social movement driven by an overarching belief in the power of human connection.   

There are now five SU Living Rooms across the University campus, including the original Bristol SU Living Room in Senate House, sandwiched between several floors of other student-led services, cafés and study areas – making access easy and visible to all. 

Students sitting at tables
Photo: Bristol Students’ Union 2019

 “This is one of many positive changes at the University that take a student-centred approach,” says Hannah, President of the Peace of Mind Society, which holds weekly ‘Positivitea’ sessions in the Bristol SU Living Room, informal get togethers where students can share in fun activities and, if they wish, vocalise their experiences in a safe, supportive group comprised of their peers. 

 “A lot of people find that the ‘Positiviteas’ give them some structure, a routine where they know they have to be somewhere to do something for themselves and other people. It’s about students looking out for other students. This space has given us a platform to be able to do that, where money isn’t a constraint because teas, coffees and the space are free, which means wellbeing support is available to everyone.” 

 The word students most use to describe the Bristol SU Living Room is “calm”, thanks to a distinctly laid back vibe that offers plenty to do for those who want to get involved, and a soothing sanctuary for those who don’t.  

Students sitting and laughing
Photo: Bristol Students’ Union 2019

 Students now have a home from home in which to relax, socialise with friends, meet new people, switch mental gears with one of the many books that line the shelves, find some peace in the dedicated quiet space, or just decompress on the sofa with a warm drink in hand, accompanied by whatever is on one of the multiple TV screens.  

In just one year, the initiative has already done much to counter the feelings of isolation and loneliness previously reported by students. More than 700 students visit the Bristol SU Living Room in Senate House every day. 

“People can really struggle to know where to go in between studying,” says Sarah, a Masters student who completed her undergraduate degree at Bristol in the days before the Bristol SU Living Room. “I would go home a lot between lectures because I’d otherwise be easily distracted from studying. This space really makes a difference to students’ lives because they can spend time in an informal space whether to just hang out or relax, build relationships with other students or go along to one of the drop-in activities.” 

“Love the SU living room in Senate- really great idea!” 

Facing facts 

  • Data from research undertaken both within Bristol SU and the University of Bristol previously indicated high levels of isolation and poor work-life balance among Bristol students, with 35% of students saying they rarely or never feel relaxed. Almost 1 in 4 students said that feelings of isolation and exclusion caused them stress often or all the time.  
  • According to the University’s 2019 Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey, 22% of Bristol students say they often or always feel lonely – this compares to 8% in 16-24-year olds nationally including non-students. 
  • Since the Bristol SU Living Room opened in December 2018, 63% of the student body has been involved and more than 250 events attracting over 5,000 people held in the space. 
  • 91% of those who have participated in some of the social activities said it helped them meet new people, while 90% said the Bristol SU Living Room improved their sense of community, and a further 88% said it improved their sense of positive wellbeing.  

 The bigger picture 

The lived experiences of people from all walks of life and every generation, coupled with a history of research on the subject, has shown that loneliness is detrimental to our mental and physical health. Community initiatives, befriending schemes led by charities and online groups are on the increase as society realises the importance of helping people to find their place among others.   

The Bristol SU Living Room took its inspiration from one such initiative aimed at encouraging positive wellbeing. Camerados is a social movement with the strapline: “the answer to all our problems is each other”. Camerados sparked a wave of Public Living Rooms in community centres, libraries, colleges and hospitals nationwide, in a bid to create a “comfortable place where anyone can come, on good days and bad, to be around people, make connections and enjoy being out of the house”.  

The organisation was instrumental in developing the Bristol SU Living Room, which has the potential to act as a model for similar Higher Education based initiatives elsewhere. 

Useful links

This case study is part of a series of stories sharing findings and student views from our Mental Health and Wellbeing Surveys 2018 and 2019. It’s a chance for us to share what we have done in response to what students have told us and to share what we’re planning to do.  See our webpage for further information.

Tis the season to… try something new

Stuck for ideas about what to do this December? Well look no further! If you’re out and about in Bristol this month, there are loads of events that you can get involved in across the city and the University! Covering everything from stargazing to sustainability to carol services, spend the last month of 2019 trying things that you’ll love.

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1. Wintertime in Millennium Square

Date: until 6 Jan

https://visitbristol.co.uk/whats-on/wintertime-on-the-square-in-millennium-square-p2360303

‘Wintertime in Millennium Square’ is a celebration of winter with a fun variety of events, including a spectacular lightshow created by artists Squidsoup who also designed award-winning lightshows for Burning Man Festival in Nevada, US and Christmas at Kew Gardens, among many others. You can unleash your inner ABBA at Bump roller-disco before cosying up with a hot chocolate or mulled wine at Apres Lounge.

2. Festive events with ResiLife and the Global Lounge teams

https://www.facebook.com/groups/359002554848575/

https://www.bristol.ac.uk/students/international/

ResiLife and the Global Lounge are hosting a range of events for students staying in Bristol. Meet new people and celebrate the holidays with fun, food and fairy lights.

3. Seasonal stargazing at We the Curious

https://www.wethecurious.org/PN/WinterStargazing

Date: until 6 Feb 

The event, which is part of a series of seasonal shows entitled ‘Planetarium nights’, invites guests to submerge themselves in space and step out of Bristol and into the cosmos. You’ll spend your evening 3D stargazing and understanding the mystical nature of our universe and existence – all from the inside a giant disco ball!

4. The Future of Fashion: Going Sustainable in 2020 at Beyond Retro

Date: 11 Dec

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-future-of-fashion-going-sustainable-in-2020-tickets-82618759935

This year, vintage fashion favourite, Beyond Retro have teamed up with Bristol 24/7 to host ‘The Future of Fashion: Going Sustainable’ – learn how to shop in ways that are better for the environment and twice as much fun. Get expert advice from a panel of fashion and sustainability specialists so that you can start 2020 in (sustainable) style. The event is free and sponsoring local homeless charity, Caring in Bristol, with any donations going directly to the charity.

5. The Harbourside Christmas Market

Date: every weekend until 22 Dec 

https://visitbristol.co.uk/whats-on/the-harbourside-christmas-market-p2307343

Located in one of Bristol’s most beautiful scenic spots, the Harbourside Christmas Market is the perfect way to spend a Saturday this December. Home to a diverse range of stalls featuring vintage, one-of-a-kind items from many of Bristol’s small and independent businesses, as well as live music and entertainment. The perfect place to explore cuisine from around the globe. The Market’s food stalls are a nod to the diversity of Bristol itself, containing street food cuisine from Tibet to Mexico!

6. RAG Craftmas @ Balloon Bar

Date: 12 December 

https://www.bristolsu.org.uk/groups/bristol-rag-raising-and-giving/events/rag-craftmas

RAG (Bristol Raising and Giving society) are hosting Craftmas – a wholesome afternoon where you can de-stress with like-minded people and display your inner artist. For Craftmas this year, you’re invited to join in and claim your spot as Bristol’s very own Star Baker by decorating cookies, as well as writing cards for elderly care homes around Bristol.

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Calendar still looking a bit empty? Here are some more December events that you may be interested in:

· 12 December – ‘Peep Show and Inbetweeners quiz’ hosted at The White Rabbit

· 14 December – Harbour Lights Festival 

· 14 to 15 December – Stokes Croft Christmas Market

· 16 December – ‘The Humanitarian Fundraiser’ hosted by UOB societies including Amnesty International Society; Jazz Funk and Soul society; and the Oxfam society Christmas.

“When I miss home, I… ” Coping with homesickness

This week we asked our Instagram followers to share what they do when they’re missing home;

here’s what they said…

Getting out and about

“…Visit the Student Living Room”

Have you checked out your Student Living Room in Senate House? It’s the perfect place to sit back, relax and even play a game of Fussball.

“…Meeting up with people who speak the same language as me, or are from my home city”

Come along to our weekly Language Café and improve your skills, learn about other cultures and have fun!

“…Going out to eat”

Some of your favourite places for food included; meatballs at Ikea and Wok to Walk!

‘Me’ time

“…Cuddling up with a tea, hot water bottle and a movie”

“…Taking part in sports to keep my mind busy”

There’s a great range of activities suitable for all abilities; take a look at our B:Active timetable.

“…Listening to music that reminds me of home”

“…Distracting myself by doing things I love – reading, baking and gaming”

Want to read your book in peace? Check out the relaxation spaces on campus. Surround yourself with bean bags, cuddly toys and make yourself at home.

“…Cooking a meal that reminds me of home”

Home comforts

“…Calling or Skype-ing my loved ones”

“…Looking through family photographs”

“…Washing my clothes in the same washing powder my family uses at home, for a familiar scent”

Student settling in guide

Customise your bedroom and make it your own

Moving away from home can be really daunting and there’s really nothing that will comfort you more than a cozy bedroom! Obviously feel free to splash out in Wilko (it’s a rite of passage) but be sure to bring a home comfort to make you feel settled like a photo or cuddly toy.

Explore Bristol

Bristol is such a cool and exciting city, full of hidden gems. Take full advantage of what the city has to offer in terms of food, music, art and shopping. Especially if you live in halls of residence further out such as Stoke Bishop.

Do some exercise

With all the takeaways, boozy nights and free rein over choosing your own meals, it is understandable if you’re feeling a bit out of shape. You’ll need to cope with Bristol’s hills somehow, so perhaps try an exercise class or join the gym.

Finding a house for your second year

Finding a house for your second year can be a stressful situation. There may be disagreements, awkward phone calls and you may even get ghosted by your letting’s agent after the first email. But you will get through it and find a nice place to live with your best mates, and it will all be worth it in the end. You will be fine!

Try something new

It might be cliché but with no parent or teacher encouragement, it is up to you to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Try to go to socials, meetups or join a society that could help you develop a new skill. What’s the worst that can happen? If you completely hate it, you never have to go back!

Not a fan of clubbing?

If you’re not a drinker, or just not keen on nights out, there are plenty of events to keep you entertained in the evenings. There are lots of great pub quizzes but my favourite non-clubbing night is a Tuesday evening of jazz and funk music at Mr Wolf’s. You can still dance if you want to!

Feeling like you haven’t met your lifelong friends yet?

If you aren’t getting on as well as you’d have liked with your flatmates, remember that there are so many other ways to meet people. Join societies and chat to people on your course but equally try not to be dismissive of people who you wouldn’t necessarily normally hang out with, you might get on.

If you’re struggling, tell someone

University can be overwhelming – don’t suffer in silence. Most things that seem monumental can be solved, but don’t forget that university isn’t necessarily for everyone. If you’re unhappy, there’s always someone you can talk to [Editor – Did you know that our Wellbeing Access Service is a useful route in to the support you need – you can call, email or submit an online form] Or you could even consider your other career options. (No shame in taking a gap yaaah.)

Stay safe and healthy

Freshers’ flu will be inevitable, but take the time to nurse yourself back to health and definitely sign up to the Student Health Service. Don’t forget that university is supposed to be fun so if you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsafe, tell someone. Look after yourself!

Give yourself a break

At the end of the day, university can be stressful, and you’ve done so well to get into such a good one. When things go wrong (and they will!) don’t beat yourself up about it. You haven’t quite done all your reading? get some sleep and do some more the next day. Woke your house mates up after accidentally locking yourself out? Apologise and move on. Give yourself a break, we’ve all been there.

Written by

This weeks blog has been written by Orin Carlin, a second year Classics (BA) student.

 

Still looking for more things to do when you are missing home? Take a look what our student Instagram followers said.

Top five student cafés!

As a student, there is no better place to immerse yourself in café culture than Bristol. From local favourites to coffee specialists – even a toilet-turned-café – University of Bristol students are spoiled for choice! Regardless of the vibe you’re going for, you are bound to find a café that appeals to you, which is what I’m here for.

Below are the key factors I focused on while making this list:

  • Proximity to the main campus
  • Quality and inclusive menu
  • Great service
  • Student discounts

While this list is in no way definitive, here are the top cafés that I would definitely recommend:

Primrose Café – The Tried and True

Tucked away in a corner on Boyces Avenue in fashionable Clifton, you can hardly go wrong with Primrose Café. Having operated for nearly 25 years, it has become a firm favourite among local residents and unsurprisingly so. Their brunch menu is absolutely mouthwatering with tasty vegetarian and vegan alternatives available. If you’re still feeling peckish after that, they also have  a gorgeous selection of cakes to choose from. Good-time, guaranteed.

Mrs. Potts Chocolate House – Chocolate Heaven

Brownies, cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, home-made marshmallows, chocolate fondue; you name it, it’s available! It is definitely one of the best places to get your chocolate fix in Bristol. I personally recommend their vegan brownie drizzled with warm chocolate sauce (you can also add a scoop of vanilla ice cream; I won’t judge!) Grab a plate and sit by the window overlooking College Green to people watch, or enjoy a rewarding self-care session in their courtyard.

East Village Café – The Secret Garden

Have a sudden cake craving that needs satisfying ASAP? East Village Café will fix you right up. Situated under a gorgeous arc at the entrance of charming Boyces Avenue, this café will transport you into a calm retreat despite being only a 12-minute walk from the Triangle. They offer an amazing array of Instagrammable – but more importantly – delicious baked goods. Plus, everything on their menu is vegetarian!

The Epiphany – The VSCO Dream Aesthetic

The half-tiled walls. The abundance of potted plants. The neon lights spelling the café name. The huge windows spilling light onto the interior.

Almost every inch of the Epiphany is aesthetically pleasing (even the baristas)! Situated inside the RWA, this rather hidden café is sure to charm you with its extensive menu and multitude of sweet treats on the counter.

Two Ways – The Coffee Beast

That café next to the bike shop opposite the Beacon House bus stop? This is it. What you may not know is that this café sells amazing coffee ranging from exotic Turkish coffee to your classic favourites like a latte or Americano. Two Ways pride themselves for their Italian and Turkish background which is reflected in their menus and daily specials. So go ahead and get your caffeine fix before that 9.00 am lecture!

Honourable Mentions

Bristol is so overflowing with cafés that it was a mammoth task to compile this list. Ultimately, different people have different opinions so your top five may include some places I haven’t mentioned. You may also have noticed that I did not include chains and franchises in the list as I can’t guarantee consistency of quality across all their outlets. To counter this, I’ve listed some equally amazing cafes below that did not feature:

  • Caffe Nero, Queens Road
  • Pinkmans
  • Caffe Clifton
  • The Cloakroom

Written by Iskandar Bin Suhaimi

Iskandar is a second year international student studying Law. As well as spending his free time hunting down Bristol’s finest cafes, he’s a member of both of Bristol’s Malaysian societies and Music Theatre Bristol.

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