My Bristol memories as a final-year student

Hi everyone, my name is Kiki and I have just finished my final year of BA French and Spanish. In February, I featured in the University’s undergraduate film Find Your Focus, which lead me to reflect on my time at Bristol and the different memories from over the years.

Bristol, my university city.  As a finalyear student in my final term, I find myself looking back at my experiences over the years at Bristol – it’s a strange feeling. It has, however, made me really appreciate all the opportunities that I’ve had within and outside the University and the amazing city.  

Bristol skyline

My Bristol experience has been majorly enhanced by my involvement in societies. They are access points to meet likeminded people and make friends for life. There are endless societies here, including some very niche ones, like MagicSoc, to the classic sport societies. There are even societies for different regions in the UK (unfortunately there isn’t a Midlands soc 🙁). I joined the football society in my first year and it was one of the best things I ever did at uni.  

Being interested in sports since a young age, the football society became an integral part of my first year, not only keeping up my competitive sports but also being involved in the socials that take place every Wednesday and getting to know members from across all years. Having support from older peers who have similar interests really allows you to feel comfortable and accepted.  

Group of students in Budapest
Football tour to Budapest 2017

The many trips offered through the University have been some of the highlights of my entire experience. From football tour to the famous university ski tripwhich sells out in minutes to over 1,000 students every yearthere have been many opportunities to explore other countries. No sleep combined with nights of partying – it’s no wonder that these trips are so popular!  

Students skiing
Ski trip 2018

Bristol is so unique and diverse. From the edgy nightlife in Stokes Croft to the bustling student atmosphere on the Triangle, to the peaceful seaside vibe down at the Harbourside. Being part of the undergraduate promotional video Find Your Focus and filming down at Harbourside brought back so many memories as it’s my old home and one of my favourite areas. I love the bustling atmosphere that you find there day and night.  

Closeup of Kiki
Kiki in the University’s 2020 film Find your Focus

I really haven’t had the chance to explore half of what I wanted to in Bristol, and that’s after three years! There really is something in this city that appeals to everyone.

Banksy artwork

Looking back on my experience at Bristol, it has offered me much more than I could have ever expected walking into the uni four years ago. Despite not being able to round off my experience the way most students have, I am forever grateful to have picked Bristol as my university.  

Banksy mural
Banksy’s mural making a statement

How our community are being kind during lockdown

Every May we in the United Kingdom celebrate and observe Mental Health Awareness Week. It is a chance to raise awareness of mental health problems and the importance of taking care of ourselves. It is an opportunity to inspire action, share experiences, and end the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

This year’s theme is kindness. Being kind to ourselves, being kind to others and being kind to our communities and planet.

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, last week we asked our Instagram followers to share with us how they are practising kindness during lockdown, here are some of their responses, and some tips if you want to do similar things.

Giving food and blankets to homeless people

Understandably the current situation with COVID-19 is difficult and stressful for everyone. We miss normality, our family, our friends, travelling, getting haircuts etc. However this situation is also incredibly stressful for some of our more vulnerable members of society, particularly the homeless. If you feel that you would like to, or are in a position where you are able to, donate food and blankets in your local communities, that can be a great way of spreading kindness. Likewise, if donating money is something that you are able or would like to do, take a look at the following charities who are working hard in Bristol, in the UK and internationally.

Caring in Bristol – Caring in Bristol work in imaginative and creative ways with people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, with the public and community partners to bring about lasting change in Bristol and beyond.

Shelter UK – Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services.

Habitat for Humanity – As an international charity fighting world poverty and homelessness, Habitat’s  vision is a world where everyone has a safe place to call home. They believe that a decent home helps to permanently break the cycle of poverty and allows families to achieve strength, stability, and self-reliance.

Also there are a bunch of really cool comedy shows and online quizzes that donate a portion of your ‘e-ticket’ to charity.

Cooking meals and snacks for loved ones and key workers

 

If you enjoy cooking, are trying to cook more during lockdown, or simply are bored of takeaways, the making and sharing of food is a great way to show kindness to yourself and others.

Jack Monroe has a range of recipes on their website that can cater (pun intended) to those of us who may be on tight budgets, lack time or only have access to a microwave, whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free. Visit their website and see what you can cook.

Check out our previous blog post where second year History student Elaura shares her yummy ginger biscuit recipe.

The BBC Good Food website also has a section specifically designed for students, the meals are quick and cheap to make, and definitely worth a try.

Making an effort to talk to everyone

Having a quick (distanced) chat or even a “good morning!” with someone you pass in the street, park or shop can really brighten up your or their day. Of course, conversations with a stranger can’t replace the face to face contact with friends and family but it could make you feel a bit better and decrease loneliness slightly.

In the UK, we celebrate once a week with a “clap for carers“. People go to their front doors and clap in the street for a minute to show their appreciation for carers during this time. If you take part in this or there is something similar taking place in your home country, why not speak to your neighbours after and see how they are doing.

If there are elderly people in your area then you could become a neighbourly volunteer with Age UK. Volunteers can help as much or as little as they like. Just offering a phone call once a week to someone staying at home during the outbreak could mean a lot.

Other acts of kindness students shared with us include:

  • Checking in with family and friends

  • Sending cards to tutors

  • Sharing one positive thought a day

  • Shopping locally and supporting small businesses

For more kindness stories from across the UK, head over to the Mental Health Foundation website.

Zak gets his work published in one of the UKs leading journals

Current undergraduate student, Zak Eastop, has had an article published in German Life and Letters, one of the leading journals in the field of modern languages in the UK. This is an incredible achievement by someone who hasn’t yet graduated!

We ask Zak a few questions about his recent success, life at university and what he plans on doing next…

Hi Zak – tell us a bit about yourself

Hi! I’m Zak, I’m 22 and come from East London. I’m in my fourth year and I study French and ab initio (beginner’s) German. I’m heavily involved in the university’s music societies. I conducted the BUMS Brass Band in my second year, as well as an opera double-bill with BOpS. I’m also the current principal trumpet of the Uni Symphony Orchestra and lead trumpet with the Bristol Hornstars. It keeps me busy for sure, though I also climb quite regularly (when the Gyms are open at least).

What is your article about and what inspired you to write about this topic?

Because of the nature of journal articles in the Arts and Humanities, my paper is on some pretty niche stuff. In broad terms, I start by reopening a discussion about Diderot’s influence on Schiller’s play Don Karlos, and then trace this influence through Verdi’s adaptation of the work, looking at how opera as a genre can improve otherwise flawed narratives by affording their composers use of other sign-systems…[yawn].

Really, the main take-aways are that Diderot is important, Schiller changed his mind a lot, Operas are weird, and Verdi was a pretty clever dude.

I had written a smaller essay on the topic for a second-year module on anti-establishment German Enlightenment theatre. It did really well and someone (I think jokingly) suggested I might one day like to write it up to full-length. During the long summer before I went on my year abroad, I spent around 300hrs reading and writing in the British Library and… well… tadah.

What support did you recieve from the Uni or department?

I acknowledge a few people in the first footnote of the paper but I can’t thank Ellen Pilsworth, Steffan Davies, Debbie Pinfold, Marianne Ailes and Rowan Tomlinson enough. All helped a huge amount, not just with this paper, but with the work I undertook that year, and their constant encouragement.

The mere fact I’m able to read Schiller (or any German at all) is in large part down to the language staff in the department. 

Also, an important shout-out MUST go to Damien McManus in the library. While he wasn’t hugely involved in this particular project, the other work I have on the go wouldn’t be particularly possible without his help and I wouldn’t be able to work on the things I do without his assistance. He’s like an obscure literature magnet and will (and has) move heaven and earth to get you the book you need. That guy is a hero.

How did you find out that your work was being published?

I was the one who submitted it, so I knew it was being considered, but I was not expecting the email I got from Steffan Davies who, alongside being my utterly excellent personal tutor, happens to be one of the journal’s editors. At the time, I was on my year abroad, working as a teacher in a school in Vienna. I literally jumped up and down on the spot with joy and got some pretty weird looks from some of my colleagues. It was the staff room: a place which, as any teacher will tell you, is not often a setting for ecstatic displays of joyful celebration.

Can you offer any study tips or advise to other students?

You’re at Bristol – you aren’t a moron. Don’t be scared to have your own ideas. Make notes in a notebook, it’s better for information retention. Be organised, but not in a mad way. Be lovely to your lecturers and maybe engage them in conversation once in a while. Be interested and love what you study – if you don’t enjoy it then it is hard to care about. Download a citation manager – I like Zotero. It will change your life, trust me.

Most importantly though, back yourself.

This must be one of your university highlights- what else has made your time at Bristol so special?

A lot of my most dizzying highs were linked to performances in some way. The curtain closing on the opera double-bill I conducted was a wonderful feeling. We went over-capacity in the Winston and had a huge queue for tickets which went out the door of the SU… for Holst!? That was seriously special, as was conducting the Bristol Uni Brass Band’s winning performance at the Unibrass competition in 2018. However, my degree highlight was during my Year Abroad. I was lying in a hammock on the Danube Island in Vienna in the warm shade surrounded by a group of wonderful Viennese friends whom I would never have met were it not for my degree. That was a truly beautiful moment in my life.

What are you planning on doing next?

My overall aim is to try and add to the general theory about what constitutes an ‘adaptation.’ Why is it that when Colin Firth dresses up as a bit of a fop and runs around a field in the north of England, we call it an ‘adaptation’, but when Jodie Comer runs around assassinating people, it is just a show? Both narratives come from novels, but one is generally thought of as adapted and the other isn’t. What if the adaptation makes changes to bits of the original? Is it still an adaptation? I will also be continuing my work on Rabelaisian operas during my research master’s next year.

Finally, how have you been keeping yourself busy during lockdown?

Forget keeping busy, it’s enough keeping remotely sane. Solidarity with all the other students and staff in lockdown alone. We will get through this. Es geht sich aus.

 

My experience of lockdown in Bristol

Hi I’m Gurjot and I’m studying Development and Security (MSc).

When life throws stones at you, you have two options. Either you can choose to get hurt by their crushing impact or if you are bold enough, you can collect those stones and build strong bridges. The Coronavirus lockdown is a challenging time but I hope to use this time to try new things and gain perspective on what is important in life.

With these positive thoughts in my mind, I decided to not to travel back to India and stay here in Bristol. Reflecting upon my time in lockdown so far, the main things I have discovered are:

Learnt new skills

Apart from completing my university assignments, I have tried to utilise my lockdown time in Bristol to polish my culinary skills, hone my guitar lessons, improve my cyber knowledge and write some new topics about life in my weekly diary.

Value time, loved ones & online community

I have started valuing the importance of ‘time’ and ‘family’ even much more in my life and become interested in doing exercise, yoga and meditation which was rare earlier. Separated by physical distances, but united in social solidarity, the online classes by the subject unit tutors and other cool events like Virtual Language Café, run by Global Lounge, etc. are proving to be great stress-busters and uplifting the collective spirits of the students.

Appreciate Bristol

As an international student, I consider myself to be very lucky to be a part of the city of Bristol which weaves magic upon you through its colourful landscapes, Banksy’s artworks and lovely, unpredictable weather.

Indeed, the one thing which I have really learned from lockdown is that we need be adaptable and respond positively to whatever challenges we face in our lives.

Senate House update from Julio (Bristol SU’s Union Affairs Officer)

A lot of things have changed very quickly in the last few weeks and months – and that has impacted all of us in lots of different ways.

We chat to Julio Mkok, Bristol SU’s Union Affairs Officer, about how the new spaces at Senate House are taking shape, why these spaces matter now more than ever, and tips for coping during lockdown.

Q: How have you found adjusting to all the recent chances? Any top tips?
A: Transference is inevitable. It’s been very hard adjusting. We are coming from a way of life that flourished on human interaction and now we are moving into an era that doesn’t support or encourage the basic human interaction.

We all need each other to fully appreciate the joys of life. But, despite being so far from everyone else, there a few tips that could help you just the same way they’ve helped me ride out this wave. Daily exercises and a healthy routine that prioritises your wellbeing have really helped me. I for one am trying yoga for the first time…. I would highly recommend it! 😊

Q: You’ve recently been re-elected. What would you like to achieve during your time in post?
A: Having been re-elected for my second term as Union Affairs Officer, my main aim is to make sure that the Campus Heart Project is delivered with the interest and suggestions from the student body at its core.

The way that things are taking shape at Senate House is really exciting – we’re working on a new food court, known as the Market Place, and the Beckford SU bar – all right at the centre of the campus. We’ll have a Dining Room to accompany the Living Room at Senate House!

Of course recent events have meant delays to the project overall, but we’ll do everything we can to keep you updated on what’s happening, when. Even if we can’t come together now physically, the time will come that we will be able to be together again, safely. Spaces to help build communities will become even more important.

Q: Why do spaces like Senate House matter, especially in light of the pandemic?
A: The University of Bristol is one of the few Russell Group universities without a social space exclusively for students at the heart of campus (excluding libraries and other academic areas).

Senate House will provide a space for students to come together to socialise, play games and interact with different non-academic aspects that the University has to offer.

Q: What other changes would you like to see happen on campus? Or what are you excited about what’s already happening on campus?
A: The University’s main responsibility is providing academic excellence and support to its students. However, what is mostly forgotten is the “university student-experience” that most people always look forward to when coming to university.

I would like to see more non-academic projects that improve and support the student experience such as the Senate House Project. Additionally, we are all hoping that sometime in the future everything will go back to normal and the possibility for all of us students to come back together and continue with our day to day shenanigans.

It is on this note that we need the right spaces to be able to facilitate, diversify and improve this interaction.

Stay connected

Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep our online community strong.  

You can tap into some of the fantastic online resources which will keep you connected to other students and the University! 

Social Media

Bristol SU 

Sport & keeping active

Mental health in lockdown

The world feels very strange at the moment, and undoubtedly the uncertainty about the length of the lockdown, our health and that of our loved ones, access to pasta and toilet paper etc., is cause for anxiety. 

Here are some tips and tricks that may ease or help you manage your worries during this time.   

Meditate

Mediation may bring forth images of incense sticks, swaths of tie-dye and people chanting. This is sometimes the case. But meditation, in essence, is simply a practise where through mindfulness or focusing on a particular thought, to achieve a calm and stable mindset. 

Just taking out 2 minutes out of your day to sit with your thoughts and breathe can be very helpful. Perhaps initially the idea of sitting doing nothing may seem odd when there is so much going on in the world, but it is important to make time for yourself and your mental health, now more than ever. 

Websites such as Headspace and Calm have resources that can get you started. There are also great videos on YouTube that can be accessed for free, such as this one

Our Multifaith Chaplaincy is also offering daily meditation in both the morning and the evening. More information can be found here.

Stop watching the news

We all want to be informed and we all want answers. But if watching the daily news is getting you down, please stop watching it. That goes for reading newspapers, watching news programmes, and to some extent consuming social media. 

This is not to say that you should delete your social media accounts or remove the apps from your phone, because not only are these fantastic channels to communicate with people around the world while we are in lockdown, but we also deserve memes and dog videos at the moment. But consider muting keywords that will bring up posts that will negatively affect you. 

Instead seek out good news such as John Krasinski’s (Jim from the US Office, Jack Ryan etc.) YouTube show ‘Some Good News’ or follow the Uplifting News thread on Reddit.

 

Take advantage of this time

You may not be feeling productive in this time and that is okay. However, try to appreciate that we may now have more time to do things that we enjoy which can be really good for our mental health. So whether that is watching films, binge-watching tv series and making wearing pyjamas, or learning a new skill or behaviour, appreciate this strange pause in time and discover or reignite some hobbies. 

But if you want to be more productive in this time, you could start by making yourself a list of achievable goals to accomplish each day e.g. making the bed, getting some fresh air, spending a set amount of time doing revision. You could also create a ‘ta-da list’, which is like a reverse to-do list – at the end of each day make a note of all the things you did that day no matter how small, and you’ll soon see how much you do without even thinking about it. 

Reach out

There isn’t a guidebook for dealing with the sort of situation we are in now, it would be great if there were. But one thing is clear, we are all in this together. So reach out to your nearest and dearest, send text messages, FaceTime, Whatsapp, go old school and send care packages and handwritten letters, take part in zoom quizzes, virtual coffee chats and share all the memes the internet has to offer.