International student Q&A

Starting university is both nerve-racking and exciting, especially when you are travelling from a different country and culture to do so.

Earlier this week we posted an Instagram story asking our incoming international students to tell us what they wanted to know about life as a Bristol student.

Here are a few of their questions!

1. Can we work while studying? 

Yes! International students on a Student Visa can work while studying, providing you are able to balance your job with your studies and social life. 

Many businesses in and around Bristol are happy to hire students and work around your schedules. There is also the option to work for the University in roles such as student ambassadors or event stewards. 

For more advice about working visit the careers service website

2. Can we get the food we like from our countries?

There are many international stores around Bristol, selling a range of foods including halal meat, eastern European delicacies and Asian spices. Also, most large supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Tesco have international aisles, but the selections may be limited in comparison to specialist markets. Likewise, most supermarkets have vegetarian and vegan selections too. 

Bristol prides itself on its multiculturalism as such there are many restaurants with international cuisines near campus and some that are just a short bus or bike ride away. 

Our friends over at UWE have put together a list of international food stores in Bristol

3. Which shops accept student discount? 

Many stores in Bristol and the UK accept student discounts, however there isn’t a website naming all of these, so you are better off going into a store and asking. 

Stores within Cabot Circus, the Galleries, Broadmead and the Arcade that accept student discount are listed here: bristolshoppingquarter.co.uk/offer/student-discounts/ 

There are also third-party discount providers such as TOTUM, Student Beans and UNiDAYS, who provide you with a card that will entitle you to discounts on everything from restaurants, retail, tech, travel and everything in between.   

4. Will there be other students from my country?

The University of Bristol is home to students from all over the world, with everyone being welcomed into our community, so chances are that there will be someone from your country. 

Bristol SU has an International Students Network which is a chance for all international students to come together. There are also social groups for students from specific backgrounds such as the African & Caribbean Society, Filipino Society, Arab Society, Latino Society and Chinese Society. If there isn’t a society for you, you can always try and start one.

5. Are there lots of cycle routes?

Bristol is a very bike friendly city, with lots of cycle paths and cycle routes. Visit Bristol has a very handy list of maps for cyclists, as well as a lit of where you can rent bikes, and cafes that even offer extras for cyclists such as repairs and bike storage.

6. What do people wear? How do I dress for the weather?

People should wear whatever they feel comfortable in. Feel free to express yourself with your fashion choices. 

The autumn and winter months in the UK can be cold and rainy so you should have warm clothes such as jumpers and cardigans as well as a waterproof coat. It rarely snows here, but if it does there is never more than a couple of inches and it normally melts away within a day or two. 

This summer has been very warm with some daily temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, in this weather it is common for people to wear t-shirts with shorts or jeans, or dresses etc. In 

The weather in spring and summer can be unpredictable, so it might be handy to carry a small umbrella in your bag even if the sky looks blue when you leave the house. 

 Our campus sits at the top of some hilly roads so comfortable shoes such as trainers, boots, flat sandals (for the summer months) are recommended. 

7. Will teaching be online this year?

At the moment, we are planning to deliver as much in-person learning as we safety can. This includes seminars, laboratories and even some lectures. At the same time, the past year has taught us the benefits of a blended approach and we will be taking the best of online and adding it to a mainly in-person educational offer. 

Our planning is informed by government guidelines, Public Health England and by our very own scientific advisory group. Therefore, you can be assured that your safety and the safety of our community remains our priority. We have plans that mean we can respond effectively to any changes in circumstances. 

We look forward to welcoming you to campus and our amazing city! 

8. What is the cost of bus travel?

Students can benefit from discounted fares of up to 30% off bus services across Bristol and further afield.  

The best bus fares are normally available as mobile tickets which can be bought and stored on your mobile phone using the mTicket app (just search ‘First mTickets’ in your app store). More information about bus fares can be found on our website.

A range of special passes and fares are available for the Bristol Unibus U1 and U2 services linking the North Residential Village and Langford to the Clifton Campus.

Further fare information is available on the Bristol Unibus website.

9. What is council tax, and do I need to pay it? 

As a university student you are exempt from paying council tax. However, the council will normally ask for proof of your student status this can be requested from your school administration.  

If you live in a household with non-students, they will be likely to qualify for a discount.  

There is more information available on the Bristol City Council website 

10. Where does the best pizza in Bristol? Where can I get the best coffee?

Websites like Secret Bristol and Best of Bristol regularly post lists of the best places in Bristol for food and drinks.  

TripAdvisor is also a good source for rankings as you can see a lot of reviews from different people.

But I think the best and tastiest way to find your perfect pizza or coffee is to try as many as possible!  

11. Does the university have a canteen? 

There are lots of places to eat and drink on campus. From smaller cafes serving takeaway food and drinks, to the Senate House Marketplace where you can go for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

12. How do we claim back PCR test costs? How do I get food in quarantine?  

Information about covid testing kits and quarantine packs can be found on the following pages of our website.

International travel: restrictions and quarantine

Tests and quarantine for travel

13. Is Bristol expensive? 

Living in any major city does tend to cost more they people think. However, life in Bristol doesn’t need to break the bank, so long as you are sensible with your money. 

We have put together a rough guide how much it costs to live in Bristol.

14. Can you recommend any good restaurants?

We could (and probably will) dedicate a whole blog post to eating in Bristol as it’s so amazing!  

You can probably find an example of food from nearly everywhere in the world and some of our restaurants are in the Michelin guide. However, if you want to get a snapshot of what the city has to offer, head for Cargo at Wapping Wharf. It’s down by the harbour, just behind the MShed (which is a very cool museum!) You’re bound to find something tasty to eat there! 

Freya, nominee for the Outstanding Individual Achievement award

Hello, my name is Freya, and I am a second-year Management with Innovation student.  

1. You’ve been nominated because of your work during the welcome period as a JCR President of Goldney. Could you describe what you’ve been doing over this time? 

I spent my time curating a ‘2020 Freshers Survival Guide’, which were given to each flat with recommendations from past Goldney students. I also helped organise a ‘starter pack’ with everything they would need for fresher’s week I, including some snacks, drinking utensils, some Goldney merchandise, fairy lights and a disco light for the flat.   

Once the first years were all moved in, we ran socially distanced events in the Goldney gardens, these included a quiz, outdoor cinema, ‘taskmaster’ style challenge afternoon, Bristol-based scavenger hunts, cooking challenge, morning yoga and an afternoon garden party with ice cream and candy floss! Students were part of ‘living bubbles’ made up of the members of their flats, so we would set out areas with cones to make sure social distancing was maintained. 

I was so glad that my ideas for freshers could come to fruition and that we could execute them and make a real difference for the 2020 Goldney freshers. 

2. What were some challenges you had to overcome? How did you cope with the restrictions? 

The restrictions were a massive challenge! All the ideas had to be carefully thought out and risk-assessed by Resilife to make sure they were Covid safeAt times it seemed easier not to bother than wrestle with the restrictions, but I was really glad we persevered.  

 3. What’s the best thing about being in a position of JCR or being part of society? How can this help students during at University? 

The absolute best thing is the impact that you have on students. As JCR President, I could reach so many people and enrich their University life. Also, the support that you receive and the network and group of people that you become a part of is incredible. The societies, networks and JCRs really are the backbone of University life and what can turn a good experience into an incredible one. 

4. What would you advise students coming to Bristol in the autumn? Especially new freshers arriving in halls for their first time.  

In your first few weeks, take as many opportunities as you can and embrace everything with open arms, even if they are things you don’t think you’ll be remotely interested in. You may surprise yourself, you could make some new friends, or you could just have a funny story to tell from it! There is really nothing to lose.  

Also, get a microwavable saucepan – they are so useful! 

5. What were you doing when you heard that you’d been nominated for an award? 

I was actually preparing for a pitch for the Innovation part of my course. When I got the email, I did a little dance around my room, screamed a bit and texted my mum (she’s always first to know anything!).  I think it’s fair to say seeing the nomination gave me a lot of energy, excitement which I channelled through the pitch! 

 Words by Adam Balazi, International Business Management student

Olivier, nominee for Outstanding Individual Achievement award

1. Who are you? Name, programme, which year. 

My name is Olivier Levy and I’m in my second year of history, Law School. 

2. Tell us about you – favourite food, music, favourite place to hang out in Bristol 

I’m a vegetarian now, I’ve stopped eating meat in the last year. Talking about music, I do have a varied range. I listen to a lot of 70s and 80s rock, which is my favourite type, and recently I’ve been listening to some Chopin. Last week I went to a very cool concert. I really enjoyed that night because I can hear music and talk to people. I appreciate that I can go out with my friends to visit concerts, exhibitions. There are many different places where we can hang out and that has been my favourite part of discovering Bristol.  

3. You’ve been nominated because of your role as Chair of the Wellbeing Network  – could you describe what you’ve been doing this past year? 

There are three different parts of working in the network. The first is working with my amazing committee of ten people.  We also work with many peer support groups. I am proud that we’ve launched a campaign named the Financial Wellbeing Project which can give students financial advice. The second part would be the panels and campaigns we launched in March. The third part would be the Buddy Scheme that I created back in November. It was an online forum, like space where students can chat and get together. I was expecting about 40 to 50 people to sign up at the most. And we had about 450 in the end.  

4. Did your group have conflicts and disagreement before, and how do you handle these? 

No, not at all.  It is very hard to do anything wrong when it comes to improving mental health. Although there are lots of things that can go wrong. But I believe as long as we’re raising awareness and organising conferences and events, we’ll never have any disagreements. 

5. What’s the best thing about being in the society in Bristol SU and how can this help students at University? 

The best thing about being in the network this year has been spending time with the friends I made working in the SU. It’s so uplifting to be working and talking to people who have such positive energy and who aspire to create meaningful and substantial change for students. And I think especially this year when it’s been hard to find more gratifying things. Just being with them has been phenomenal. I could go on forever about them. I can’t recommend it enough! It is a very positive experience. All we try to do is continue to try to improve students’ lives.  

6. Any words to students who want to be a part of the wellbeing network?

I would say just go for it, you don’t need any experience. It’s usually the one thing you could put as much work into as you want. It’s immensely rewarding work. The public speaking will enable you to become an effective communicator, and it’s just nice to be part of the team. I think that’s what I’ve relished the most and what I’m excited about. It is fun to work with different people and engage their perspectives and be a part of the student union. 

Words by Ziqiong Li, MSc Marketing student

Isaac, nominee for Outstanding Individual Achievement award

Hi Isaac, you have been nominated for the Outstanding Achievement Award because of your role as President of Bristol Bar Society. 

How did you get involved in Bar Society in the first place? 

It started with wanting to explore the Bar as a career option because I have always been keen on the advocacy side of the profession. I saw the potential the Bristol Bar Society had and wanted to help the society reach its potential.  

What was the project that you enjoyed the most getting involved in this year, and why? 

The Bar has traditionally been a restrictive profession that often marginalises People Of Colour, Women, LGBTQIA+ individuals. When I became the President of the Bristol Bar Society, I wanted to spearhead the #NoBarToTheBar initiative. It has been the unofficial motto of the Bristol Bar Society, but my Vice President and I worked tirelessly this academic year to bring it to life. In fact, my entire committee played an active role this year to make the #NoBarToTheBar initiative successful. I enjoyed bringing all these opportunities to our student members which were previously unheard of. It was gratifying seeing our student members benefit from the various initiatives under the #NoBarToTheBar umbrella. The highlight was working alongside my committee to turn the tide with the #NoBarToTheBar initiative. I will cherish the privilege of serving and working alongside them all. 

Did you know that someone was going to nominate you for the award? What was your initial reaction when you were nominated? How do you feel now? 

I was not actively seeking people to nominate me because people should recognise the work you have done and seek to nominate you themselves. Hence, I was taken aback when I found out I had been nominated for this award. I am deeply humbled and honoured by this nomination. It will take a while for the feeling to sink in.   
 

Why do you think it is important to join societies, go the extra mile and put in the additional effort? 

For those of us who choose the University path, it becomes a significant part of our young adult lives. Our lives revolve around the student community, which become a part of our personal growth. Going the extra mile and putting in the additional effort benefits the student community, which gives back to us all. It makes a significant difference to the lives of our peers and successors who will reap the benefits of all the hard work and time you might have dedicated. Your effort might lay the foundation for future progress. It can be extremely rewarding to see things come to fruition.

You are a Law student, at the same time actively engaged in student life and Student’s Union. Where do you get your motivation or inspiration from? 

My mother and grandmother were the hardest working people I knew. I draw my inspiration and work ethic from them.

What would you advise students coming to Bristol in the autumn? 

Make your mistakes whilst you are here! Do not be afraid of making mistakes! They will be your best teachers!  

Words by Katarzyna Gorska, Law and German student

Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow Q&A

“The opportunity to have a professional writer review my work was incredibly helpful. The advice helped me achieve the highest cluster of marks I’ve received during my time at university; I wished I’d known about it sooner!”

 

1. What is a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow? Tell me a little about your role. 

A Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow is a professional writer who, through individual coaching, works with Higher Education students to improve their writing. Occasionally we work with staff too, and we can cover many different types of writing, not just academic essays – but essentially my role is to help students on a one-to-one basis with their written submissions. As well as making practical suggestions, try to share some general tips or approaches that the students themselves can adopt in the future. It’s not proofreading but an attempt to work through the particular writing issues faced by an individual student. 

There are four Fellows at Bristol and I started in October, working two days a week (the rest of the time I’m writing!). I’m really enjoying it and though mtime as a Fellow concludes in May, will be back at the start of the next academic year – by which point, I’m hoping the world might look a little more normal… 

You can see an RLF Writing Fellow by going to bristol.ac.uk/bristol-futures/royal-literary-fellows/ and sending one of us an email. We’ll then reply with a link that allows you to book your first session at a time when it’s convenient for you. 

2. Why were these roles created? 

I think there was a feeling that students might sometimes value additional help with their written work, and that the one thing professional writers know a bit about is writing! The idea was that authors could be placed on campuses throughout the UK to provide some additional one-on-one tuition. They’re independent of the host university, and not all Writing Fellows are academics – I happen to have a Masters and have lectured at another university, but I very rarely have specialised insight into my students’ subject areas. However, I’ve been writing professionally for almost thirty years, so I hope I know a little about planning, structure and, most importantly, the nitty-gritty of clear written English. 

3. How do you work with students? What sort of issues can they seek help on? 

Sometimes a student will come to me who’s been seeing the same criticism repeated in their essay feedback and we’ll talk about how they might be able to improve in that area. Sometimes they’re already doing well but they want to see if they can find a way of nudging their marks up a little. Or perhaps they feel they’re struggling quite badly – what is an essay anyway, and what is academic writing?!? I hope I’m sympathetic on that point: I was never formally taught to write essays at school or polytechnic (perhaps I should explain: a long time ago, there were things called polytechnics that functioned alongside universities…). 

The Study Skills department is the first port of call if a student’s major issue revolves around dyslexia or English as a Second Language. But generally, if someone has a concern with their writing while at university, or thinks they’re capable of better marks and that somehow their written work is letting them down, then hopefully that’s where myself or one of the other Fellows can help. It’s free, it’s confidential and, as Bob Hoskins used to say in adverts for BT, it’s good to talk.

4. Do you have to be an English Literature student/undergraduate etc? Who can access the service? 

We’re here for everyone! I’ve actually spoken to very few English Literature students so far, but I have seen people studying Criminology, Anthropology, Public Health, Psychology, Economics, History, you name it. I’ve even seen someone studying Medicine which, because my wife is a GP, was great fun. I’ve spoken to almost as many people who are working towards their Masters or PhDs as I have undergraduates, so I think the scheme casts the net pretty wide. In fact, the only work we’re not allowed to take a look at is Creative Writing, which I completely understand, but does feel a bit odd, as that’s what I used to lecture in.

5. Can students still access this support virtually? 

AbsolutelyIn pre-pandemic times, students would see us in person, but for obvious reasons, everything is done online at the momentIt’s a shame I’m not on campus – I was due to be based at Beacon House – and I’m sure I’m as tired of video technology as anyone, but the students I’ve met have been very understanding. 

We use platform called Whereby, which is a bit like Zoom, but it’s more secure and (I think) easier to use. And I’ve had very few technical issues so far. It can never fully replace meeting students in person, but I suppose it can have its advantages, especially as we get more and more used to doing these things from the comfort of our homes. I don’t live in Bristol, so at least it means my commute to work is short 

6. Whats your top writing tip for students? 

Writing is editing. It really is as simple as that. Of course, research is vital, and of course you have to get the first draft done. But that’s the start of the process, not the end. I’ve tried to take this view when I’ve written novels or soap opera scripts, and it’s advice I followed when I worked on my Masters. I’m not saying all writing problems disappear if you give yourself enough time to revise and polish your work, but it’ll certainly help. 

7. Whats your favourite part of the writing process? 

Finishing! Partly because I know how important editing is, as I just said, and partly because I do find writing that first draft quite difficult. That’s not to say I dislike writing – it’s the only ‘job’ I’ve ever wanted  and of course there are occasional moments of sublime bliss when the words just seem to fall out of you. But I like having written. It’s as if you’ve been carving a block of marble and finally you see the shape you used only to have in your mind. It’s not finished, but at least you have something that looks a bit like a person, or a horse, or a hedgehog. It’s where the real fun starts, I think. 

8. Tell us something your students might be surprised to learn about you (e.g. a fun/unusual fact if you have one 🙂 ) 

It might not be a big surprise, as it’s part of my full RLF bio, but I have a black belt in kickboxing. I’ve been attending classes twice a week for over a decade. Outside of the ring, and possibly even in it, I’m about as threatening as a rice pudding, but I like messing around with the archetype of the middle-aged glasses-wearing nerd who hates sport! Also, you meet a bunch of fascinating people who generally don’t waste time worrying about split infinitives and possessive apostrophes… 

Help with homesickness

We asked our Instagram followers whether they had found themselves feeling homesick or lonely over the past few months; unfortunately a large number of you said you had felt this way.

When asked what you missed the most answers ranged from the expected i.e. parents, friends, significant others, pets, travelling etc. Some of you missed more specific home comforts such as visiting theatres in Budapest, Scottish water and Melomakarona (Greek Christmas honey cookies).

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A Mental Marathon

This post was written by the Founder and Director of PROJECT:TALK CIC, George Cole. George is also a fourth year medical student at University of Bristol. 

Right, stop what you’re doing. Now, get up and run. No, don’t complain, just do it! You haven’t got a choice. Keep running until you’re told to stop.

Oh, and whilst you’re running, make sure you don’t let anything slip, ok? What do you mean you can’t carry on doing your day job as effectively as usual! Find a way! Pathetic.

If this seems a bit of an obscure and unpleasant situation to you, then you’re not alone. You could think of the COVID-19 pandemic a little like this – being plunged into uncertainty, no choice in the matter, completely unprepared and unfamiliar. A mental marathon.

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Dealing with grief, life-threatening illnesses, and everything and anything in-between… (now more important than ever)

This post was written for the University community by one of our students

Dear staff members and students,

These past months have been a challenge for us all – everything grounding to a halt during ‘lockdown’, disruptions to university teach, working and studying from home, and new difficulties such as quarantine. A lot of staff members and students will have had to deal with isolation from loved ones, illness in the family, and bereavement.

Facing grief and illness, or the anxiety of the possibility, has perhaps never been more widespread. Covid-19 has brought home hard truths and moved to centre stage the possibility of losing someone or getting ill. Dealing with illness and grief can be life-changing and the current restrictions add additional difficulties.

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Get ahead of worries this World Mental Health Day

Written by Dr Dominique Thompson

Starting university is always a big moment in life, but in 2020 it’s going to be a historic moment too. Living in a new institution, perhaps a new city, in a global pandemic certainly adds an edge to the whole process.  

So if you are feeling a little stressed (which would be entirely normal) help is at hand and you may find the new, free, online course that I helped to create, ‘Being Well Living Well’, very useful indeed.  

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