Help the university make real change

Flo Ingram, chair of the Education Network, writes about the importance of using your student voice.

What works and what doesn’t?

Making degrees better would be far more difficult without feedback from other students. Without feedback, there is little way to inform the staff who build your programmes, individual units and assessments what works well and what just doesn’t. This is why the National Student Survey (NSS) is so important.

Tell us about your experience

As you complete your degree and regardless of whether you begin your career or continue your education further, the NSS gives you one last opportunity to give feedback about your experience on your course. By providing feedback about the good and the bad that you have experienced throughout your time at Bristol, you provide invaluable information from which real changes can be made. This is especially important with the introduction of the blended learning environment: what aspects of this learning will stick around? What will the future of higher education look like? Your feedback will help to determine the answers in this crucial year.

You can drive real change

Lecture Re/Play, an increase in the library hours cap and assessment mitigations this year are just some of the changes which have been driven by the hard work of student reps as a result of student feedback. Of course, the National Student Survey is one of many ways to provide this feedback; there are countless other ways throughout the duration of your degree. Course reps regularly feedback the information gathered from cohorts about your units, which is more important than ever with reduced lecturer interaction from the pandemic. Education Network Forums and Surveys are also great ways to discuss your experiences in a safe environment, at a faculty or university wide level.

Take the NSS – it only takes 15 minutes

Your feedback through the NSS will ensure that Bristol maintains its reputation for providing an excellent education going forward, so you can continue to have pride in your University of Bristol degree throughout your life.

Take the survey now.

My COVID-19 university experience outside of student life

I’m George and I’m studying BSc Politics and International Relations.

What volunteering I’m doing whilst studying

Whilst at university I’m volunteering as a Special Constable with our local police force, Avon and Somerset Police. In this role, I hold the same powers as a regular police officer and patrol alongside them by preventing and detecting crime to help keep the community safe. Engaging with the community through my volunteering has allowed me to engage with the wider community, which is great because I learn something new or exciting about Bristol every day. I volunteer at least 16 hours a month, however I recognise the importance of breaking the study cycle at university so often commit to more hours.

Police officers from behind
My colleague and I in Cabot Circus

How I balanced this with university life under blended learning

Under the blended learning approach, I used the best of a challenging situation to use the recorded lectures and reading requirements of my course to commit to more volunteering hours. Further, at times in the working week where I may not have been available in the past, I was able to help my local policing team, using weekends to study. My volunteering has helped me become more independent and develop my people skills. It can be hard to balance at times, but I have been learning to manage studying, social activities and volunteering under what is sometimes a stressful time.

Photo of Brandon Hill
Brandon Hill is a great place to go for a daily walk whilst in Bristol

Following the rules

While our university experience is different to what we’re all used to in the previous years, it’s for a reason. We’ve all seen the amazing work our NHS have done during the pandemic and would not want to put extra strain on our hospitals or emergency services who are having to deal with coronavirus cases. We all definitely would not want to put vulnerable members of our community at risk. So please stick to the rules and remember to social distance from course mates and other households when the lockdown period ends.

Search the internet and plant a tree

This blog was written by veterinary students Hannah and Elspeth. They have successfully campaigned for the University to adopt Ecosia as our default search engine on all open access computers across campus.

During a time when it is essential to make changes towards a more sustainable lifestyle, we knew the University of Bristol needed to switch to Ecosia, so our campaign started. With the University declaring a climate emergency in 2019, and committing to carbon neutrality, the move to Ecosia fits with becoming a more sustainable campus.

Ecosia is a search engine, which uses its revenue to fund tree planting in twenty different projects across the world, where trees are needed most. This not only has huge environmental benefits but also social impact for the surrounding communities. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, preventing excess greenhouse gases building up in our atmosphere, they also…

  • Improve soil health helping farmers produce food.
  • Provide an income for communities improving access to education and healthcare.
  • Maintain habitats for endangered species, especially when planted in biodiversity hotspots.

Ecosia logo

We have been using Ecosia on our own devices and feel it is an effortless way for the student body and staff members at the University of to make a worldwide contribution to improving the environment. Having gained support from students and passing our motion at the SU annual members meeting, we felt motivated to make our idea a reality. We are both incredibly excited for this change, especially for it to be launched alongside Sustainability Month at the University.

If you want to learn more about Ecosia please come along to our launch event on Tuesday 16 February at 6 pm via Zoom – check out our Facebook for more details.

To download Ecosia on your personal device and contribute to the University of Bristol tree count use this link.

Let’s see how many trees the University of Bristol can plant!

Image of Ecosia student campaign team
Hannah Rose (Campaign leader and fifth year veterinary medicine student), Fred Henderson (Ecosia Project Coordinator), Elspeth Taylor (Campaign leader and fifth year veterinary medicine student)

Find your Balance

You’ve likely heard by now that uni is a great place to try new extracurricular activities and continue with the things that you’re passionate about. We’ve got you covered at Bristol with a huge array of options so that you can strike the right balance between your studies and making the most of being a Bristol student.

Due to COVID-19 you’ll see a lot of these events and activities have gone virtual this year. There’s still much to enjoy on campus and we’ve made some changes to enable you to get involved safely, such as adapting our spaces and enhanced hygiene measures.

Explore societies, volunteering & much more at the SU Welcome Fair

Held on 7 October 12 pm – 8 pm, the Official Bristol SU Welcome Fair is going virtual for 2020 with registration opening on Monday 14 September.

At the virtual fair you’ll be able to chat to stallholders live online using the interactive chat, sign up to sports clubs and societies and look into volunteering projects. It’s a great way to find out more about Bristol SU and as an added bonus, commercial stallholders will be giving out freebies and discount codes!

Sport – there’s something for everyone

Sport and exercise can have a hugely positive impact on your student experience. It’s not only a great way to stay active and healthy, it can also improve your mental wellbeing, be a great way to meet new people, improve your confidence and help you learn new skills. There are 70+ Sports Clubs and Societies at the University of Bristol, from Performance level sports such as Rugby, Hockey, Tennis, and Rowing – all of which have men’s and women’s or mixed teams – to the more unusual sports including Spike Ball, Synchronised Swimming and Quidditch!

If team-sport isn’t your thing, check out the Indoor Sport Centre on Tyndall Avenue where you’ll find the University Gym and fitness studios. You can book gym sessions and classes online now too via the University of Bristol Sport App.

And, if you’re looking for something a bit more fun, with a bit less commitment, then B:Active might be for you. B:Active is our physical activity programme exclusively for students. The focus is on getting moving, having fun, being social and feeling included.

If your time on campus is going to be limited, make sure to check out the virtual and on-demand fitness classes and events that will be on offer this year from Bristol Uni Sport, and join the #WeAreBristol community from your own home.

Being Well, Living Well toolkit

Take a look at our new Being Well, Living Well toolkit for some great resources on ‘Living Well’, ‘Feeling Well’, ‘Staying Safe’ and ‘Spending Well’. These have been developed by a team of mental health experts, healthcare professionals, university students and staff to equip you with practical tips and tools that will empower you to manage your mental, physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing. It also includes where to seek further help if needed.

“We want you to make the most of your time at university and for you to feel settled and supported. The toolkit has a lot to offer with interactive modules, practice scenarios, student interviews and much more. I’d encourage you to spend some time exploring the resources and feel free to discuss and share with your friends.”

Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience)

The toolkit helps build self-insight and understanding that you are not alone in experiencing challenges. It highlights useful aspects of your student life such as what to expect, adapting to change, how to manage your money, and build healthy relationships.

How to access Being Well, Living Well

You can access the toolkit anytime, using your single sign-on in Blackboard. You will be automatically enrolled a few days after your Blackboard account becomes active, but if you want to access the Being Well, Living Well content sooner you can self-enrol and access it now. Follow the self-enrol link, log in with your University ID and Password and you will be taken to a page with instructions for joining. If you don’t see the self-enrol button then you’re already enrolled. Once enrolled, you can find the Being Well, Living Well materials on the Blackboard homepage under the My Organisations section.

Spend some time looking through the toolkit to help you feel settled and successfully navigate your new uni life.

Chill out in an SU Living Room

The SU Living Rooms are a space to relax and unwind either on your own or with friends. You’ll find one on the fourth floor of Senate House plus four more in halls of residence. Follow the link and join the online living room to connect with others right now, ask any questions and have fun in one of the many events that are planned.

Get to know Bristol

Keep an eye on our social channels next week for lots more about ‘Bristol Living’ and tips on places to explore. Bristol has all the perks of city life with wide open green spaces only a short distance away – much within walking distance or a short bus ride. The entire city is bursting with culture, flavours, music and opportunities to get involved – you will never be short of ways to Find your Balance.

Find your Community

You will have so many opportunities to immerse yourself in different cultures and groups whilst at Bristol. After all, you’re joining a community of nearly 25,000 students, so do give yourself time to explore what makes you feel happy and settled and give things a go!

Student experience

Andre joined us from Indonesia in 2018 to study a MSc in Education (Learning, Technology & Society). Here he shares his experience as an international student and his thoughts about building your community:

Photo of Andre

“Many international students from different parts of the world come and study in Bristol, so we can share our knowledge and experiences as well as learning new cultures from one another. The University has a network of services to ensure every student has access to both academic and personal support throughout the course. There are also hundreds of student clubs and societies which you can join based on your talent and interests.”

Things to do

You should have received a welcome email by now from the International Office. This contained lots of useful information about what to do before you arrive, and then everything from travelling to quarantine to welcome events.

Here are a few actions for you to take now if you haven’t already:

Download The University of Bristol Welcome app in the Google Play Store or the App Store – there are lots of useful resources and information on here.

Check out the new international students’ webpages to learn more about what you’ll need to do before and after arriving at Bristol.

International sponsored students, remember that you need to provide the university with a sponsorship letter by 6 September.

Save the date: 7 October – it’s the SU’s virtual Official Welcome Fair 2020. This is your opportunity to sign up to different clubs, societies and volunteering projects. You’ll be able to chat to stall holders live online using the interactive chat, with video, audio and text options

Take a look at the Global Lounge’s Language Café video. The Global Lounge is a place where both UK and international students can connect and socialise. They will be running regular virtual events throughout the academic year.

Join the Official Bristol Welcome 2020 Facebook group and start to meet fellow new students!

Safe travels

We wish you a safe journey to the UK and Bristol. We’re really looking forward to welcoming you to our city and community and hope you’re just as excited as we are!

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.

Adventures in France: my year abroad

Jaw-dropping scenery; unique personal development; enriching relationships with people from across the world; a year practically dedicated to eye-opening, inspirational experiences: doesn’t sound like a bad year, does it?

My name is Steve, and I’m a 4th year, studying Music and French. Having spent my year abroad in Bordeaux and Lyon, I returned to Bristol to see last year’s year abroad students swarming the streets again. Our first conundrum: how do we approach *that* first conversation?

If you’re late for a lecture, it’s option A: ‘yeah, the year abroad was good thanks!’ Option B is the elaborate five minute epic poem describing everything that has seismically shifted over the year. Nope – five minutes is never enough!

Mind you, five minutes is ample to make observations about what has changed. Most returners are human adverts for what their year abroad experience has brought to them. Some are wiser and more confident; others are more open-minded; many have been completely inspired. Thereafter, each will treat you to a different story of how it all unfolded… just like this:

Build me up, build me up…

Needless to say, the year abroad experience can be a huge challenge. In fact, those first three months of my time abroad were some of the toughest of my life. Plunged out of my comfort zones of city, family and friends, the expression ‘fish out of water’ comes to mind. Would I have opted for a more convenient, relaxing placement to have avoided those tough first three months in Lyon? Non, absolument pas, because it’s all an exposure which forces you to develop in unique ways. At the end of the year, the fish returns to the river having learnt how to breathe air, and I enjoy being an air-breathing fish. This unique personal development is pretty much a given when forcing your brain to adapt to a new language and culture for as much as one month, let alone eleven.

Inspired

I’ve chosen the subtitle ‘inspired’ for a specific reason, which involved something more special than a bit of personal development…

Imagine a typical 21st birthday party. You may picture a marquee in the garden with everyone dressed up, or perhaps party balloons and a juggler. Well, I’m all for clowns and gowns, but as a June baby on a placement that finished in July, I needed to think outside the box when 17 June came around.

It had all the hallmarks of an underwhelming day. I had under-slept, having submitted my year abroad essay the night before a Monday at work; I was translating tourist information; and I had no evening plans. So, I hurriedly got in touch with my friends who hadn’t yet left the city: ‘Quais de Saone, tonight at 8 pm?’

The scene was set: the sun was going down over the Fourvière Basilica, and a smattering of my dear friends gathered round me in the late-night summer heat. On another day, the sunset may have inspired me. Or perhaps the view of the Basilica, reflected in the torrents of the river. This time, the real cherry on the birthday cake was the people that came.

Today’s news bombards us with stories of nations in conflict with nations, and the struggle of integration in multicultural communities. Meanwhile, here were 10 people representing Lithuania, Sweden, the UK, Colombia, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Italy using words, not weapons; laughter, not threats. The uniqueness of their humour, their intriguing philosophies and their cultural insight didn’t collide or clash, but combined in beautiful harmony that I had never witnessed before. It was conversation for conversation’s sake, and laughter for laughter’s sake, with contrasting backgrounds, races and religions, and we never once risked any dissonance or discontent.

I took a step back, felt the warm breeze, and gazed over the river, the view and the sunset, contemplating this moment that only a year abroad experience could produce – one of the most utopian I’d ever witnessed. The sun was setting over my year abroad experience, with a moment to remind me what a heartening asset multiculturalism is to modern society. Since then, I have still been seeing those same dystopian stories of warfare and persecution around the world. But at least now I have hope that one day, the planet may have the same universal harmony as those 10 people on the riverbank.

Find out how you can study, work or volunteer abroad at the Global Opportunities fair on 22 October.

Find Your Balance. Part 2.

Bristol is going to be your home for at least the next three years, and we may be pretty biased, but we think it’s one of the greatest places to be a student. There is so much on offer from both the University and the city as whole.

Live it up in the Living Room 

Located on the fourth floor of Senate House, the SU Living Room is a space to relax and unwind. Look out for the Welcome Week events in the Living Room such as café crawls, meet-ups and gaming tournaments.

Give it a Go and get a wristband

From Monday 30 September – Sunday 13 October the SU will be running Give it a Go! – giving you the chance to try out different clubs, societies, networks and volunteering projects.

For those of you who enjoy nights out, nightclubs and neon – the SU has you covered! With purchase of your Welcome Week wristband you are guaranteed entry to three massive club nights as well as discounts in the Balloon Bar throughout Welcome Week and the whole of October.

International Welcome Lounge

Come and meet students from all around the world at our International Welcome Lounge. Check out our programme for the week.

The Welcome Lounge is also offering a Language Café taster session on 24 September where you’ll be able to help others practise your language (including English), and can also immerse yourself in another culture by learning a different language with native speakers

Volunteering

Want to give back to the community, meet new people and visit new places? Try volunteering! It’s a great way to learn new skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership, as well as giving you the chance to try something that you may not have done before.

Explore

Bristol has all the perks of city life with wide open green spaces only a short distance away. The entire city is bursting with culture, flavours, music and opportunities to get involved. From the alternative Stokes Croft to the bustling Shopping Quarter to the tranquillity and nature at Leigh Woods – you will never be short of something to do.

 

Next week: Find Your Potential

Top tips for getting the best out of your studies

Find Your Balance

Both this week’s posts are all about the extracurricular; things you can get involved with when you’re not studying. Getting the right balance between studying and other activities is important and will help you to get the most out of being a Bristol student.

Let’s Talk Sport

Sports are a great way to make new friends. There are over 60 sports club at the University of Bristol – from traditional team sports such as football, rugby and basketball – to the more unusual Quidditch, Korfball and Krav Maga. For those who enjoy non-team sports there is also a range of activities available including martial arts, archery and clay pigeon shooting.

“[During Welcome Week] was also the first time I met some of my best friends when I joined the women’s football club, something that ultimately made my university experience.”

– Amy Brook, Sport and Student Development Officer

If you enjoy fitness or just want to get to the point when Bristol hills won’t leave you breathless (don’t worry, you get used to the hills eventually), our Indoor Sports Centre is the perfect place for you. Located on Tyndall Avenue at the heart of the University campus, the Sports Centre is home to an open plan fitness suite, free weights, fitness studios and a double-court sports hall. Or if you’re a water baby, our swimming pool, located on Queens Road, is home to a variety of clubs such as water polo. You can even do lifesaving lessons as well as pay as you go swimming.

Get stuck in with societies and networks

University gives you the chance to meet new people, experience new things and learn about yourself. Bristol Students’ Union (SU) helps students run over 290 societies from A cappella all the way to the Vegetarian and Vegan Society. There is a society for everyone; and if you think there isn’t a group for you, set one up!

“…I got involved with quite a few societies through the SU and by the end of my degree I sat on 3 committees and made the best friends I could ask for. Starting at uni is really tough, and taking your time settling in and getting involved with everything on offer can really help you in your first couple of months.”

– Jason Palmer, Equality, Liberation & Access Officer

The Bristol SU offers networks too; these enable students to build communities and create change. For example, there is a Postgraduate Network which is a student-led initiative for all postgraduate students that gives you a chance to develop the Bristol postgrad community. There is also the PGR Hub which is run by Bristol Doctoral College, based in Senate House, where you can connect with fellow researchers from other parts of the University.  You can find out more about what’s on offer at our Welcome Fair on the Downs on 27 September.

“I enjoyed the Welcome Week Fair because it gave me an opportunity to meet new people from all over the world and make new friends as well as to register with clubs and societies which I was interested in like African Caribbean Society, Debating Club, East African Society, and Bristol Model United Nations.”

– Julius Muga Ogayo, International Students Officer

If you want to find like-minded students before you move to Bristol and Welcome Week begins, you can also join our Freshers Facebook page.

Look out for our next post later this week with some more ideas of things to do beyond your studies.

It’s time to Find Your Bristol!

Congratulations on securing your place at the University of Bristol. The countdown is now on until you join us! We’re really looking forward to welcoming you very soon.

No doubt you’re full of questions as you start out on this new, exciting chapter. Well, you’re in the right place. This is the first of a series of weekly blog posts to help answer some of the questions you may have about preparing for your arrival in September and beyond.

Current third year students, Rosie and Kaylan, share their tips on where to find further information.

Top places to find info 

New student webpages

For really useful checklists on what to do next and what to do when you arrive, check out the new student webpages. If you’re an international student, take a look at our information for new international students which includes an international student handbook.

Welcome pack and guides

Undergraduates – look out for your Welcome pack in the post, similar to the one above. Postgraduate students – you’ll receive your welcome guide on arrival, either a printed version or via an online link provided by your Faculty. You can also expect to receive an email or two from us in the next few weeks updating you on all the important things to remember.

Start connecting

Official Bristol University Freshers 2019 Facebook group

You may have already joined the Official Bristol University Freshers 2019 Facebook group. We’ve joined forces with Bristol Students’ Union to host this group so it’s definitely worth joining to find out about the big events taking place and start meeting people. Watch out for unofficial Facebook groups and events set up by external organisations. Bristol SU is the only ticket seller for the official Welcome Week programme. You can find out more about this here.

Peer mentoring

Many students choose to get involved with our Peer mentoring scheme. A peer mentor is a current student usually studying a similar subject to you, who can help you to settle in to University. You can ask them any questions you may have about your course or about university life in general.

Don’t forget that all new students are in exactly the same boat as you are, so asking questions and making links with fellow new students, may help to calm those nerves.

Welcome Week

Welcome Week will be taking place from 23 – 27 September and we’d encourage you to get involved in as many activities and events as possible. It’s a great way to start finding your way around campus, meet new people and settle into your new home and the vibrant city of Bristol. You’ll see lots more about Welcome Week in the coming weeks including the University Welcome Ceremony, held in the iconic Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building. The University will welcome you more formally and introduce you to what it really means to be a student here.

Next week’s blog…

Recent graduate Cameron (Politics and International Relations, 2019) will be sharing how he felt about moving into Halls plus more around accommodation.