“My Bristol community has really come together during this time”

Hi everyone, my name is Michelle and I’m a second year Civil Engineering student.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would finish the rest of my academic year online in self isolation because of a global pandemic, but if there is anything these past two months have taught me it’s that, every cloud has a silver lining. From the weekly zoom calls/meetings to the increased online group forums, my Bristol community has really come together during this time.

 

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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

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.

Ways to curb lockdown boredom

Hi guys, my name is Elaura and I’m a second year History student! Here are some of my tips and recommendations on how to stay productive and positive during the COVID 19 lockdown!

It’s now the third week of national lockdown from the COVID 19 pandemic and we’re all starting to become climatized to life indoors. At some point during this experience, we will all have days where we struggle a bit more and find it difficult to think positively and be productive. So, it’s important that we all look out for one another and find ways to make the long-haul of self-isolation manageable and enjoyable if we can help it. I’ve used this space to share some ideas on how to stay positive, things I’ve found to do with my household to pass the time, and things you can incorporate into your routine to boost productivity.

Things to try at home

Work out

Exercise is a pretty obvious one that I’m sure everyone is doing, but scheduling time to do a routine with family members, or even by yourself, helps pass time, release endorphins and make you feel rewarded after. There are loads of YouTube follow along videos, Live streams from channels via Uni Days and 30 day challenges you can find and try to complete!

Virtual Pub Quiz

As of last week, Jay Flynn created an online pub quiz via Facebook that turned into a massive success. I did it with my family and it was really good fun, I think he’s doing another one soon so keep an eye out!

Online Board games

Something I’ve really enjoyed doing with friends over group calls is play online versions of board games. You can find pretty much anything online from Chess, Pictionary, Cards Against Humanity, the list goes on. It’s great fun and a nice break from chatting about coronavirus.

Bake/cook

Baking is a brilliant way to pass the time if you’re able to get the ingredients right now, if not then offering to cook for your family, cooking new meals for yourself, making the most out of what you have in the cupboards and getting creative is a brilliant way to practise self-care as well as sustainability.

De-clutter your room

Now is a great opportunity to have a real sort out of your space. Dedicate time to sorting through clothes, products and other items to make room for new things when we’re able to go outside.

Read/Watch films

There’s now no excuse not to dive into the pile of books you bought and never got around to reading or start watching all the classic films you’ve been recommended. As a film fan, I recommend downloading the app Letterboxd and creating a Watchlist to get through. Similar apps for books can also be found- this is a great way of keeping record of things you loved and want to recommend to others.

These are just some things I’ve done that I’ve found work for passing the time well and mixing up my daily routine. Give some a try if you’re struggling for things to do, and hopefully it’ll encourage positive thinking and productivity around Uni work! Remember to keep safe and be kind to yourselves!

Self-Isolation: A final year’s guide to coping

Hello everyone, my name is Kiki and I’m a final year student at UOB. I’m writing this blog to reach out to students during isolation. I am sure that this is a very anxious and stressful time for many of you. Being a final year student, my whole education has been turned upside down and I have no choice but to try and respond to it in the calmest way possible.

I am sure many of you will have heard a lot of advice on ways to stay sane, so I have included general advice at the end for anyone interested. I’m hoping however, that if you’re reading this, you’ll gain an insight into something that may help you during these incredibly challenging times as these are some of the methods that are helping me to remain positive and calm.


Staying as productive as is possible for YOU
The first thing I can recommend to students in to stay as productive as is possible for YOU. Of course, everyone’s individual situation is completely different and you have to evaluate what works for you and what things you feel you can do, and if that means simply staying in bed, relaxing and watching Netflix all day, there is nothing wrong with it!!

Listen to what your body and mind really need right now and don’t compare this to anyone else. Your situation is individual, as are your needs and you need to honour this in a way that is right for you.

That being said, I have found that creating a routine and checking off potential tasks really helps to keep me grounded and it gives a sense of normality and accomplishment that most of us seek in normal daily life. Here are some tips of what I have been trying to do to stop myself from falling into a slump. You have never and probably will never have more time than you do right now, so it’s a great time to get started on tasks/hobbies/goals that you may have otherwise pushed aside and focus on yourself.

TIP: Figure out the tasks you wish to complete and group them in a table:

1. Make a list of all the things you ideally wish to achieve in quarantine
2. Subgroup them e.g Work, Education, Fitness and Health, Hobbies, Helping Others, Self-Care, Chill (any category that works for you).
3. Make a table with the days of the week across the top and on the left-hand side write the different tasks/activities/goals. Upon completion tick off what you have done.
(I personally like to summarise the success of my task with a face or a comment so that when it comes to tracking my progression, I can clearly see how I felt after.)
4. At the end of the week look back on everything you have achieved and feel proud at anything that you may have
completed, even if it’s just one task!!

And Remember: It is ok and normal to feel stressed, demotivated, anxious and worried. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. However, putting into practice techniques such as these to measure productivity gives you a sense of purpose during this time when our purpose may feel compromised. You don’t have to spend every second doing something productive, nor every day. Visually seeing your achievements at the end of the week, however big or small, will motivate you to get up every day and keep going.


Do something to calm the mind
If like me, you suffer from anxiety, you will have days where you feel overwhelmed, agitated and distressed. It is difficult managing anxiety on a daily basis let alone amidst a global crisis. Every time I feel myself falling into a pattern of anxiousness or negativity, I remind myself that what is currently happening will pass. Of course, my parents’ obsession with the news is somewhat unhealthy and I do find myself sitting in the living room being sucked in by the negative and distressing impact of this crisis, which we are all very much aware of.

Whilst it is very important to keep up to date with the news and what is going on, it is important that we use the news to inform us and not consume us. Watch and read the necessary but don’t spend hours scrolling through stats or articles because this will not be beneficial to your mental health. This is not helpful to you or those around you. We need to remain positive in our lives, not just for our mental health, but for the sake of others too.

I too have been sceptical of some of these methods in the past. Being very inflexible and not understanding the practice meant that when trying yoga in the past, I was very impatient and quick to rule it out. However, after having a knee injury for a year, I found that the only active thing I could do for a while was yoga and so I decided to give it a second chance. I found myself not forcing myself to go but actually craving the session, because of how it made me feel after. Calm, stable and relaxed. And who doesn’t want to feel like this, especially in times like these.

What I love about yoga is that you really can start from anywhere (take it from me) and once you see progression, it motivates you to continue. It has helped me to learn about and appreciate my body even more and I can definitely see improvements in my body. My knee is strengthening, my posture is improving and my mind is healing.

Yoga itself incorporates meditation into its practice. Meditation is literally about focusing your mind on the body and the present moment and what better way to engage and practice this than connecting your mind and body in yoga. So, if you find it hard to concentrate during a solo meditation practice, then this kills two birds in one stone.

TIP: Another thing I also started recently was journaling. Having so many emotions and being overwhelmed by them, this is a great way to distinguish what you are feeling and why and then being able to separate yourself from this.

It’s a great way to work out what is going on in your head and working through it. From this you can create a mood tracker to work out what your feeling and solutions that helped you overcome this feeling/made you feel better.

So, if I’ve kept your attention this far in the blog, I hope you have found some of these tips helpful. There is no one way of staying sane during this time but it’s about finding what works for you. These activities and methods are definitely a great way of reducing stress and trying to combat it by actively doing something that engages your mind and body in a positive and calm way.

Whatever you’re doing, please don’t be too hard on yourselves if you are not getting up and doing what you normally would or if you’re struggle to find motivation to do anything. This is completely normal. Just try and stay positive, healthy and calm and soon we’ll soon be out of this – appreciating and enjoying a new life – having had the time to reflect on the small things that really do mean a lot to us.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay home, stay mindful and stay smiling.
Kiki xx


Other general tips (most of which I’m sure you are well aware of but I have included my advice anyways)

Cook proper, healthy balanced meals to fight infection. It’s so tempting to eat badly and believe me, I’ve surrendered to Ben & Jerrys and Pizza. Whilst it is definitely more than acceptable to treat yourself, we need to make sure we are staying health to fight off this virus.

Make sure to cook some nice and tasty recipes as well. Lots of students are big fans of mobkitchen and tasty and I know I like to watch food videos on the daily. Unfortunately, my laziness overtakes me and I am never motivated to get 100 different ingredients out and whip up one of their so seemingly tasty inventions. Now is the time to try new recipes, but with fewer ingredients!

Music is a great way to release stress. It is also a great mood lifter if you are feeling anxious/worried/sad. Evaluate what kind of music you are listening to and the vibe it gives off and if you feel like you are slipping into a place of fear and anxiety, bang on your happiest, most uplifting playlist even if it seems like the last thing you want to do as this definitely helps to keep spirits up.

Getting some fresh air is important. As much as I looooove my bed (which student doesn’t), the more days I spend under the covers the worse I feel. Even sitting on my terrace for 10 minutes when the sun comes out or dragging myself on a dog walk makes me feel better because I am breathing in fresh air that my mind and body needs.

5 books to get you through isolation

Hi I’m Jini and I’m a first year English student.

As we all know, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I’m sure we’ve all heard it a million times by now but just as a reminder, in keeping with NHS guidelines, it is imperative that we all, young and old, practice social distancing, self isolation and quarantining where necessary in order to stop the spread of this virus and return back to our normal lives as soon as possible. But of course doing the right thing isn’t always easy and staying indoors for such a long period of time can be very hard for most of us. With most schools out for the term, we’ve got a lot of free time on our hands, a great period to reflect on the year so far, pick up a new hobby, connect with our friends and family…. At this time it’s really important that we try to come up with fun, innovative ways to keep busy, keep healthy and keep active while also getting the sufficient amounts of rest I’m sure we all need.

As an English student, social distancing has been a good period for me to catch up on all my school reading in a far less pressured, more casual setting, where I don’t have to worry about pesky deadlines and quizzes from tutors. I’ve also been able to add in a few pleasure reads which have been on my radar for a while as a relaxed form of leisure to fit into random pockets during my day. Not to sound like a pre-school teacher, but reading really is such a great way to fill up your time while stimulating your brain, expanding your vocabulary and still a wonderful form of entertainment. And so, for all my fellow booklovers out there I thought it’d be a good idea to make a short list of some great books I’ve recently gotten into, and would highly recommend you dive into during this isolation period.


1. Mo’ Meta Blues by Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson

This one’s for the music junkies and hip hop heads. An amazing autobiography written by none other than lead drummer of the legendary hip hop band, The Roots, this light-hearted read delves into the music connoisseur’s artistic journey with insightful reviews, hilarious anecdotes and more somber reflective moments. Mo’ Meta Blues is the type of book you can keep dropping and picking up again and never get bored of. An interactive read with a narrator who feels like an old friend, it really draws you in from the first page.


2. The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis

A heavier read, this page-turner by the ‘American Psycho’ author American writer chronicles the voices of the 1980s Los Angeles’ upper class teenagers and their parents. Written in form of interconnected short stories, ‘The Informers’ is a dark, nihilist’s satire of the pretentious of the elitist lifestyle. Mysterious and pensive, it is a story which stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page.


3. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Some would love to deny it but deep down everyone’s a sucker for a good romance novel. This period piece set in the aftermath of the 9/11 American terrorist attacks is focused on two high school teenagers from different cultural backgrounds navigating first love in a tumultuous period. Mafi teaches us the importance of acceptance and sacrifice, and forces us to question just how big of a part stereotypes actually play in our everyday lives. In our current times, this is a book which is as relevant as ever.


4. Warcross by Marie Lu

Another young adult read, Warcross is the dystopian thriller you won’t want to put down. In a futuristic society where a virtual game is the world’s biggest obsession, teenage hacker

Emika cracks the code and is thrust into a whirlwind adventure which sees her becoming one of the game’s top competitors and uncovering a conspiracy that could potentially turn the entire Warcross phenomenon on its head. And if a fierce female protagonist with amazing character development isn’t enough to draw you in, the refreshing minority representation in this just might.


5. On Love by Charles Bukowski

A poetry collection by the reclusive Beat Generation writer pegged as ‘The Dirty Old Man of America’ and known for the mundane intimacy of his work and cynical subject matter, this collection deals with the complications and exaltations of love, in all its forms. It is a representation of its author; erratic, random and fragmented in ites expressions of love, lust, desire and family and yet brutally honest and reflective. Bukowski is not afraid to be vulnerable and flawed. This is great read for any poetry love, by delving into his mindset it makes me confront my own ideas of love and companionship.

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.