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.

City sights: Your best bits of Bristol

We asked students their top spots to unwind, grab a bite, discover something new or meet friends around town. Here’s what they had to say:

Harbourside

Bristol harbourside

Joseph (MSci Mathematics) told us, ‘My favourite spots are on the harbourside, which not only has loads of cool bars and restaurants, but is also one of the prettiest areas of Bristol at night.’ From independent cinema at Watershed to art at Arnolfini, this area is a cultural hub as well as a central place to catch a drink with friends or watch the boats go by.

If you’re still getting to know Bristol, the (free!) M Shed museum aims to tell the story of Bristol through quirky artefacts, personal accounts and interactive exhibits. Nearby Cargo offers an array of lunch options – from tacos to tapas – served out of re-purposed shipping containers.

Bristol Museum

Where to duck to escape the bustle of Park Street at lunchtime? Tamara (BA English Literature) said, ‘I love the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The architecture is beautiful and it’s so peaceful.’ From gilded Renaissance masterworks to Banksys, local wildlife to Egyptian mummies, there is plenty to explore.

Royal Fort Gardens

Royal Fort Gardens in bloom

This lush green space is a firm student favourite for the way it brightens up the middle of campus. The gardens feature a (seasonal) wildflower meadow and pond as well as unexpected art installations like the mirror maze sculpture ‘Follow Me’ and ‘Hollow,’ a modernist wooden grotto constructed from samples of 10,000 trees. When the weather warms, this is where you want to bring a book to study al fresco.

Mrs Potts Chocolate House

Mrs Potts is a wonderful place to escape reality for a while and just relax or have a chat,’ says Yasmin (MEng Mechanical Engineering) about the Park Street cafe. ‘The cakes are delicious (with a lot of vegan options), the coffee and hot chocolate warm you up on a cold day, and the interior is extremely cosy…When it’s not too cold, you can go downstairs to a picturesque courtyard with fairy lights and candles.’

St Nicholas Market

St Nicholas Market on Corn Street in the Centre

Established in 1743, this spot is home to the city’s largest collection of independent retailers. It’s a favourite of Muirne (MBChB Medicine), who says, ‘What I love most about St Nick’s Market is the sheer variety. There are tons of different cuisines available as street food, and most of it has amazing vegan and vegetarian options. There’s a mix of shops, from niche jewellery designers, to antique record and book shops, to boho-style crystal and incense stalls. And because of this variety, you get a wonderful mix of people there too.’

Christmas Steps

Draped in white fairy lights and dotted with interesting indie businesses, this spot gets your vote for atmosphere. An ornate wrought-iron sign announces ‘To Christmas Steps’ from high above the chimneypots before winding down layers of city streets – past artisan popups, an art-house video rental with mini cinema, and a popular board game café.

Have we missed any of your best bits of Bristol?

It’s time to Find Your Bristol!

Congratulations on getting your place at the University of Bristol! We’re really looking forward to welcoming you and hope you are excited about becoming part of our community. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing advice from staff and students here at Bristol to help you prepare for life as a university student and get excited about our beautiful and unique city.

Five things you can do now 

What are you looking forward to most about Uni? 

Share your first Bristol experiences with us using #FindYourBristol and give us a follow to stay up-to-date with Uni news, student stories and all the most entertaining and enlightening events. We’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.