I’ve been a PAL (Peer Assisted Learning) leader since the start of my second year at university. As well as earning a qualification and some extra cash, I’ve gained some skills to put on my CV too. Here’s my experience of working as a PAL leader at UWE Bristol.
by Lucia, BA(Hons) English Language and Linguistics.
The moment you decide that university is the right ‘next step’ for you, things can be very daunting. From choosing a course to receiving an offer, it can become stressful and even confusing. That’s why I’m here to explain the application process and give you some student-style top tips.
Going to university can be one of the most exciting moments of your life. It also means you’re taking that first step in becoming an adult and doing adult things like managing money. Here are some of the most useful money tips I’ve picked up over the past few years of being a student.
This is an exceptional time with the pandemic and most likely many of us are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or even sad. It can be hard to stay positive and it may be easy to forget to take care of yourself. The anxiety can be especially strong for those students who may be unable to go home or who live alone. So here are my tips on staying both mentally as well as physically healthy during self-isolation.
Stick to your routine
We all had a routine before self-isolating, so try to stick to it by maintaining a good sleep routine and setting tasks to do or goals to reach for each day. Even writing down a structure for each day might be helpful. For me this helps with getting assignments done as well.
Thanks to technology, staying connected to our loved ones is very easy. I used to go for a cup of coffee with my friends every week in Bristol but now we continue our habit from our homes while video calling each other.
Get outside and exercise
According to the government, going outside once a day for exercising is allowed, so use this possibility. Fresh air and movement will give you more energy and help with stress and anxiety. If exercising outside does not sound fun, there are many apps and home work out ideas to try now that gyms are closed.
Maintain a meal routine and have fun
Now is a good opportunity to learn new recipes while maintaining your regular meal routine. I tend to snack a lot when staying at home all day, so eating healthy meals regularly keeps me more energised for the afternoon hours.
Make time for relaxing and self-care
During stressful periods it is important to set some time aside and do something fun, relaxing or treat yourself. Here are some ideas: make a cup of tea and read (not course books), journal, paint, learn a new language or a skill, try meditation and watch a movie. For trying out new things, there are many apps and videos on the internet which is a convenient way to learn something new from the comfort of your home.
Living at home while studying at university, sounds boring doesn’t it?! You might think it means not as many friends or not a big social life. As a stay at home student myself, I’ve lived to tell the tale, and boring isn’t the case. In fact, I would describe my first year at university as quite the opposite – fun.
Engaging with your course is about more than just making sure you attend lectures and complete course work (although it does play a part), its also about interaction with others and having the the right mindset to do it for yourself. In my first year I found that the more you put in, the more you get out, whether that is socially or on an educational basis.
Engaging with your environment is so important when wanting to benefit fully from university, however it isn’t easy for everyone to just throw themselves into, which was definitely something I struggled with at the beginning. Hopefully this will tell you how I did it and show you how you can too.
Engaging with your environment is so important when wanting to benefit fully from university
Firstly, the more groups you form and surround yourself with, the easier you’ll find it. A way that I went about approaching this and that went great for me was connecting to people through societies related to my course. These societies perfectly pair both social and educational engagement in a very fun way. This also goes for other groups you can take part in. For me it has been pro-bono groups in law, that allowed me to do actual legal work, connecting me with people from inside and outside the university whilst having a great focus on my legal degree. Groups will also get you involved in web pages and group chats that can also be a great help. I also applied to be a student ambassador which is a really great way to not only get work but also allowed me to form relationships with people who were like minded.
When I first moved to this university I knew very few students and all my flat mates were on a different course. This made lectures quite daunting as I would attend alone and knew no one and it made me less engaged with my course and the university as a whole. However purely just by attending frequently and sitting in the same place you meet others around you who are also doing the very same, making that daunting environment a comforting one. This also gets you into a mental routine which allows you to be more rigid with yourself, so you don’t begin to fall into the downward spiral of not attending lectures and workshops.
There are many ways that will allow you to engage at university, it’s just down to you to take those opportunities.
I discovered that the more you engage with others around you the more comfortable they will feel talking to you and this is something that you can benefit from. For example, when I was first set coursework I went away and worked without discussion and kept my thoughts to myself. My work came back okay but it turned out it had been similar to the others and did not stand out. However, when the next set of coursework came around, I made use of the social connections I had established with my peers and discussed the topic with them. This allowed us to cover areas through in-depth discussion that we might not have otherwise had and corrected one another when we were wrong. This significantly improved our coursework.
It’s my opinion that commitment is key to engaging as well. Commitment opened the door for me to be able to consistently be in the loop, preventing myself from isolation and becoming unfamiliar with my work and those around me. I find it difficult to be able to learn and work to my full potential when other things are on my mind and so feeling settled and comfortable in lectures has helped me focus more on my studies.
My main message is that there are many ways and opportunities that will allow you to engage with your course, it’s just down to you to take those opportunities. Hopefully this has shown you just how easy such opportunities can come about and how you can make the most from them and how you will benefit as a result.
Support is something we all need from time to time. UWE Bristol has provided me with a range of support both when I was struggling academically and adapting to university life. I found support from all angles, from academic support to personal support, I have used PAL, tutors, student advisors, info and visa hub as well as the career advisors.
Moving away from home
Moving to a new place where everything is new, can be quite overwhelming. That’s why the more support you get the better your experience will be. In whatever area you might need help, there will be a support system available for you because UWE Bristol knows how stressful it can be at times with these big changes.
Here are a few aids I have used in the past, and will continue using when I need it:
Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)
This is a scheme where students from the year above help the newer students. For example, they will provide you with tips on how to cope with the work load but still have fun. They can try explaining some topics in a simpler way than lectures to give you a better understanding. PAL helped me from the beginning to the end of the year as it gave me a student perspective on the work load. I was then able to divide and conquer, and created myself a successful schedule. They also gave great tips based on the mistakes they had made. This really helps you settle in as you can ask them where things are or the questions you wouldn’t want to ask your lecturers. You can almost say they are like your academic lifeline.
“You could say that the PAL team are like your academic lifeline. “
I personally think that tutors were and are the best academic support for me. This is because they know your course, can give you advice on how to improve but also assist you on things like your coursework or exam preparation. Plus, they will know who to contact, if you need extra help and more.
My email account once got hacked right before my three main coursework assignment deadlines. Because of this I had to deactivate and block my account. However, this meant I still couldn’t login and that caused me to panic. I contacted the info hub who then contacted IT and within one visit they got the hacker completely out of my account, helped me resubmit my courseworks and taught me how to prevent this happening again. I couldn’t be more happy once I left the IT offices.
I have used many of the support services and resources throughout my time at UWE Bristol and I plan to continue using them because they are so good and are there for us!
“I am so glad to have chosen UWE Bristol. ”
They have helped me so much, through various situations and I felt like my transition from sixth form to university went much smoother because of it. I am so glad to have chosen UWE Bristol.
Money can be scary. Some days, I look at my bank account and wonder where it all went. But it doesn’t need to be a scary prospect. There are things you can do and people you can speak with to make sure that you have the money to support you alongside your postgraduate study and help you to manage it well. So, don’t panic, I am here to point you in the right direction!
Fear can sometimes lead to avoidance, which means you could be missing out on help, funding or great tips and tricks to make your money go further.
Firstly, and quite possibly most importantly, there’s student finance options. Student Finance England (SFE) is probably where you went to get your undergraduate student loans, and it’s where you are going to need to go again for postgraduate. If you’ve used SFE before, your login is the same, but if not, you will need to create an account. Once you’re in, you just need to complete a few forms and then you are done! SFE will check all of your info, and then let you know how much money you are entitled to. But there is one crucial difference from the undergraduate loans: your tuition loan is paid to YOU, not to UWE, so remember to bear that in mind when you are budgeting!
Another option for funding is getting some paid work alongside your studies. There are plenty of options here: everything from retail to working for UWE (like yours truly). The great thing about postgraduate study is that the courses are more flexible – so much of a postgraduate course is self-directed study. This makes it easier to fit a job around your studies. Not only can you earn money for this work, but you can also gain valuable skills, especially if you can find a part-time role in your field of study! Two birds, one stone!
Last but not least there is also a plethora of options provided by UWE, such as the summer fund, which can provide some additional funding over the summer break and the emergency fund, which can provided when something unexpected happens (for example, I used it when I knocked my laptop off of my desk and smashed it!).
Budgeting is your friend!
So, you’ve got your money sourced, now what do you do with it? Budgeting is your friend! It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal or even all that detailed, but it really is useful to have one. Personally, I have mine on an Excel spreadsheet – I find it easier to edit and it does the maths for me, which is good because my maths skills are severely lacking – but you can do it however works best for you. Play around and experiment to see what suits your style best.
One of the biggest expenses in this world is food. It’s necessary, so it can seem like there’s no way to reduce that bill. But fear not! There are some really simple ways to cut down on that expense! First and foremost, branded foods are not always the best out there, so give the supermarket own brand options a shot and you might be surprised at both the taste and the savings. Secondly, keep an eye out for the reduced to clear sections in the major supermarkets. They tend to reduce the foods that are going to be ‘out-of-date’ soon at about 8pm every day, and most of these are absolutely fine to eat a few days after that date AND most of them can be frozen and eaten at a much later date. I’ve managed to grab pizzas, cakes, bread, vegetables, cheese and so much more for pennies using this method. Don’t be afraid to dive on in and grab what you need!
Alright! I think that’s all of my tips for managing your money as a postgraduate student. My last words of advice would be this: don’t be scared about money and funding. Fear can sometimes lead to avoidance, which means you could be missing out on help, funding, or great tips and tricks to make your money go further. So, take a deep breath, grab some chocolate (or other treat) and dive in! Good luck!
Clearing sounds very scary, doesn’t it? Of all the thoughts running around in the build up to results day, the thought of clearing may be overwhelming. The thought I might not get to go to the university I had chosen scared me, but it shouldn’t especially if you get prepared beforehand.
In the run up to exams, I began to have a change of mind towards which subject I would be studying at university. I always thought it would be History, but after a set of good coursework results in Media Studies I began to think about studying that instead. I proceeded to ask my teacher for support and she pointed me in the right direction and gave me some courses to look at. By results day I was practically certain that Media was in fact, the subject for me.
What to do on results day
Soon enough results day came but upon looking at my results, I panicked and was filled with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. My mum suggested I speak to my tutor, who then took me in to her office to discuss my options and to talk about what I wanted to do. Teachers and other staff members are a really good resource when it comes to clearing, they’ve been through this a billion times before and can guide you to all the right places. I must have spent at least an hour in there before reaching a decision.
UWE was always an option as it was where my mum had studied and she always raved about it. UWE had a good reputation and after looking at their course for History online I found the modules really interesting. Their online clearing process was easy to navigate and very helpful, in comparison to the other university I was looking at which was unhelpful and kept redirecting me to different phone lines. This made my decision so much easier, and I began to think that although this was different to the experience I was expecting, the course was sounding even better than the one I originally wanted to study. It then began to set in that I was going to UWE and I felt proud, to do so. Clearing had set my mind at ease.
My top tips for clearing
Firstly you should fully research universities and courses beforehand, this is in case you don’t get the results you want as it’s good to know what options are out there and have a few back-ups.
I would check UCAS track prior to going to collect results, this should prepare you for the outcome and can help you understand whether you need any assistance.
You should check your school or college opening times and I would recommend going sooner rather than later. This way it will be easier to make use of the help at hand and if you are unsure of anything it’s definitely worth asking a teacher or another member of staff.
It might also be worth bringing a parent, friend or someone else along with you for support.
Finally I would also recommend getting lots of sleep before, and trying not to worry, worrying will not change the outcome!
I would stress that you shouldn’t be disappointed if you don’t get your first choice. Clearing can be a really helpful tool that can offer a number of possibilities. Not getting your first choice might initially seem disappointing, but you shouldn’t let it write off your future, there are still numerous possibilities that can shape your life for the better.
I work as a student ambassador at UWE Bristol, and the most frequently asked question from both students and their parents is “did you make friends easily here”, and of course the answer is yes. Its hard not to with everything UWE provides and supports with, from social areas, to funding, to the 140 plus societies. Having a social life is not something you need to worry about when you’re at UWE Bristol.
Is sport a good way to make friends?
For the athletic type, sports is by far the best way for making bonds with others at university and so I would advise you to sign up for as many sessions as possible. Even if you don’t know whether you will be any good.
The variety at UWE allows for anyone who might want to be part of a sports team to try something new. Sports vary from motor sport, to paintball to gymnastics, alongside the big sports like American Football.
There are loads of people that haven’t done certain sports before so you won’t be alone and there are many free activities and taster sessions to try during your first few weeks.
What other societies can I get involved in?
Don’t worry if you’re not into sports as there are loads of other societies to choose from which have an equally great social atmosphere with a little less sweat. Nearly all societies are keen for new members and with weekly meet ups they are a great way for forming social groups.
Societies like the cocktail making society are known for generating a large number of student members, for obvious reasons, but create fantastic opportunities to make friends with others you wouldn’t come into contact otherwise with your university life.
In short, joining a society is a great way to make friends. Don’t feel like you need to follow a crowd though, by all means give everything a try but don’t hide away from what you want. The beauty of UWE being so big is that you will find likeminded people who are passionate about the very same thing you are, so just be yourself. Whether you prefer to talk about sport, politics, anime or all of the above you have no excuse to not find others who are the same.
However, don’t feel like you must search for a social life solely through the societies here at UWE. Events at the SU and most notably during freshers week are a great way to mingle, grab a drink and get to know people.
How can social media help me connect with others?
Once you have made those initial connections and the joys of freshers have faded, the next thing will be maintaining them as you get on with other aspects of university life and study. One good practice comes through the form of group chats. Just making and joining chats allowing you to access friend circles is great to have. Facebook groups are also great in regard to finding people and events. When moving in there will always be chats that allow you to find your flat mates as well as the group pages and hidden society pages (which you will be invited to) will allow you to attend all kinds of events. Social media is another great way for maintaining a social group at UWE and by following the main handles of the university you can keep up to date with upcoming events.
How joining in helped me make friends
Personally, I took up a sport (American Football) which I had never played before with a group I never met before and by the end of 8 months I feel like I not only have friends but a brotherhood of which I belong to.
Joining a society is a great way to make friends. The opportunities are everywhere and all you have to do is take them and be yourself.
I came to this university knowing only one other student on a different course and its nothing to be intimidated about. The frame work of both subjects and Fresher’s enables you to have more people around you than you can remember in no time and you really don’t have to go actively searching for people either. The opportunities are everywhere and all you have to do is take them and be yourself.