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.
Like most courses, my final term of year two was adapted to online submission. As I study Fashion Textiles at UWE Bristol, which is a largely practical course, there was a massive learning opportunity.
The new module brief included using online software to create a virtual sketchbook rather than a physical one, and designing a new collection online rather than making a garment.
Being able to access the UWE Bristol library online was a massive help to my research. I was able to access a large variety of resources such as books, e-journals and magazines. Typically, the library is somewhere I would be spending the majority of my time when doing sketchbook work and so the online library and my home desk was the next best option!
With access to the online library I was able to read up on the brand Kenzo, which I had chosen to design a new collection for and understand learn about their history.
Previously, Illustrator and Photoshop were software that I had used before but wasn’t confident in. But by having to create an online sketchbook and submit my work online, my digital drawing skills have really improved.
I also found online tutorials extremely helpful when I got stuck, and have started a notebook to record new techniques I have learnt for future reference. Having improved so much with my online skills, I’ve decided to use more virtual methods of presenting my work in my summer project and third year modules. These digital skills are also extremely useful for the fashion industry and this project has taught me how to use them creatively to present my work.
I’ve also been able to further develop the skills I’ve learnt during my course and experiment with them. Making garments using my pattern cutting skills and up-cycling old garments using different textiles skills such as dyeing, embroidery, crocheting and fabric painting, has been how I have stayed creative through lockdown. As hand embroidery is typically a very time consuming technique, lockdown has been a great opportunity to embroider for fun and see what I can create.
Looking forward, I’ve also started researching for third year and have been using virtual art gallery tours to get inspired! Typically, a trip to London would be my normal start to researching a project, but with the online gallery tours I’m able to visit galleries all over the world without travelling and for free. Here is a list of some of the best virtual tours – Bristol Museum has its own one too!
For my current summer project, I have been exploring Surrealism and have found an online Surrealist photography exhibition curated by Cris Orfescu. The online gallery tour has been a great source of inspiration and information. I would encourage anyone with a laptop and a spare half an hour to check out some of the online galleries!
Learning online and adapting to life in lockdown, has definitely allowed me to explore different creative mediums and develop new skills which I know I’ll take forward into my final year.
by Chloe, BA(Hons) Creative and Professional Writing
Going from a full or part time schedule at university, to completing our deadlines and coursework at home, can be a real struggle, especially when there isn’t a regular routine or timetable.
During my time in lockdown, I’ve thought about what’s worked to keep me motivated. So, whether you want to watch my vlog or read my blog below, here are my top tips on how to manage your workload and study from home.
It’s important to make your own timetable to keep on top of coursework, deadlines and assignments – this might mean putting aside a set number of hours or shorter sessions to finish a certain task. One method that you can use is a priority list where you write down your ‘top 3 priorities’ for the day. This helps split your day into three parts and gets you to focus on three main goals.
I also give myself bonus tasks – these are a few extra goals that I could get done if I have enough time. These tasks are what they sound like – a BONUS, they are non-essential and it doesn’t matter if they don’t get completed.
Find yourself a study space
As well as managing your time it’s also essential you find yourself a study space where you feel comfortable enough to work. Having the right environment when you study can be a contributing factor to your focus levels and overall quality of your work. So try to find somewhere that has minimal distractions, where you can concentrate and be calm.
Take care of yourself
Of course, we have all of this new-found time for studying and dedicating ourselves to our degree but remember to look after yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to work 24/7, be realistic and think about what you would be doing if you were actually in university. This is why priority lists have worked for me, as they split the day up for me.
Remember to take breaks! Taking breaks is actually healthy and allows your brain not to be over-loaded with information or stress – it’s been proven that sometimes shorter bursts of work can be more productive than longer periods of time. On your breaks, try and go outside for a breath of fresh air or stretch out, remembering to follow government guidelines when you do.
Stay connected and reach out if you need help
If you find yourself in the position where you do need some pointers or there are things that you just don’t understand, reach out. There is no harm in asking a question. Message course mates with queries and check your module handbooks, the answers may be there. If you are looking for more support on your deadlines, reach out to your tutors or lecturers via email or blackboard. And if you’re feeling anxious and stressed, UWE Bristol has many health and wellbeing services that operate online and are there to help you.
Even though lockdown is daunting, it won’t last forever. Just try focus on your health and work hard and you will get where you want to be.
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.
Elizabeth tells us about being a PAL leader. What it is and how it’s helped her make friends and grow in confidence. PAL stands for Peer Assisted Learning and is a scheme where students support each other throughout their studies.
Hi, I’m Elizabeth and I have been a PAL leader throughout my second year here at UWE Bristol. I used the PAL scheme during my first year and found it a really good way of helping me settle in and get to know people. It was good to talk to people who had been through it already and learn from their experiences. My brother had also been a PAL leader before me and so it was something that I really wanted to get involved in.
As an academic PAL leader I run a range of study support sessions. These are timetabled and group based and can be attended by students from all years. I run workshops to help students with academic skills and guide them to get any other support they may need. Other PAL leaders run sessions to help with emotional resilience and careers and employability. We make the sessions fun with interactive activities and games, so they’re a great way to get to know people.
We get to design the workshops based on our own experiences, along with help and support from staff and the senior PAL leaders who are in their third year. We find that workshops are particularly busy just before exams where we talk a lot about coursework and how best to prepare.
Being a PAL leader has really increased my confidence. You are responsible for making sure you get to the sessions on time, sticking to deadlines and deciding what to talk about. I’ve also developed my presentation and organisation skills and used work based tools such as power point, which will look great on my CV.
I’ve made lots of friends through being a PAL leader. It’s a great way to widen your circle and get to know new people. You get to talk to staff around the University which is a great confidence boost and it’s great fun as well. I really want to become a senior PAL leader next year and would recommend getting involved in this scheme either as a leader or for the great support and advice it offers you.