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.
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.
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.
After successfully completing my undergraduate degree I was keen to begin a career in publishing. But after a summer of job hunting I realised that although my degree was beneficial, I needed more for my chosen career. I also had to take into consideration as a Tier 4 international student the job requirements for me are different to local students.
I chatted my options through with my parents and decided, quite last minute, to apply for a postgraduate degree in marketing at UWE Bristol. Because I applied late in the summer I didn’t have a chance to fully explore what postgraduate student life at UWE might be like. Even though I had lived in the area for a while and had a lovely group of friends, I was still worried about how I might fit in.
I also knew that doing a postgraduate degree was going to be a bigger commitment and it would be more intense than undergraduate. Looking back, this has been true, but my lecturers have been really supportive, which has made the transition from UG to PG much easier. For example, when I started the course we had a two day session with our tutors to understand how the course would work and who to contact. We also did a short exercise which gave us a great grounding in the course.
That said, we all need a bit more support from time to time and at the start of year I had a few issues, so I contacted the wellbeing team at UWE. The people there were so understanding and offered me resources and advice about my mental health, as well as how I could manage it whilst doing my degree. This was a refreshing change from the inconsistent support I received from my previous institution and I felt like I could really rely on UWE to help me when I needed it!
I’ve also found Bristol itself to be really welcoming. I recently attended Bristol Pride and it was a glorious event! As a queer student born and raised in a conservative environment and still trying to find their place in the world, it was an incredible thing to experience. Bristol’s queer scene has personally been one of the best ones I’ve been a part of. I know from experience that there aren’t many places as welcoming and open-minded as Bristol.
As I move closer to graduating, I’m now starting to think about my career prospects and job opportunities again and I definitely feel like I am better prepared now. I’ve also started making enquiries with the international student careers team who I’m planning on meeting with soon to discuss the next steps and work through some of the issues I’ve had before.
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.
by Lucia, BA(Hons) English Language and Linguistics
Hi my name is Lucia and I am here to tell you all about the accommodation, facilities, and things to do at and around UWE Bristol. I hope this gives you an insight into life at university from a student perspective.
What’s it like living on campus?
Frenchay Campus is the largest campus at UWE, where most courses are based. Here, around 3,000 students live on campus in the various types of accommodation. The student village and Carroll Court contains flats/houses of 6, and Wallscourt Park have a selection of flats of 8 and houses of 12. Living away from home for the first time and having your own freedom to do what you want is a great feeling. However, things sometimes aren’t always going to be how you expect them to be.
I spent my first year in a flat of 8 people in Wallscourt Park. I loved my room and my flat in general, the kitchen was a perfect size and the rooms felt very cosy but modern – the double bed was of course a huge bonus! However, I know I would have liked to hear people’s stories before I came to university and would like to tell anyone moving into student accommodation this year hopefully it all goes well, but it’s okay not to get along with everyone.
There were quite a few different personalities in my flat which at times was a challenge and caused some tension . We were luckily able to carry on and enjoy the company of others. At the time it felt like the end of the world but in reality, it was a matter of dealing with it appropriately and surrounding ourselves with other flatmates and friends.
You have to remember you are put together with people you might not otherwise socialise with. There may also be disagreements within your flat/house but you’re not the only ones. This is the first time for the majority of people living away from home and with lots of people of the same age. Do what makes you happy, but make sure it is not at the expense of everyone else – be respectful and accept that everyone has different hobbies/interests.
What facilities are available?
Campus is a great place to be even when you don’t feel like venturing into the city centre. The new student’s union is a great place to socialise and grab a drink, play pool with your friends, or watch the football! There are also lots of events that happen on an evening, including the SU-esday club nights. If you fancy a place to work the new business block has amazing views and modern study spaces, alongside the library with 4 different floors depending on the type of study you’re looking for. Next to the library there is a café/restaurant called onezone, and a Starbucks to keep you going on those late nights!
If you ever need to make an appointment or sign up for a prescription, there is a doctor’s surgery on site next to Carroll Court. You can call or pop in to arrange an appointment, though it can get quite busy sometimes due to the number of students on campus! They also offer free STI tests, so if you are ever worried you can put your mind at ease. If you ever want to seek any support for mental health there are councillors that you can book appointments with and 24 hour online services that cater to all needs, so no one has to feel like they’re alone.
Each accommodation facility has the option to use laundry. There is a washer and a dryer, and they are located at various points within the accommodation blocks. They are extremely useful, and long enough to put a wash on, watch a Netflix episode and come back to collect it!
Near to the Student Village you will find the main centre for sport. This building contains a gym, sports halls, squash courts, private rooms and a climbing wall. Outside there is a huge astro-pitch, used for sports like hockey and football. Off campus, there is a new development of multi-sport pitches, where you will find sports like American Football. There is also another gym situated in the farmhouse near to Wallscourt Park. I would definitely suggest here if you like to work out in a quieter space, but both gyms are equally as good.
Is there anything near to campus?
Yes! The nearest shopping park is called Abbeywood and it has an Asda, B&M, a gym, McDonalds and collection of other restaurants. On the other side of the road, there is a Sainsbury’s and a Lidl, along with another gym and The Range. If you fancy going shopping or for a walk, there are bus stops on campus that take you into central Bristol and even all the way to Bath.
The bus into Bristol takes around 15 minutes, and is perfect for finding new places to eat, doing activities such as mini golf with friends or walking alongside the river. If you fancy a walk somewhere greener, Stoke Park is a 5-10-minute walk away from campus and has views overlooking Bristol. It runs alongside the motorway that takes you into Bristol so it is hard to miss. Campus also has lots of green space, there is a field behind Wallscourt that you can sit on and there are little ponds that house the infamous UWE geese.
I hope that this has given a brief insight into what is available at UWE Bristol. There are so many opportunities that cater to so many different people. University life is a very different experience but there is so much to do and lots of support available.
Moving away from home to start university is an exciting experience. Everyone is ready to make friends, join societies, meet new flat mates and learn as much as possible, to make the most out of this new stage. However, some of us can find it a bit more challenging, but asking for help when we need it is always the right option.
What support is on offer?
At UWE Bristol, student mental health and well-being is considered a priority. Because of this there are a great variety of support options available. They can work face to face, online, or even over the phone. Many of them are available 24/7, allowing you to feel heard and understood anytime.
As someone who came from a whole different country, as well as dealing with anxiety in past years, support and counselling were the first things I looked up when enrolling for my degree. Fortunately, the Wellbeing Centre provided everything I needed. For me, therapy was divided into six sessions and spread throughout the whole year.
In terms of staff, the university provide experts and professionals whose job is focused on attending our needs. For example, you can choose whether you want to be counselled by a man or a woman; and you can switch therapists so you can find someone whose clinical advice can fit your needs. Everyone has been trained to be understanding and non-judgemental, providing us with useful tools to deal with the challenges that we might face.
The right support for me
The first thing I did was speak to someone at an Information Point, there’s one on every campus. They will point you in the direction of the right type of support for you. Because I wanted to speak to a counsellor, I needed to fill out a registration form, provided by UWE, which assessed what my needs were and gave an initial idea of what we’re dealing with.
The therapy sessions that I experienced lasted around an hour and fifteen minutes, and took place in Felixstowe Court, which is a cosy and relaxed environment. When the six sessions are over, the therapist who has been working with you, is also able to refer you to other experts, outside the university.
A different option, is contacting the Out of Hours team at UWE. It is run by a minimum of two members of the university staff, who have also been trained to listen to you. The service is considered Out of Hours because it works from 7pm to 6am every night. Again, this choice of support can be used over the phone or in person. Whichever you choose, there is always someone ready to listen down at the Farmhouse on Frenchay Campus, a space specially designed to be used as a safe place for students to relax and socialise, maybe even grab some tea and a nice book!
Other resources encouraged by the university are Kooth, an online platform of counselling created specifically for young people and students and if you’re really distressed, UWE crisis text line, which can be accessed by texting ‘UWE’ to 85258 anytime.
At UWE Bristol we offer a wide range of different types of mental health, wellbeing and academic support. For Desiree, counselling through the Wellbeing Service was the best option, but this won’t be right for everyone. But, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need some help from us whilst you’re here, and that’s ok.
You may need support with your studies and this can be accessed through a variety of sources including your Academic Personal tutor, faculty staff and our peer to peer support system (PAL). You’ll also have access to student support advisors and a wide range of additional support services such as our disability service and UWE cares. No matter what your worries are there will be someone here to help you thrive at university.
All of our support is accessed through the Information Points, which are located on all campuses and are the first point of contact no matter what your question or concern might be. That makes it nice and easy for you.
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.