How I found my support network

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by Desirée, BA(Hons) English Literature

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!

The Farmhouse on Frenchay

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.

Find out more about support at UWE Bristol

Learn how students support each other through the Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme.

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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.

Find out more about Peer Assisted Learning