Mental Health Awareness week

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Today marks the first day of the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week for 2022, an annual event where there is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. The theme of the week this year is loneliness.

Loneliness is the negative feeling we have when there is a mismatch between the relationships we want and the ones we have, both in terms of quality and quantity. Loneliness is feeling alone, not being alone.

As a student, it is likely that you will be experiences many life changes, including starting university, making new friends, moving away from home for the first time, and so many other changes too. Experiencing changes and making life decisions can have an impact on our sense of belonging, and a perceived lack of belonging can be linked to an increased feeling of loneliness.

Loneliness is very closely linked to mental health, and can be a cause and an effect of poor mental health. If we feel lonely, it might lead to poor mental health, and if our mental health is poor, it can lead to feelings of loneliness.

So what can we do to tackle loneliness?

The Mental Health Foundation’s Unlocking Loneliness Campaign highlights 15 things to do if you’re feeling lonely, including:

Explore your feelings

Think about how you are feeling and what could be contributing to this. It can be useful to keep a journal and note down what you have (or haven’t) been doing, and how you are feeling. By better understanding what makes us feel- the way we feel, we can do more to learn what works for us and protect our mental health.

Be aware of social media

Remember to take social media with a pinch of salt. People tend to post the positive aspects of their lives. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have negative experiences and may be feeling lonely too. If social media is having a negative impact on your mental health, or making you feel lonely, why not try unfollowing or muting the accounts that bring up those difficult feelings, and start following accounts that make you feel empowered

Find your tribe

Finding people with similar interests you can relate to can help you feel more connected. University clubs and societies are a great place to start, UWE MOVE, Centre for Music and Student Life are brilliant places to meet new people too. There are also sites like Meetup specifically designed to help you find people with similar interests. Give a go and see!

Find balance

The increased workload at university can make it easy to neglect looking after yourself and making time for the things and the people that you care about. Being disconnected from these things can increase your feelings of loneliness, so remember to schedule in time for you and the things you enjoy too.

How can you get involved in Mental Health Awareness week?

On social media, we are encouraging you to share your experiences of loneliness using the hashtag #IveBeenThere to support others and raise awareness.

If you’re looking for a challenge, sign up to the Mental Health Foundation’s 80 Miles in May Challenge, to walk, run or jog the distance over the month, to raise funds and awareness for the Mental Health Foundation.

Resources to support your mental health

Check out our Tackling loneliness webpage or the Student Guide to Loneliness, for lots of advice, tips and information about how to support yourself, as well as organisations that are there to listen to and support you.

The NHS also have extensive expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your own wellbeing, on their Every Mind Matters webpage.

If you need someone to listen

The Mix – whether you want a quick chat or more focused help, text THEMIX to 85258

Shout – if you are struggling to cope and need to talk, day or night, text SHOUT to 85258

Student Space – for one-to-one student support for whatever challenges you are facing, text STUDENT to 85258

Samaritans – whatever you are going through, you can call Samaritans anytime. Call free on 116 123

Equity blog post

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by Equity

We hope your assessments have gone well and that you’re back in the swing of your studies.

Things you might have missed…

We started the year with the good news that the University has dropped the use of the BAME acronym and will use more specific terms to describe someone’s ethnicity. You can read the full article on the UWE Bristol website.

On the 9th March, we hosted a watch party of Bobbi O’Gilvie’s original Networking to Succeed webinar. Speaking to students after the event, they said they liked how Bobbi linked to anecdotes making the points relatable especially when talking about the anxiety of networking. They also appreciated how she encouraged networking when you feel it’s necessary rather than pushing it as something to be doing all the time. And they also liked her suggestion of reducing networking anxiety by giving yourself a script to follow.

You can catch up with Bobbi’s webinar and others on our Equity webpage.

Things to get involved in…

Become a PAL leader

PAL leaders play an important role in supporting their fellow students during their time at University. There are a variety of roles on offer and it’s a great opportunity for you to learn soft skills such as planning and organisation as well as learning mentoring and communication skills.

There’s also the option to undertake the ILM Level 3 Award in Mentoring which will help you stand out to employers when you graduate.

Things to look out for…

Ashford Essay Competition 2022

Last year saw a good calibre of essays from UWE students and Ashford’s said they were grateful to all who entered and found it hard to pick winners. Ashford’s picked their top four essays from students across faculties with each winner receiving prize money of £1,500.

The competition is open to Black Asian and Minority Ethnic students and we’ll be announcing the details of the 2022 competition very soon!

Celebrating Culture Conference

Soon we’ll also be sharing the details of our end of year Equity event in collaboration with the Students’ Union taking place in May 2022.

For any further information visit our Equity webpage and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And feel free to share this post with friends and help build the Equity network!

Why I applied to be a PAL leader

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by Max, BA(Hons) Philosophy and PAL leader

Becoming a PAL Leader is about more than the added income, ability to undertake the ILM L3 in Effective Mentoring, or having some experience on your CV. It’s about having fun and making an impact with students who are going through the same thing you have just been through!

In this post I want to talk a bit more about the other sides of being a PAL Leader, that might not seem so obvious.

What do I do as a PAL leader?

What I really love about being a PAL Leader is how flexible the work is. At the end of the day, you’re there to help the students and facilitate their success at UWE.

This means that you help on a range of topics, from managing money, preparing for second year, or thinking about careers, on top of all the usual course-related content, like essay planning or even discussing particular books/topics as a group.

I have a handful of semi-planned sessions for some of the above key topics, but otherwise I will find out what my students want the following week and come prepared with a handful of resources – and maybe a toned back presentation (always using a Mentimeter where possible!) This means that outside of the timetabled session, there really isn’t much preparation required, as the training helps you deliver quality content and the rest of it comes from your experiences.
I haven’t had any other job quite like it. The flexibility truly makes it interesting, every single week.

Why did I apply?

  • For the chance to help students through things I struggled with. Ensuring that the next cohort get to enjoy all the tips and tricks that I picked up, through trial and error.
  • To make a positive impact and legacy on my course, ensuring the year below are going to enjoy the course just as much as I have – that’s where it’s really about applying your personal experience and sharing what you’ve learned with them.
  • To develop myself as a well-rounded individual. It’s rare that you get the opportunity to develop mentoring skills so early in your career, so this was a great introduction to that.

My favourite moments

During the uncertainty of the the last couple of years, it meant a lot to my students that I could facilitate a safe space for them to share and speak up, where they wouldn’t feel confident doing so in the larger lecturers/seminars.
There are both direct and indirect moments that you can help and an indirect one for me was getting their feedback about a particular extra-curricular session they had last term. I was able to take this and work with the lecturers to facilitate these sessions again this term. The students were very grateful that I went out of my way and helped arrange something that they wouldn’t have done themselves.

What have I learnt?

I’ve learned many great soft and hard skills as a PAL leader, while at the same time working and developing some skills I already picked up from previous jobs.

Organisation and the ability to be agile

The role taught me to plan a session in a matter of days and then successfully time manage within that session. It was also key to understand the balance of having enough material to fill an hour, but also not have too much that we can’t go off plan and discuss something completely different that the students want.
It’s also about not being phased if no one contributes, or if you don’t make it past the first planned exercise. As long as you can provide value to the students, then you have succeeded in that session.

Professionalism and responsibility

You’re a lifeline to students, who really value getting your insight. It’s not just about having a chat with them for an hour but delivering meaningful content that has a positive impact. And where necessary, signposting or flagging important issues to the relevant staff.

How to mentor, engage and lead classes

This is brilliant experience if you’re interested in a career in teaching but also great to show varied experience on your CV. I was able to work on my training skills from a previous job but now I can also show how I adapted them to a different setting and audience.

Thank you for taking some time to read my post, for more information on the PAL leader role check out the Be a PAL Leader web page and have a think if this is a role you can make your own and leave a lasting positive impact on fellow students.

You might not realise just how much you’ll enjoy!

The 2022/23 PAL Leader application window is now open until 1st May 2022.

Essay mills, ghost writing and contract cheating

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When your assignment deadlines are approaching many of you might receive spam emails from companies offering ‘advisory’ or ‘example’ essay services to help ease the pressure of deadline hand ins. Paying to use one of these services however is known as contract cheating.

What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating is where a student pays someone else to write an essay for them and then submits it as their own. For example, a student might submit an assignment brief to a website, along with the deadline and decide what grade they would like to receive and will then pay accordingly. As with other assessment offences such as plagiarism and collusion, this is taken extremely seriously by the university and can have implications when a student is being assessed by an employer for professional suitability.

Contract cheating is becoming a real worry as it undermines the genuine efforts of other students. In addition, the companies or essay mills offering these services target stressed students with spam emails during the busiest hand in periods. There have also been examples of students being blackmailed by the companies for additional fees after assignments have been submitted. It is also likely that such activities will soon be criminalised in the UK.

The key therefore is to help the university identify these companies and the promotional emails they send out and to make you aware of the support options available to you should you feel as if there is no other alternative.

What to look out for

As mentioned, the company might claim that you’ll only be paying for a model or example essay but in the same breath guarantee the grade you ordered. When challenged, many of these companies state they never expect students to submit the essay. They might also quote testimonials from happy customers to try and normalise the service to suggest it isn’t cheating. They might also list clients from top universities to show it happens everywhere.

What to do if you’re feeling the pressure

We want to raise awareness and make sure that you know the options available to you so that you never feel the need to use one of these companies and jeopardise your experience of university. If you receive one of their emails do not respond and simply forward it to us via email. Our specialised team will block these emails from getting to students in the first place.

More importantly though, if you are feeling overwhelmed remember you can speak to one of your tutors if you have concerns about your course; we also have a wealth of study tools and wellbeing support to help you manage your deadlines, discuss your worries and get back on track.

How I settled into University life

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by Salma, BSc(Hons) Architecture

I’ll never forget my first trip to get groceries. I had just arrived in Bristol and as I was heading to Lidl, I may or may not have walked into random strangers’ backyards trying to get there. It was also my first-time using Google Maps and my, what an invention!

People who don’t see the need to use maps and rely solely on signs scare me.

Luckily as I got to know my flatmates, we started going grocery shopping together. Soon, what seemed like an hour-long walk felt like nothing. It started out with a simple text in our group chat that went something like, “I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow, would any of you like to join me?” It’s very normal for the first few weeks, or sometimes even the first couple of months to be awkward, but these little walks to Asda or Lidl really helped me get to know my housemates better.

Cooking with flatmates

In my first year at UWE I lived in Wallscourt with fellow international students and one thing I learnt from living with people from different cultures is that offering to try your food is the best way to make a friend. You also get to try theirs the next time, so it is a win. Living in a multicultural house also gave me the opportunity to celebrate things like Eid, Diwali, and Chinese new year’s. These were also opportunities to cook together, share a meal and educate one another about our cultures. It is a gradual process.

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps. One of my favourite recipes to make for my flatmates was these quick and easy cinnamon rolls .

Eating well

Before coming to university, the closest I got to ‘cooking’ was ramen noodles. But now I’ve learned some recipes from my flatmates, I’ve come to really enjoy cooking!

There’s something about having your own stuff, which has it’s own place in the kitchen that also makes cooking much more appealing. And when you’re in charge of your own food, it’s much easier to make healthier changes to your diet that you’ve always dreamt of. I switched to brown bread, gradually reduced my sugar intake and switched to plant-based milk cutting down my dairy intake. This did wonders for my skin and if my skin is happy, I’m happy!

Joining a society

During my first year, I joined the BAME society and the Built Environment society. I wanted to join societies that catered to both my social identity and my academic side. Joining these societies helped me get used to university life, as I met students from other years who’d had more experience and could give me advice. Although covid restrictions limited my interaction with other people, joining a society and meeting my course mates during the campus workshops, allowed me to make those all important connections and build my own community.

Mindfulness and meditation

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps.

Day to day though, I like to keep a routine and it’s important for me that I start my day by dedicating an hour or two to myself. I normally start by having toast with coffee/tea and then read a portion of a book and then watch some vlogs and cooking videos on YouTube. I also try to reserve 20 minutes before going to bed to meditate and I’m an avid believer of spiritual healing through prayer.

It’s important to remember that there will always be days when everything gets overwhelming and it’s not easy to stay focused no matter what you do. On such days, I just let myself feel the feelings and remember that it’s ok to have a good cry if needed.

For more advice on how to settle in and start your year well visit the Feel Good webpage!

How Starting Block helped me prepare for the year ahead

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By Megan, BA(Hons) Media Culture and Communications

Going into a new year at university can be a nerve-wracking time for anyone and there are lots of ways you can prepare. As a student going into a year of online learning for the first time last year, I was very apprehensive about the new way of learning and all the new challenges I would face learning from home.

Fortunately, we had a Starting Block.

Starting Block is a great opportunity to set yourself up for the year ahead and make sure you’re prepared with the skills you will need for university life. Last year, because of Covid-19, all learning was done online. This took a bit of getting used to as it was a new concept for a lot of people, and while it sounded fun at first, it came with its own set of challenges.

Before starting block I felt nervous about the year ahead as well as new obstacles like wifi connections, audio issues and all the new aspects of learning we had never had to consider before. Thankfully starting block was a great opportunity to test all of this out, so when it came to the first week of term I felt fully prepared and comfortable. 

I learned a lot from Starting Block. As I mentioned, I had a lot to figure out with audio issues and connections at the start, starting block gave me the opportunity, time and support to make sure my wifi was strong enough or that I had a good desk to work from, small things that could have hindered me had I not had the opportunity to sort them out. It also helped me get used to seeing and interacting with lecturers and my peers online instead of in person.  

Another aspect that really helped me was a group talk our lecturer gave where she discussed mental health and working from home. We were given really good advice on how to separate university life and home life, for example having separate space to work, even if this is just a desk in your room instead of working on your laptop from bed (as appealing as that sounds), so we have spaces to switch off.

We were also told to take regular breaks outside, so we could rest our eyes from looking at screens all day. Having this advice not only helped feel more prepared for what the year would be like, but it also made me feel like everyone was in the same position and it made starting the academic year easier to cope with knowing everyone was doing something new for the first time.

The advice we were given from lectures during Starting Block not only helped me prepare my working set-up but also helped me prepare mentally for the new challenges learning from home comes with. It made me feel much more comfortable with how online learning was going to be and I gained incredible benefits from it like advice from lecturers, as well as talking to other students so it is a great way to feel prepared at the start of a new year.

And whilst this year will look different to last year, I have no doubt that the advice and skills learnt during Starting Block will help me prepare just as well for whatever the year ahead will bring.

Visit our Starting Block webpage for more information.

Study skills support

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by Library Services

We’re here to help you to gain the study skills you need at university and beyond. A great place to start is our preparing for study webpage which is is full of advice and online tutorials designed to get you ready for academic study.

Here’s just a few of the ways you can get support from the library.

Online workbooks

You can use our online workbooks on reading and making notes, referencing and academic and critical writing.

Workshops

Library staff run study skills workshops, covering key skills such as referencing, using your reading and critical writing skills.

Talk to us

Just visit any of our Libraries and talk to us – or ask a question through our 24/7 online chat service (which you can access from the Library website).

When you get feedback from your first assignment, we can help you to understand and benefit from this and target the improvements you want to make before your next submission.

English language support

Sign up to our workshops on our Communication Skills for International Students programme. Each Faculty has specialist study support staff who provide help ranging from writing to mathematics and programming.

Discover more of our workshops, support and online tutorials on our study skills webpage.

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