One of most recent graduates, Jed Clarke, was fortunate enough to work as Research Assistant with us briefly, and in chatting with him it seemed like a good idea to ask him to reflect on his time as a psychology undergraduate at Cardiff Met.
Looking back, I never would have thought that I would have achieved this much in the space of three years. The undergraduate degree has allowed me to explore concepts that now I love and find things in the world that I am truly interested in. My first two years in Cardiff Met were difficult but exciting. I took on a lot, including training with the Army Officer Training Corps part time. This involved going on exercises in the Brecon Beacons over some weekends and over summer. Support in my first year was always available, whether it was personal or academic. Being able to have a personal tutor during this period was excellent, as it meant that I could find my feet during the early stages of the degree.
One of the most valuable experiences I had was being able to work with Hafal charity as part of my work and volunteering module in the second year. Hafal provide services for people with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders and I was able to get service-users involved in community projects such as gardening, and help them acquire new skills to be able to re-join the community after they had come out of hospital. On paper this seemed daunting, but it was only when I went to go and do it that I realised that they were just people with burdens (no matter what the films and TV programmes tell you).
During my degree I especially enjoyed modules related to cognitive psychology and research methods and statistics. There was something exciting about being able to discover first-hand how another person’s brain functions, and so when it came around to choosing what I wanted to do for my final year project I was immediately overwhelmed by the options available but I did have some ideas. It was only when I met up with my supervisor, Deiniol Skillicorn, that all the pieces fell into place. I had already taken an interest in schizophrenia, and I knew that Deiniol specialised in Schizotypal traits, so after some negotiation my topic ended up being about context processing in schizotypal and depressive traits (don’t let that put you off!), and it proved to be one of the best experiences I have had. Not only was the research literature enjoyable, but conducting the research in the labs was a thoroughly gratifying experience. I was able to meet other third years properly and meet first and second years who came in to do take part in my experiment. Deiniol was a great supervisor, and Geraint Davies and other lecturers made the process personal, and much easier to deal with.
During my third year I decided that I wanted to do more research, so I decided to take on a placement for work and volunteering module working with the Digital Literacy Project part time throughout the year. This involved conducting focus groups to explore how students engage with technology when at Cardiff Met. This was particularly exciting because this was going to be included in a journal article, something I couldn’t let pass!
After I had written my dissertation, I was offered a summer position as a Research Assistant with Deiniol and Andy Watt to develop a new learning task. This was phenomenal, as this is the kind of experience that future employers/course directors would be looking for on a CV. I spent my final month at uni conducting more research, and I enjoyed being able to work in the labs for more time, as I felt my project wasn’t enough!
I have now been accepted onto an MSc in Research Methods in Southampton, something I would have only dreamed about achieving.
The support from the department has been outstanding, and the staff clearly have a passion for their subjects. They have tutored, taught and supported me through a character defining period and I wouldn’t have come this far without them. The degree has had some lows as well as highs, but that is to be expected during such a time in a person’s life.
My advice to students that are coming onto the course — or even who are already on the course –would be that “you get what you give”. Grades don’t necessarily reflect ability, but rather how much effort you put into understanding the content and the processes involved in writing, such as critical evaluation. The myth of “I’m naturally not good enough” seems to be common amongst students, and you need to be able to challenge that throughout your degree. Don’t be put off by joining extra-curricular activities, as this will only serve to increase your motivation and better your uni experience. There is enough time in the day to work, relax and party. The challenge is being able to balance all three! I would also recommend taking on the Work and Volunteering modules, as this would enhance your CV and provide you with excellent life experiences, something that I am very grateful for. Opportunities will come, but it is your responsibility to go out and find them. I am sad about leaving Cardiff Met, but I am now anticipating a new journey laid out for me in the coming year.
Jed’s supervisor, Deiniol Skillicorn has this to say:
Jed has worked hard during his three years, and clearly made the most of the opportunities in front of him. I was lucky to supervise Jed with his level 6 project that examined contextual processing abnormalities in schizotypy and depression. It was a challenging project but Jed had a willingness and commitment to tackle these challenges. This enhanced his learning experience by further developing independent thinking and problem solving skills. These skills were put to the test when Jed joined us for 4 weeks as a research assistant working on a project to develop a learning paradigm for use with people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. With the demands of level 6 study out of the way, Jed flourished in this new role. I took great delights in seeing one of our undergraduates develop and grow over the three years of his degree and then apply these skills as an independent researcher on this short project. I wish Jed all the best in his future and hope that our academic paths cross again.
If you would like to find out more about our Psychology BSc (Hons) Programme please have a look at: www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/psychology
Last December Dr Jenny Mercer applied to the International Office for Short Term Mobility Funding, and was successful in receiving money to take 12 students (four from each year of the programme) to visit our partner, City Unity College (CUC), in Athens. CUC have been delivering our degree for two years now and so we saw the exchange as an opportunity to build stronger links with our European partner.
We devised a set of activities for our students, and saw a range of benefits for staff and students in starting a student exchange, and in order that the cultural swap was not simply an opportunity to meet students in another country, we asked our students to complete some tasks during the week. Our final year students presented their final year research projects, and discussed the process ofcompleting a large dissertation with an audience of staff and students from CUC. Our first and second year students were required to give talks about their experience of being in Athens, and then to use these as the basis for blog posts when they got home. First years focussed on aspects of internationalisation, and the second years looked at culture.
Summaries of their blogs are below!
Studying Abroad in Athens, Greece.
Greece! Well what can I say… It was definitely an interesting experience. I learnt about their culture, however, I learnt a lot more about me as a person. This trip has allowed me to experience how life would be like travelling without my family and also how to adapt to a setting that is very unfamiliar, and out of my comfort zone. My aim in this blog is to tell you one of the main reasons why this trip was so captivating… THE PEOPLE.
During my time in Athens, I met some amazing people – both within the group and in Athens. Even though, the group was made up of students from all year groups, we all seemed to blend well as a team -we pretty much did most things together, and as for the students in Athens, well they were very welcoming, were full of personalities and were not afraid to ask a lot of questions, AND THERE WERE A LOT!
When I arrived, I learnt that the psychology course was new to City Unity College. However, I was very surprised how much knowledge the students in class had. They answered questions in full detail and were not shy to teach other students what the focal topic was about.
Finally, THE TEACHERS! As I am not good with names – it was their characters that I remembered the most. They were oh so lovely, funny and were amazing at telling stories (even when it has nothing to do with the subject). Yet, it was their passion for psychology that was refreshing.
Thanks for having us City Unity College and hopefully this is not the end, but the beginning of something great!
To quote one of the CUC students: “There’s always a good lesson in meeting new people, it’s enlarging your circle of friends. And though there are times you don’t match with their likes, there are some whom you just blend well.”
It is safe to say that there are major differences in the nightlife between Athens and Cardiff. Athens is a very busy city and there always seems to be traffic (even at 3 in the morning). Whether night or day, there always seems to be people in the streets, shops always open, buses always running and the hustle and bustle never seems to die down.
The bars and pubs in Athens are a lot different compared to home, too. Even though the streets are always full, every bar or pub we visited seemed a lot more laid back and relaxed.
Internationalisation is very important and going out and experiencing the nightlife in a different country and experiencing their culture is beneficial, not just for socialising but for understanding how different people do things.
After meeting new friends at the City College, we decided to socialise with them outside of the learning environment, at a local bar. This is when it really hit home that there are so many differences in the bar environments in our two countries. Even queuing for drinks is different. This can be linked to internationalisation as being introduced to Greece’s customs when it comes to socialising is beneficial to us as it would be less daunting if we ever return to Greece. These customs can be generalised to a lot of other countries in Europe, so will be very beneficial to us.
During our visit we didn’t just have a holiday, we had some tasks to complete whilst in Athens. We attended lectures just like any other student from the college. We attended lessons from the Greek lecturers which involved both level 4 and level 5 lessons on ‘Brain & Cognition’ and Forensic psychology respectively. Our Brain & Cognition lecture revolved around a lesson on brain damage and memory just how we would be taught here in Cardiff Met. This lecture lent a surprise to us with how knowledgeable the Greek students were, as there was an emphasis on questioning the students about previous lectures. The Forensic Psychology lecture had us all interacting heavily, with us trying to understand the science behind forensic psychology and how we could use it practically to assist police forces in their criminal profiling.
The final year students who came to Athens were just finishing their dissertations and had the job of presenting their research and findings to the level 5 students from Greece and ourselves. From these presentations we learnt about the effect of driving whilst trying to talk on a phone or listening to half a conversation (don’t try this at home!) , the opinions on eating disorders from those who take health science courses and those who don’t and finally we were shown how our happiness changes depending on our consumerist tendencies.
We were also treated to guest sessions from some of our own lecturers; Dan Heggs and Jenny Mercer. These sessions introduced us to things we need to prepare for when thinking about our final year dissertation research, and taught us about the effect of ‘Green care’ on our well-being.
Places and food
During our stay in Athens we experienced some fantastic cuisine one of the main dishes we experienced was the Greek Gyro which in fact is a type of kebab with a round pitta and usually meat and salad inside, this was mostly our typical dish of the day which was quick and simple. We experienced many restaurants which offered an array of food which ranged from great Greek salads to home cooked lamb in the oven to grilled BBQ chicken and lamb cooked over coal to Halal, our food choice was endless.
Being a tourist too!
During our stay in Athens, we had the opportunity to visit many places. Our hotel was located in a great central spot and so we were able to walk to a lot of places. First, we wanted to see the Acropolis, which is known to be the very symbol of the capital. Next to the acropolis, there is a Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, which is absolutely enormous. It’s amazing to think that these structures were constructed by men without modern day machines. One thing I had wanted to do was to sit on the steps and look down on the stage, and then walk on earth that was also part of the theatre, which we couldn’t do for security reasons.
Visiting the Acropolis was the highlight of our journey to Athens. The views were absolutely amazing and it was a masterpiece of white marble. The journey to the Acropolis didn’t take long, and it is located next to the flea market and Monastiraki, which is full of character and life. Walking for a whole day through the beautiful square with old alley ways and streets that stretch all the way to Plaka, was worth the effort. We all bought souvenirs and, even though we spent a whole day browsing in the flea market, it still seem to be not enough as it was so much to explore and to see. The atmosphere was really exciting and people were really friendly. Especially at night, it comes to live even more. There are shops and eateries all around. We got good souvlaki at really good price!
We also visited the metropolis cathedral, which has some beautiful paintings and the interior was richly decorated and was very detailed. We briefly visited the Orthodox Church, however, it was very spacious from inside and also quite impressive with its details. Another church which we visited was the Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos which was next to the cathedral. It’s very tiny and there isn’t a lot to see inside, however its very unique as it is not made of out of bricks and stones (as most of the churches are) but out of slabs of marble.
All in all, it was a great week in Athens meeting students at the college and sampling the culture of the city.
Down the Cultural Rabbit Hole … or, Our Experience of Being Students in Athens for a Week
At the February UG conference, we all received an invitation regarding a trip to Athens to experience being a student there as well as share our experience as students in the UK. We were eager to apply. When we finally found out that we are going to be in Athens for a week we couldn’t believe it but started to get ready for our trip.
When we first met, as second years we only knew each other vaguely, and did not know anyone else on the trip. That all changed when we got there.
On our first day we all had a meal together and then went on to visit the Parthenon:
We were impressed by the fact that as students we had a free entry, except two of us that forgot our student cards (Oops!).
We have learnt that there are a few strict laws regarding claiming student tickets, for example on the tube we had to show our student badges when we arrived at our destination.
Athens is an amazing place, and besides visiting the Parthenon, we also walked (A LOT) around the city, trying the great food (everyone loved the gyros) as well as refreshing drinks (non-alcoholic of course! – cappuccino freddo was the first choice!).
We were excited to visit and experience the culture, and to meet student colleagues in Athens. By participating in a few of their lectures we learnt that they have smaller teaching rooms and interacting with the lecturers as well as other students is much easier. Here you can see Evan interacting with the others after our lecture:
During our cultural exchange, our third year students presented their projects. It was very inspiring both for our first and second year students as they also got some advice with regards to project deadlines and how to manage the entire project.
We also learnt that the student experience is different. In the UK we have the “fresher’s week” which is always a must for first years, while in Athens students confirmed that is not the case for them. The size of the lectures was also smaller compared to our huge lecture halls that can fit hundreds of students. In the UK we can opt for a gap year or move to a different town to study. In Athens, the students said that education is continuous and after they finish pre-university education, they just go on to higher education. They also mentioned that those with higher grades get accepted where they want and that the first form of higher education, such as studying at University is free for those that get accepted with higher grades.
Another thing that was different, was the fact that smoking in Athens was seen quite normal. People would even smoke inside restaurants or pubs, regardless of the laws. Staff said that they do so in order to keep their clients. Athens itself looks quite busy and a lot of people travel with motorbikes. It is quite difficult to cross the streets because you’re unsure when to go or stop as not many people follow the red and green pedestrian signs. We also noticed a lot of graffiti everywhere we walked.
Because two of us had birthdays exactly in that week, students from our Psychology course in Athens decided to take us out for the night and show us a great place in Athens. At midnight, they even sang to our UK students and wished them “Happy Birthday”.
We also had a great time writing the blogs and thinking about our cultural experience!
Nevertheless, if such little things are so different between the Western – UK culture and Eastern – Greek culture from what we observed on our little trip, we can see the relevance and importance of the cross-cultural research, as some findings could apply to a certain culture, however it can be quite different and difficult to apply it to a different culture, regardless of the placement on the map.
Finally, we have met so many people and received so much as well. It was a great week!
Every day when we see news about the financial situation in Greece we think about our partners and the students at CUC. While things can be presented in such dire terms, we are aware of how welcomed we felt and how enthusiastically they embraced opportunities to develop with Cardiff Metropolitan University.
We’d like to thank Evan Hadyikoumi and Alex Dumitru for getting the blogs together for us, and also to thank all of our students for making us proud in Athens, and especially we’d like to thank staff and students at CUC for making us feel so welcome.
We look forward to more exchanges and to working with CUC in the future.
It’s a strange time of year. Things feel like they ought to slow down for the summer, but it doesn’t work quite like that. As students finish their exams and coursework the process of marking then awarding grades takes place, with the important aspect of letting students know how they’ve done. This is obviously especially a concern for final year students as they come to the end of their degrees, and want to see how they’ve done. As staff, while we are marking and entering grades, there is delight in seeing how well students have done and recognising how much they have learned with us.
We asked Daniel Carr to reflect on completing his degree and his final year project, which won this year’s prize for best project:
Last week, after months of anticipation, I was informed that I would be awarded a First Class Honours Degree in Psychology! Among the emotions I felt (relief, pride, joy), I was also overwhelmed with gratitude – gratitude for having had the opportunity to undertake study at Cardiff Met.
My experience of studying Psychology at this university has always been a positive one. The teaching staff are knowledgeable and passionate, easy to follow during lectures and available to answer questions in person or via email. I found all the staff to be very personable, and I have only positive remarks to make about each lecturer individually. In particular, I could not have wished for a more suited supervisor to help me with my final year project, Dr. Jenny Mercer. Jenny’s knowledge, guidance, and friendliness encouraged my progression throughout, and I shall be eternally thankful to her for this.
To become a practicing Psychologist has been my goal since I first pursued started in the university. Though my desired area of practice has changed (mainly due to learning about so many different topics within psychology) my passion for the discipline has only grown, and I am thrilled to be continuing my studies this year as I pursue a Masters in Health Psychology. My decision to stay at Cardiff Met was an easy one. After my experiences here as an undergraduate, I would not even consider study at another institution, and have full confidence that my development and transition into a practicing Health Psychologist will be guided by the lecturers I have grown so fond of. I would without a doubt recommend Cardiff Met to anyone wishing to study Psychology, and am humbled by the opportunity to have been taught by such admirable and accomplished individuals.
After Dan mentioned the support from his supervisor, Jenny, we had to ask her about how Dan had done:
Dan’s project was an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study entitled ‘The Lived Experience of a Fashion Model’. I have to say that Dan was a delight to supervise because he came to me with a clear idea of what he wanted to look at – the experience of being a model. However, on a practical note he also had links in the industry – which is an important point when selecting a project – you may have grand ideas, but have you though through how you might access potential participants? The other thing (which he does not tell you in this blog) is how hard he worked. He read a lot background literature, some very challenging papers about the principles behind IPA, and was very organised (even getting ethical approval before the beginning of the final year). Also Dan was always prepared to ask me lots of questions, often coming to see me with a long list (don’t be afraid to challenge your supervisor at all times!).
Your dissertation is an opportunity to explore in more detail a topic which you select and are interested in; it allows you to demonstrate the research skills that you have acquired during your degree. It is hard work, but it can also be the most rewarding part of your studies. So as you enter the summer vacation start to plan and think of potential ideas….you never know, it could be you writing this blog next year!