Developing the cultural capacity of Cardiff Metropolitan University students through internationalising the curriculum is a key theme in our learning and teaching strategy. As such, our Psychology Study Abroad Week went a long way toward achieving this. Dr Clare Glennan and Dr Tina Alwyn accompanied 11 Psychology students from Levels 4,5 and 6 to Athens during the Easter break. City University College (CUC) and our Cardiff Metropolitan students integrated very well and discussed the importance of culture and diversity within the discipline. CUC and Cardiff Metropolitan students developed relevant presentations and delivered these through joint symposiums. There was debate about internationalisation and what this meant for the students and how their future careers in Psychology would be influenced by these factors. The staff from both universities met and discussed how internationalisation could be facilitated through shared experiences, teaching and joint teaching. All in all this was an enriching and enjoyable experience for all involved.
I am a second year Cardiff Metropolitan Student, who was accepted to go on the Psychology Study Abroad week. This took place in City Unity College (CUC) Athens in April this year. It was an amazing experience, amongst the many highlights were the cultural historical sights and exploring the amazing city that it Athens; it helped that it was 24 degrees and bright sunshine!
At first when I was told we were going I was very excited but the thought of sitting in on lectures and contribute to a symposium was daunting and I even thought It might have been a bit boring. However I could not have been more wrong, the lecturers were fascinating, and we were particularly impressed by one who presented a lecture on forensic psychology. The symposium was also really great. It was interactive and offered such an eye opening experience in how both cultures view each other and themselves.
It was also an excellent opportunity to meet the Athenian students who are studying the same Psychology degree. They were all so welcoming and friendly and we had a real laugh with them and bonded really well. The trip gave me a real insight into how other cultures live, it was fascinating to see first-hand the everyday lives of people from another culture. I feel I have been able to apply this into my work; thinking critically about psychological research and its applicability to other cultures.
I was also really taken a back at how close all of the students that went on the trip became. It was an opportunity for Cardiff Metropolitan students from across all levels to come together and bond as a group. It was also lovely to meet the Athens student, some of whom I have stayed in contact with and will probably remain my friends for life.
If I could recommend you do one thing this year it would be to apply for the Athens trip!
This year I was able to attend the Psychology study abroad week, it was amazing experience and I thought I would share with you!
Firstly, I really enjoyed the lectures, considering psychology from a different perspective was so interesting. During our visit we were able to present at an Internationalisation Symposium. In preparation our lecturer split us into groups and each group were assigned a task. The focus for my group was looking at the impact of child poverty in Wales and illustrating from a psychological perspective, how poverty can impacts upon the individual. The symposium and the visit in general highlighted the importance of culture to me especially after the internationalisation discussion and this has helped me so much with my academic understanding of culture, especially when considering social psychology.
The Greek students and lecturers made us feel so welcome at the CUC and it was really nice talking to them about their psychological interests and ideas. This really helped spark some ideas from my dissertation for next year!
Finally, the group of Cardiff Met students we went with were amazing, we all got on so well and we have all stayed in contact, speaking almost every day! The trip was a great way to meet people in higher and lower years as I was able to give advice to the L4 students but also seek advice for module and dissertation ideas from the L6 students.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend, I really enjoyed it and found it such a valuable experience!
Dr Dan Heggs, Programme Director for Psychology, says “It’s great to see that out staff and students have once again visited CUC in Athens. As we build the links between the two programmes it is clear that we can all learn from one another, and that the opportunities given to the students from both colleges to come together enables them to think about how psychology can be applied in broader cultural contexts.” Dr Amie-Louise Prior, Moderator for the BSc Psychology Programme at CUC, says “This trip provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience of teaching and learning within a different cultural setting. Symposium and discussion sessions encourage students to discuss and share their ideas relating to the topic of Psychology and develop presentation and networking skills.”
We look forward to further trips to build the relationship with Athens and to allow more students to experience psychology in Athens!
Much earlier this year I left the office late, and in the dark outside the Student Union was a small group of students standing in the mud behind a small desk glowing with the soft light of candles. This turned out to be STAR raising awareness of the plight of refugees entering the UK. I was impressed by their support for people trying to make sense of a new culture and helping them to adapt to the country that had hopefully provided them some security.
One of our first year students, Wasim Reza, was standing behind the desk that day, and he has written this blog about the important work of STAR:
Cardiff Met STAR (Student Action for Refugees) is a new society for this academic year. The Society is affiliated with a national charity called STAR in order to help welcome Refugees and Asylum seekers to the UK. STAR national aims to better the lives of Asylum seekers and Refugees in the UK, and they do this through campaigning and educating people about refugees and asylum seekers. STAR is made up of 13,000 student volunteers from over 30 universities from across the UK.
Cardiff Met STAR has held a number of fundraiser and awareness events over the past academic year, for example, a candlelit vigil highlighting how thousands of lives have been lost by refugees and asylum seekers who take an overseas route to Europe from Turkey and Libya in an attempt to flee conflict in their home country. The vigil was held on International Humanitarian Rights Day to emphasize and remind people that all humans have the same rights and that we cannot turn our backs simply because it’s not on our doorstep. Cardiff Met STAR has worked to change the sometimes negative view people in the UK hold towards refugees and asylum seekers by showing the film “Dirty Pretty Things” in which themes of both the humanity and exploitation of refugees are explored.
Cardiff Met STAR has also campaigned to make the routes to Europe safer for refugees and asylum seekers while they are traveling to safer countries by supporting petitions like “Safe Routes Save Lives,” which hopes to ensure that there are adequate search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Cardiff Met STAR, in partnership with STAR, sent a petition to Downing Street on behalf of all the societies working with the national charity to gain the attention of the Prime Minister in order to try and make a difference in the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.
The Society helps refugees and asylum seekers improve their English Language skills by sponsoring an informal English conversation club held once a week at the Oasis Centre in Splott. The sessions are broken into two parts, both an hour each. In the first half, volunteers build rapport with the refugees and asylum seekers, getting to know them and their stories (where they have come from, what their cultures are and to explain other cultures to them). The second half focusses on a slightly more formal English class where the refugees and asylum seekers are in a classroom setting in which the they have the time and opportunity to practise their English. The English language club at the Oasis Centre has been a huge success and there have been more than 35 refugees and asylum seekers in the class. It can be a lot for volunteers at times, however it is a very friendly and supportive atmosphere and everyone encourages and helps each other.
Cardiff Met STAR is not just a society within the university as it has had a positive impact on the greater Cardiff community as well. It gives volunteers an opportunity to help refugees and asylum seekers in who may not have received this kind of support otherwise. For students who are not from Cardiff, it gives them an opportunity to get to know the city of Cardiff better and sometimes learn from the refugees and asylum seekers, some of whom have lived in Cardiff longer than the students. It is a learning experience for both parties, and volunteers go not just to teach but also to learn. Many of our volunteers have picked up a few words of other languages, such as Arabic, and it looks good on a CV as it improves skills such as communication, working with people from different cultures and backgrounds, teamwork and teaching skills.
In the new academic year, Cardiff Met STAR will continue the weekly English conversation club as well as holding events and socials in support of Refugees and Asylum seekers across the UK and beyond. We hope to see you next year!
STAR won the Cardiff Met Student Union Society Award this year for the best Contribution to the Community! This is a much-deserved award and recognition of the work put in by all the volunteers. Please do get involved!