There has been a lot of focus recently on degrees and degree outcomes, especially when thinking about what graduates do once they leave university. While much of the discussion is often on graduate earnings and degree value, which is of course important, it often obscures the range of career destinations for students, and also how they value and appreciate what they have learned. Sometimes a degree can offer more than just a final income, but also offer opportunities to go in new directions, to gain skills and confidence that has longer-term benefits. Sometimes it can take time to recognise that.
Psychology degrees offer students a very broad education, supporting critical thinking in a range of core domains from social aspects of how we live to the more cognitive ideas of understanding human capability. This breadth comes together in the breadth of research methods skills that students develop. They become increasingly literate and numerate, and find opportunities to employ the skills learned in many different settings. Graduates who are capable of supporting change in organisations and communities are important, and that is of great value to us all.
We asked Lawrence to write a short piece for us last year (One year on) and have again asked him to reflect on what he’s been doing since then. What is striking is how his degree and the skills gained have taken him on a career journey that was unforeseen at the start.
An open mind is an open future
It has been a little more than two years since I graduated at Cardiff Metropolitan University and I got to admit it has been an extremely busy time. In my last blog I spoke about my first job since graduating as well as transferring government departments to the Ministry of Defence as a Commercial Officer. Since then I have been promoted within the Ministry of Defence and thanks to my skills I learned through my degree I am now a Commercial Manager for Defence Science and Technology Laboratories, the UK’s leading investor into innovative science. Now I am going to talk about how having an open mind got me here and how Cardiff Metropolitan University helped me get to where I am.
When I started at Cardiff Metropolitan University, I have to admit I went in with a rather closed and unfocused way of thinking. I wanted to be a Forensic Psychologist and wanted the best grades to achieve this. However, I was focusing far too much on the grades as well as thinking there is only one way forward for me. This started to change at Cardiff Metropolitan University, the feedback on my assignments and the advice I was given started to open my mind and allow me to see outside this circle I had set myself. I learned not to take feedback personally, but use to it empower myself to become more open minded and discover new career paths. My grades became better and I was able to focus on myself. I felt this was an extremely important learning curve of going through university, being able to take feedback and moulding it to better your skills. You will find in any job you go in feedback will always be given, not to put you down but to help you to improve by identifying any areas you need improving on.
It is important to keep an open mind. Set yourself goals but allow yourself to be flexible about them as you never know what is waiting for you round the next corner. Having an open mind also prepares you for when you leave university, as a majority of organisations look for people who are able to be innovative. Innovation is about open mindedness and flexibility in thinking, as a psychologist it is important to be able to take feedback, think outside the box and being prepared to change direction. At the end of my degree I wanted to be a neuropsychologist, I was accepted onto a Masters to help me get there. However, when I got the opportunity to join the Ministry of Defence, I changed my path and became part of something big. My life changed for the better, because I allowed myself to be open minded and flexible. I used my skills I learned from my Degree at Cardiff Met University and built on them. My job as a Commercial Manager involves negotiation, due diligence, innovative thinking, flexibility, effective communications skills, excellent writing skills and most importantly being able to keep an open mind as I am responsible for spending over a hundred million pounds in one year alone.
I thank Cardiff Metropolitan University Psychology Department for helping me get where I am today, the department has a great selection of lecturers who are always willing to help. If it wasn’t for their willing and guidance I would still be wondering what to do with my life.
Lawrence’s personal tutor, Dr Nick Perham, has added the below:
Lawrence was a mature student who joined us for the second year of the degree so he had not experienced us or the programme earlier like the majority of his fellow students. However, this did not affect or deter him. Throughout his studies he was always engaged both in and outside of lectures where he was a key driver of the Psychology Society. Lawrence always took the opportunity to ask questions about his work and the topics he was being taught so that he could be proactive in his learning and draw links between the various area of psychology. This open-mindedness, independence, and inquisitive nature helped to create the graduate student from Cardiff Metropolitan University who went on to work for the Ministry of Defence.
It’s really nice to see how Lawrence recognised the skills he had gained, and especially how he had to work at them, but also took opportunities and chances that come to him. Supporting skills development and offering opportunities to reflect is something we take seriously in Psychology at Cardiff Met, recognising the value of the contributions our graduates will go on to make in the world.
We have been a little quiet over the last few months. We’ve just been very busy over the summer and into the start of term. We are now ready to start again, show-casing the writing of students and staff. The aim of the blog is to give an insight into the things that staff and students get up to, to reflect on events we are involved in, and also to think about things that are outside of the day-to-day running of the department. We will be publishing a series of blogs this year, from students, graduates, and staff covering topics and events that relate to applied psychology at Cardiff Met. We hope you enjoy them!
A few years ago we introduced service learning modules into the second and third year of the undergraduate programme. The two Work, Volunteering and Applied Psychology modules offer students opportunities to work with placement partners, building applied psychology skills, and gaining useful work experience for the future. The impact of the WVAP (pronounced Ooohvap) modules has been profound as the work Alison Walker completed for us has helped us think carefully about the skills that students need, but also the areas that they wish to work in. That is important, but what always strikes me is how students do much more than simply complete a placement to get a grade and gain something for a CV. Often they work with partners because they want to make a real difference to the lives of people, helping and improving communities by offering their time and support. It is this aspect of caring and helping that always impresses most.
With that in mind, I am pleased to introduce a new blog post from one of our final year students, talking about the STAR Society. We have heard from Wasim before and it is brilliant that the Society keeps going from strength to strength. The fact that STAR is on course for a Gold Tier award shows the levels of support and commitment from the society members.
STAR: Supporting social cohesion
STAR is a national charity made up of over 26,000 students coming together from different universities from all across the country with one aim in common, that is welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to the country. This is achieved in four ways: campaigning, volunteering (working directly with Refugees and Asylum seekers), educating (raising awareness) and fundraising.
A lot has changed since I was last asked to write a blog on behalf of the Student Action for Refugees (STAR) society- our society has grown and has had an impact on the lives of Refugees and Asylum seekers living in Cardiff. I will cover these in this blog.
Our proudest achievement to date has been the Equal Access (EA) campaign. This is a campaign from the STAR national organisation which helps give asylum seekers the same rights to bursaries and scholarships as home students. Having personally started the campaign petition in our university during Freshers week last year, the number of signatures grew and grew. Our university now allows two places for asylum seekers to attend with full fee waivered scholarships, a met rider card and a meal a day. It was a long road to get this, but worth it for the great outcome.
After this, we organised a bake sale in order to help STAR national with other projects across the country. In October, the volunteers and committee baked cakes and we sold these with the help of the Students’ Union. We raised awareness for the society in terms of engaging with staff and students who did not know the society existed, and also let people donate to the cause. In total, we raised £164, which was the highest any STAR group in the UK had raised for the bake sale. We received an award from STAR at their yearly Annual General Meeting.
Nearer the end of the academic year, we were nominated for a awards from the Students’ Union including best new society and society of the year. In the end we won the society of the year award for all our hard work, which I think is well deserved considering the effort and dedication that the committee and volunteers have put in throughout the year.
We have worked hard over the year to raise the profile of the society within the university, and as a result of this, the society has earned the bronze society tier, followed by our current status of being a silver tier society with the hope of becoming a gold tier society next year.
Throughout all of this, we ran our drop in English Conversation Clubs which help refugees and asylum seekers with their spoken English. The sessions are two hours long and are broken into two sections. The first part of the session consists of having a general chat with the Refugees and Asylum seekers, followed by a more structured hour where we use worksheets to guide conversations in important areas we believe they should know about, for example, telling the time and the weather.
It has been a great year for us at Cardiff Met Star having achieved a lot during the academic year and we hope to continue with the success from this year into next year and many years to come. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or would like to be on the committee, please speak to the Students’ Union who will point you in the right direction.
The SU Tier Awards recognise the growth and community engagement of a society, and so to have achieved a silver award and be on track for a gold one shows the levels of commitment from all involved.
UPDATE: A further 250 pounds has been raised by the Society this week.
If you would like to get involved, please do check out the information here https://www.cardiffmetsu.co.uk/organisation/8350/
One of our recent graduates recently completed writing a blog for us. Owayne worked really hard as a student, and took the opportunities that the programme offered. It is great to see how he engaged with the programme and to know what he plans to do now.
I recently graduated with a 1st class degree in Psychology from Cardiff Metropolitan University, something that from the outset I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams. My University experience began in August 2012, when I decided almost on a whim to visit the UCAS website and see if I could access higher education through the ‘clearing’ process. I was uncertain as to whether such access was possible, because I had achieved very little in college academically. I had studied Maths (grade E) and Design Technology (grade U) three years prior, evidently and my motivation was poor. After college I focused on working with children with additional learning needs, and these experiences taught me the significant role that Psychologists play in understanding developmental conditions. Owing to this, despite it being completely new to me, I decided to apply for Psychology as a subject – without having any other real plan or direction in life. I was accepted onto the Foundation in Social Sciences, which had a pathway leading to Psychology.
So there I was, ready to begin university a few weeks later in September, with a history of poor grades, and little or no understanding of the subject I was about to pursue. Therefore, it would be fair to say that when compared to many of the other people starting on the course I was not in the best of positions. However, like everyone else, I quickly realised how interesting Psychology is. When I went to the effort of reading around the various modules I had assignments for, I found it was a tolerable and even rewarding way to spend my time. One of my favourite things about Psychology is how the information you learn can relate to and be applied to real life. This is especially true of when attempting to understand the behaviours and opinions of other people. I also found that other people tend to view Psychology as a particularly interesting subject, and this increases when the matter of conversation involves the research that is conducted.
As I progressed through my first year at University, I learned that, despite past shortcomings, anyone is able to succeed so long as they choose to take an interest. Psychology is fantastic in teaching people this idea from the very outset, that is how humans learn. I feel students should be taught this much earlier in their education. Theories on how humans remember information (great for exams), how they are motivated, and perhaps most importantly, how belief that learning is always happening helps us to develop and grow our brains further (it causes us to be more effortful) is helpful to understand how we learn. I found this to be of particular importance, because I attribute my success in university to the effort and time I put into the work I handed in. However, we came to understand that putting our best into our assignments not only improved the grades we attained, but also advanced the skills and writing techniques we needed if we were to get 70+ (a first) in the long run.
To summarise, thanks to Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University I have a goal for my future that before I could never have even dreamed of. This year I will be gaining experience as an Educational Psychologist Assistant whilst I apply to a doctorate course in Educational Psychology. Not only is this career path very well paid, but I will also be able to continue to work with people with Additional Learning Needs, and even support them on a much larger scale, which is something I always thoroughly enjoyed. By accessing the support that is available from the tutors and various other services, my career path was offered something I had not previously thought possible – a fresh start.
It is hard to believe that it has been four years since Owayne joined our Foundation leading to BSc/BA in Social Sciences course, and three since he transferred to the BSc (hons) Psychology course here at Cardiff Met – my memory is so fresh that it seems like only yesterday!
Owayne’s determination, to work to the best of his ability in his studies, was obvious from the start. A testimony to this dedication is the fact that he won the British Psychological Society prize for Best Performing Student at his Graduation. This prize was very well deserved, along with his first class BSc (Hons) Psychology degree.
His innovative approach to his work often revealed an ability to integrate his learning effectively across different psychological perspectives. Owayne’s motivation and intellectual capacity demonstrate the potential for successful research in a postgraduate study – I look forward to hearing from him when he gains his PhD in Educational Psychology!
However not only has he been outstanding in his commitment to his own studies over the last four years, but I also know that he played an integral role in encouraging and supporting his peers throughout this time.
Owayne is a credit to this university and I have no doubt that he will succeed in his future career. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have been his personal tutor during this time.
We have been offering volunteering opportunities within the BSc (Hons) Psychology programme for a number of years, and have rapidly expanded the number of organisations that we work with in the last four years. The placement opportunities offered in the second and third year provide students with work experience and helps them develop other practical skills that supplement and support the academic side of the programme. Hannah Rowlands recently published a guest blog (http://studentblogs.cardiffmet.ac.uk/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-third-year-psychology-student/ ) about her routines at Cardiff Met, which made us think it would be interesting to ask if she would write something more specific for us. Here is her blog about volunteering:
I chose to study psychology at Cardiff Met primarily because of it is applied nature. This course stood out to me as it allows its undergrads to develop a range of important employability skills. These skills are developed through the vast range of placement partners on offer!
Hence I chose to do the second year option Work, Volunteering and Placement module. Through this module I could apply for a range of placements Cardiff Met offers, such as placements in clinical settings to charity based community projects. There were so many to choose from and I was really unsure of which direction to head in but eventually I applied for Safer Wales Inclusive Service. This involved one-to-one and group sessions with a focus of encouraging positive lifestyle choices to the service users at risk of sexual exploitation. During the course of this placement I was given the opportunity to complete mentoring training. This consisted of a day’s workshop going thorough all aspects of mentoring, and afterwards we were expected to complete a booklet to evidence our understanding. These were then marked by our supervisors at Safer Wales and we were informed if we had passed the course. This helped me a lot on my placement when advising and mentoring the service users, and will aid me in the future on other projects.
The placement supervision consisted of the placement provider completing an assessment grid evaluating my personal employability skills. Additionally, I had to complete a placement incident report. The focus of this was to evaluate my response to an incident of my choice that occurred during the course of my placement. I had to justify the reasons for my behaviour and what I would do differently in future to respond to a similar situation.
Due to the rewarding nature of this placement I also applied for extra volunteering at Whitchurch Hospital through a charity called Student Volunteering Cardiff. Throughout the volunteering I worked with adults who had an acquired brain injury. This was a really interesting experience as working in a clinical setting allowed me to see the difficulties the patient’s face when having mental health issues.
As you can imagine both of these volunteering programmes helped me to develop many key skills, like working in a confidential manner in professional settings, understanding appropriate ways to communicate with both professionals and service users and my confidence and ability to lead activities with service users. These skills will prove important in my later career in psychology. With this in mind I would definitely recommended anyone to get involved in the amazing number of placement partners Cardiff Met has to offer. Not only will it help you develop important skills and be great experience for your CV, but most importantly it is really rewarding and helps you see psychology applied in the real world!
We think it is great that Hannah recognises how she is developing and building skills. The Module Leader, Alison Walker, added this:
Community based placements offer students the opportunity to apply their learning in a range of contexts and gain valuable experience for their CV, whilst at the same time learning about the issues that impact on the local community. The model used by the department means that students are supported through the application process and are provided with 1:1 support for their individualised assessments. It’s great to see how Hannah recognises how she has developed skills in professional contexts.
Given the impending American Presidential vote and the ongoing discussions around Brexit, we have felt it more important than ever to continue to maintain, develop and appreciate our relationships with international partners. Last year one of our final year student’s visited the University of Isik near Istanbul in Turkey. In November Stef wrote about her experience while in Turkey (https://psychcardiffmet.wordpress.com/2015/11/24/adventures-in-istanbul-erasmus-opportunities/), and now she has kindly written a follow up.
Can you summarise what you got up to in the term before Christmas?
I studied Psychology at a university just outside of Istanbul, Turkey. I also did some travelling around Turkey, and met lots of international people!
What was the highlight of your Erasmus visit?
The highlight of my Erasmus visit was all of the friendships I made. When I arrived all the Erasmus students were given an orientation and lots of activities were planned so that we would feel welcome and comfortable (the university was really good at this and the Turkish mentors were really friendly!). There was only a small group of us, around 20, and we did everything together for the first couple of weeks so we all quickly became very close. By the end of the trip I considered many of them my best friends, and have since gone to visit them in Spain, France, Italy, and next year I’m going to visit others in Mexico! So the people were definitely my highlight. We also went to a part of Turkey called Cappadocia, where we saw the sunrise from a hot air balloon! So that’s definitely up there with the other highlights of my trip.
What was the most challenging aspect?
One of the most challenging aspects of studying in a different country is wondering how it is going to affect your grades. I was in the final year of university so these were some of my most important grades and I had no idea what the teaching or marking would be like. All of my teachers taught in English and the teaching was quite similar to that of the UK. The main difference was that most of the assessment was exam based (midterms and finals) and a lot of these were multiple choice and short answer based, rather than essays and reports. So, at first I was nervous but I quickly learnt that the teachers were all really approachable and willing to help, and that as long as I revised like I did in the UK it didn’t really matter how I was tested as long as I knew my stuff! I ended up with pretty good grades so although it was scary at first, it was really nothing to worry about at all.
What do you feel you have gained from your experiences in Istanbul?
I think I’ve become a lot more open-minded and less ignorant! I think British people in general can be quite unknowing of other cultures, and I’ll admit that before this trip I have never jumped at the idea of learning another language or integrated with people from different countries. So, above all I’ve learnt so much about not just Turkish culture but European culture. For the first time I’ve wanted to learn other languages, Spanish and Italian, and felt quite embarrassed that everyone around me could speak 2 or more, and I was the ignorant English girl that just expected everyone to speak in English!
I’ve also learnt that Turkey is not the big, scary country that every one warned me about before I left. My parents didn’t want me to go, and my friends thought it was strange that I had picked somewhere so close to war torn Syria. I’ve travelled before so, of course, I ignored everyone because I knew that once I got there it would be fine. I was right! My campus, which is where I spent most of the week, was in a small seaside town, where nothing much happened and I felt completely safe. We spent most weekends in Istanbul, which is my favourite city in the world. There are so many things going on, and the culture is nothing like you’ve ever seen before with a mixture of Europe and Asia! The other places that I travelled to in Turkey were also some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and the Turkish people and families that I met were so welcoming and kind to their guests! The main lesson I have learnt from this trip is that the Turkish stereotype is just that – a stereotype! Of course, to be safe and streetwise is always a priority, but if I didn’t go to a city or place through fear of every little danger then I’d never go anywhere with the world as it is at the moment. Lesson learnt – Turkey is amazing!
What advice would you give to other students who are considering taking part in the Erasmus programme?
My advice would be to think of all the things that are holding you back … And then forget about them! Sign up and don’t think about it until it gets to it. When you get there you’ll be so busy making friends and doing cool things that you’d never be doing in the UK that you’ll forget about all those worries anyway!
There’s been a lot of publicity about all the atrocities happening in Turkey at the moment and I can understand how this would put a lot of people off coming. All I can say is that you can’t hide away because anything could happen anywhere. My advice would be not to let fear hold you back but to be streetwise and stay away from large crowds of people and stay with people you know.
Final bit of advice – enjoy every moment because before you know it you’ll blink and it will all be over!
This was obviously a fantastic experience for Stef. She completed one term in Turkey, finishing the equivalent of four modules there. She had also to focus on what she needed to do for her degree, and had project work to do while there. She managed to go through two sets of ethics applications, from both universities, and then used the time there to collect data for her final year dissertation. Stef did really well overall, and managed to work hard and learn a great deal about how people can come together in the world. Stef is now travelling across Europe and the world, and we look forward to hearing what she does next.
If you are interested in Erasmus exchange opportunities, please do get in touch with Clare Glennan who will talk through the process and opportunities with you.
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!