A Journey to Graduation… and Beyond!

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.

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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.

 

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Shirley had this to say about looking after Owayne:

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.

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My Experience of Psychology Placements at Cardiff Met!

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.

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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.


Erasmus: Reflections on a semester in Istanbul

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.


Psychology Visit: Athens

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.

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 Charlotte Hepburn

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!

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Hannah Rowlands

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!

 

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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.”

 

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We look forward to further trips to build the relationship with Athens and to allow more students to experience psychology in Athens!

 


STAR: Student Action for Refugees

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.

 

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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!

 

 


After Graduating… One year on

Looking back over the year, I have been taken aback with what I have achieved since completing my BSc (Hons) Psychology degree and graduating from Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2015.  I was lucky enough to have secured a position with the Office for National Statistics which was dependent upon my graduating with a 2:1 degree – which I did!

Upon starting the job I was wondering ‘Would my degree be useful for this job?’ and ‘Would this degree help me progress further?’.  The answer to the both questions was yes. When I started with the ONS I had a case of the statistical jitters. As it turns out, the experience was great and the ONS was an excellent stepping stone to starting my career in the right direction.

I worked in Methodology for the ONS.  This is the department that quality control all the methods used to gain the data and fix any problems that may occur. It was a demanding role and I had to use a variety of statistical methods that I learned from the research and statistics part of the Psychology degree. I then had to build up my statistical knowledge, for example to learn more about weighting and sampling. In addition I had to learn coding for specialist statistical software to be able to analyse and assess whether the statistics were correct or not. Another area that was important from the Psychology degree was report writing. In the ONS I was required to present my results in professional reviews and reports. As a student it is sometimes difficult to understand the importance of report writing especially when the deadlines come closer, however I found that I was in good stead to clearly communicate my findings.

I was proud to be able to work on a few important projects that influenced decisions within the Government. I was also keen to develop my skills and so I got involved with different groups including the Research, Analytical and Statistician Committee and the Positive Action Group. I was President for the Psychological Society at Cardiff Met and involved with the BPS which I feel gave me the confidence to be part of these ONS committees.

During my time at the ONS I was awarded a prize for Best Departmental Poster

During my time at the ONS I was awarded a prize for Best Departmental Poster

As my time drew close to the end of my ONS contract I knew I had to start looking for another job or apply for a promotion. So I applied for a position within Ministry of Defence working for the Defence, Equipment and Support Group. I attended the assessment day having met the competitive job specification, and there were lots of psychologists there. Six weeks later I got the promotion with the MoD as Commercial Officer (Management Level) dealing with budgets of up to £14 million.

All in all, I found that all of the degree was relevant in my working environment. I use writing skills I learned from the degree as well as being open minded to different theories. The degree taught me good work management skills, which I needed on a daily basis due to the high demand of work. I also found that the Psychology degree helped me with my communication skills, which is essential in any job and helped me to get the promotion.

My advice for students is to start planning ahead. If you have the time, take the opportunity to get involved with committees and expand your work experience. Doing a degree with Cardiff Metropolitan University gave me this opportunity and the lecturers there gave me the chance to make my life a better one.


Applied Cognitive Expertise: Networking Event

On Monday 4 April 2016 the Applied Cognitive Expertise held its first networking event at Cardiff Metropolitan University. The day was an opportunity for researchers, both inside and outside the university, to disseminate and discuss a range of diverse topics in an informal and relaxed environment.

Sessions were held on Distraction and language; Decision-making and reasoning; Emotion, mood, and cognition; and Hedonic cognition. Within those sessions, for example, Dr Robert Mayr talked about how native languages sound foreign, Dr Nick Perham informed us how a deficit in processing order information may explain some features of dyslexia, Dr Niall Galbraith explored how jealousy and paranoia are (not) associated with data gathering, Dr Andy Watt explained how decision-making in psychiatry is not as optimal as it should be, Professor Phil Reed examined how schizotypy and internet use are related to each other, Dr Deiniol Skillicorn focused on a novel Stroop methodology to explain cognitive control deficits schizotypy, and Dr Martin Graff regaled us with decision-making in online dating. To round things off, Professor Bob Snowden gave us an insight into the cognitive underpinnings of psychopathic individuals replete with fascinating anecdotes of his research experience.

We are very grateful to all those who presented and attended and hope to organise a similar event next year.

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Some feedback from the event:

Professor Phil Reed from Swansea University felt that the “day achieved three main things: 1) it allowed me to make some contacts with people doing similar work to me, so that we can develop research collaborations; 2) it kept me up to date with research in the local area, and a bit beyond; and 3) it was a good research conference in itself”.

Professor Bill Macken from Cardiff University said that “the Applied Cognitive Expertise networking event organised at Cardiff Metropolitan Uni provided a broad and stimulating forum for discussion of the of ways in which the methods and concepts of cognitive psychology could be usefully applied to a variety of ‘real world’ settings and problems. As a showcase for the range of research expertise in the area, it will hopefully provide a starting point for valuable collaborations in the future”.

Dr Martin Graff from the University of South Wales commented that “the day enabled me to discuss and make contact with several colleagues from different institutions sharing research interests to my own.  I have now had the opportunity to contact delegates with the idea of conducting further research in cognate areas”.

Dr Simon Dawson from Cardiff Metropolitan University initially was “a little sceptical to attend as many aspects were not directly related to my field of expertise. However, with the high calibre of speakers, well designed presentations and regular breaks to interact made the day worthwhile. There was a clear synergy between each speaker, highlighting the sterling efforts the psychology department had put in organising this event. This has opened ideas for potential collaborative research within areas I had not considered before. Looking forward to the next event”.

Professor Bob Snowden from Cardiff University “was really pleased to get a chance to hear of these activities taking place on our doorstep.  I hope the enterprise of the Applied Cognitive Expertise Network can continue to bring together scientists and practioners from our region to form strategic collaborations and exchange ideas”.