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.
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!
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.
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”.
Research provides the foundation for understanding psychological phenomena that anyone interested in our discipline will read or hear about. It also provides skills and techniques to explore and understand social phenomena and also to ascertain whether claims about the world are valid, reliable and ultimately true.
This week witnessed we held our inaugural Poster Conference in which Level 6 students presented posters of their final year research projects to members of staff and also Level 4 and 5 students. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to show their enthusiasm and knowledge of their chosen project to an eager audience who may be participating in those studies (Level 4 and 5 students) or marking their work. Further, it gave an opportunity for Level 4 and 5 students to see what kinds of studies can be undertaken within our department which should provide plenty of food for thought when considering their research projects over the next two years.
To round off the event, our keynote speaker was Dr Katherine Shelton from Cardiff University who spoke about her research looking at the background and needs of young people who have been homeless. The timely talk was an excellent example of how psychology research and theory can be applied to better understand important social issues and how this can lead to better support for people in need.
At the end of the day, staff and students enjoyed mince pies and mulled wine to celebrate Xmas and the end of term.
Dr Dan Heggs said “This was an excellent event, which helps bring all students together. It fits really well with the careers conference we have later in the year, and reminds us about how psychology touches on so many areas of life. I enjoyed the way that the variety of student projects could be seen and was really impressed by the quality of their work and range of their interests. They all did really well”
Dr Nick Perham, with help from Shamima our administrator, deserves big thanks for arranging and organising everything.
We look forward to our second Poster Conference next year. We would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a very happy 2016!
At the end of March 2012 we published our first blog, https://psychcardiffmet.wordpress.com/2012/03/. Over the years the blog has achieved our goals of providing longer pieces of news from the department, from the programmes, and, of course, from our students. Three years later we have now reached our 50th blog, having published, on average, more than one blog per month.
In that time, we have had more than 8500 views, with visitors from over 80 countries. Unsurprisingly, most visitors to the site are from the UK, yet we have had visitors from all corners of the globe, including Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, to Australia, many African countries and then South North American countries too. The map below is a glimpse of our global readership:
In that time we have posted on social events, graduation and the undergraduate conferences we have organised. More excitingly, and often with more views, are posts from students. We have had posts on student projects, on attending conferences, on Erasmus exchanges, and on volunteering experiences across the world.
Looking back through three years of posts is a nice reminder of the things that we have been doing, and also of things that our students have done. The best thing about the blog is how it tells stories of what we are about in supporting students to get the degrees they want, and especially how students get involved in all sorts of things and do brilliantly in so many ways. Dr Lalage Sanders, Head of the Department of Applied Psychology, writes: “We are so proud of our blog, of the successes it describes, the variety of topics we cover, especially the spotlight on individual student stories and we are thrilled by worldwide extent of our readership!”
We look forward to the future and the next 50 posts, and hope that the variety and range of events continues to grow and that students continue to astound us with all that they are doing. Of course, if you’d like to let us know then please do get in touch, and we may well ask for a post from you!
One of our final year students, Stef Slack, is on an Erasmus exchange with one of our partners, in Turkey. She has written a brief blog about her experience so far for us.
Can you tell me what prompted your interest in the Erasmus programme?
Two years ago I worked as a summer camp counselor in the USA. When I returned I knew that all I wanted to do was see the world! The following year I worked in an orphanage for deaf and disabled children in India, which was a massive culture shock. But it inspired me to learn more about new and different cultures, and to have lots more exciting adventures. After returning to university I saw an Erasmus advertisement and I knew this would allow me to do all of these things and more, so of course I applied straight away!
Have you learnt any Turkish? How have you found it so far?
I’ve learnt a few words, but Turkish is so different from any language I’ve been taught before. It’s hard! They are offering elementary Turkish classes at the university though so maybe I’ll get better!
Merhaba – Hello
Teşekkürler – Thank you
Su – Water
Güle güle – Goodbye
Do you speak any other languages?
Unfortunately no. I’ve met so many people here from all over the world, some who can speak three languages! So this has inspired me! I feel so lazy.
How have you prepared for your visit?
I made sure to start my dissertation before I left. I completed my ethics forms for Isik and Cardiff Met, did my interview schedule, consent forms and started my proposal. I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall behind, as I thought it might be difficult to keep on top of everything whilst also trying to adjust to Turkish life.
How familiar are you with Turkey and Turkish life? Have you been before?
I visited Bodrum in the south of Turkey about 4 years ago. It was beautiful but very different from Istanbul! It was full of English holidaymakers, whereas Istanbul is very culturally diverse.
How are you feeling about attending lectures and writing assignments in a Turkish university?
I’ve been nervous about the style of teaching, as this is my final year and I really want to get a good grade. I’ve had a few classes so far though and all of the lecturers speak good English. I know that some of my friends have teachers who don’t speak any English (even though it is meant to be an English class) so I think I’m lucky! I’ve made lots of Turkish friends in class too. They have been so friendly and welcoming to Erasmus students!
What are you most looking forward to about the visit?
I am most looking forward to seeing more of Turkey and spending more time with the people I have met. I have met people from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Mexico, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Turkey of course! We have all become so close in just a few weeks, and are already planning trips to see each other again. I know I’ve made friends for life. We’ve travelled to some amazing places in Turkey – staying in the centre of Istanbul, spending the weekend on the Prince’s Islands, and road tripping down to Izmir. Last weekend we visited Pamukkale, which are natural thermal pools. It was beautiful!
Also, how are you finding it so far?
I am having so much fun I don’t want to go home! I would recommend Erasmus to any one. I feel so lucky that I have been given the chance to experience all of this.
Evidently, there are lots of great opportunities in the Erasmus programme to see more of the world, and have a great time while completing your studies. The Erasmus programme is a great way to study abroad. If you are interested in finding out more about opportunities within the Psychology Department come and speak to our Erasmus co-ordinator Clare Glennan