The Misconceptions of a Geography Student – it’s more than you think!

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“I’ve got my full set of colouring pencils ready!”

This is the first thing a friend of mine on another course said to me after selecting an optional geography module.

It was said in a joking manner, but it reminded me of just how wrong the stereotypes of geography at university are. It’s something I want to clear up on behalf of all the geography students!

There are three stereotypes I often hear:

1. “Do you have fun playing with rocks?”

2. “Let me test you on world capital cities!”

3. “I bet you’re really good at colouring in!”

But geography is just not just a mix of the three.  In all honesty, I cannot name many world capital cities and would suck in the ‘geography’ section of a pub quiz, and I’ve only made a few maps since the start of my course! There are a couple of modules that focus on the study of geology, but that is only two out of many choices! (I didn’t actually choose them either).

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Having now studied a module titled Applying Geography, I’ve been considering why such stereotypes of the geography discipline exist.

The subject is said to have one of the most drastic differences between a level and higher level study, and over the years its scope has spread to include…well, almost everything.

We no longer live in the era of cartography (map making!) and discovery, so where are we now?

Geography studies different systems and processes within the world, and the responses to those systems of both human and physical beings.

With both human and physical geographies to consider, we could now say that the subject involves lots of other disciplines, from sociology, health studies and economics, right the way through to ecology, meteorology and natural hazards.

We study a diverse range of topics, learning how to use a variety of research methods and skills that can be utilised in many career paths.

Some scholars also describe the research in the discipline as ‘a conversation’ between different people.

If you consider my independent study topic, then even the unexpected can be made into geography!

In conclusion:

GEOGRAPHY MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND!

The Experiences of a Students’ Union Election Candidate

1972503_10152229012926273_1867844013_nIn one of my previous blog posts, I wrote about the Student Union elections that take place every year at the University of Worcester.

I couldn’t promote it back then, but I was actually a candidate in this year’s elections!!

Unfortunately I didn’t win the position that I campaigned for (VP Education), however the experience of campaigning is something that I would recommend to every student who feels they would enjoy representing students in the Student’s Union.

As a candidate you’ll do many things that are both fun…great development….and also good for your CV!

Creating a manifesto

First off, when you submit your application form you’ll need to submit a manifesto alongside it. This is a 250 word document explaining what you plan to do if you are elected, that will be accessible to all students during the voting period. When I wrote mine I tried to find a balance between ambitious and realistic. It’s always helpful to speak to Student Union staff members to find out just what is doable in the roles.

Campaign Design

From posters and leaflets, to making a Minute to Win it video, you’ll be able to get your creative juices flowing during elections. It might also be fun and helpful to get some friends in on the act, just as I did! You also get given t-shirts and badges to wear and give out to your supporters!

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Speaking to Students

This one is a biggie. To get people to vote for you, and get your name out there, you’ll want to talk to as many students as possible. Gauging people’s receptiveness and practising communication in multiple ways, you’ll have plenty of experience in all of this!

Hustings

One of the main methods of communication is hustings. These are two sessions during the election period where candidates make a small speech and have a Q & A session with students. It’s a bit nerve-wracking, but I also found it a great and thrilling experience – it’s a really good chance to shine in front of others.

The greatest part about the entire experience for me was developing friendships. I met many people and made wonderful new friends, but I also got the chance to see just how supportive my current friends are. It was exhilarating, and although I didn’t win I still had a really fun time.

For more information about running in the next elections, I recommend contacting the SU staff.

Thanks to the University, I’m now a paid touring actor!

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I’m very proud to say that during my time at Worcester I have done a lot as a Drama student and as an Ambassador. I co-run weekly drama workshops at The Hive, I assist in drama open events, I’ve assisted with youth theatre and the National Theatre Connections project and I’m also employed as an actor!

It sounds so weird writing that down and probably makes me seem quite pretentious but it’s true, I’m a paid touring actor! AND I haven’t even graduated!

10152095_10151942663242167_300394727_oFor me, the arts are a crucial part of being a human being and the work that I do through the University has allowed me to give something back to young people, prospective students and to the community. The outreach and communication team are, in a way, investing in imagination and I’m grateful to be a part of that.

In March 2013 I was employed as an actor for a University of Worcester commissioned Theatre in Education piece called ‘It’s Up To You!’ A team of four actors, including myself, and one stage manager were asked to devise an hour long performance/workshop aimed at 13/14 year olds choosing their GCSE options. We incorporated a high level music and six strong (often multi-rolled) characters that experience first-hand the trials and tribulations of balancing friendships, relationships and school work.

The programme also includes an interactive voting system and during the performance, it is the students who have the final say in the decisions the characters make. By using voting software (very high-tech!) the students votes appear on an interactive whiteboard and the majority votes determine how the performance goes. It sounds more complicated than it is, but it does mean we, as actors, are kept completely on our toes because votes are separately casted three times and you can never normally tell which route the students want the characters to take!

10149968_10151942682972167_1476816315_nChoosing GCSE options is probably the first time that anyone has to make an important educational decision; and quite often these decisions affect your future. I know when I chose my options, I wanted to do Psychology purely because my friends were doing it and we got to go to our local Sixth Form College every week, not because I had any interest in Psychology! In hindsight I should have chosen History at GCSE and who knows, maybe I’d be doing something drama and history based now!

Our T.I.E programme encourages students to focus on what they’re good at, what they enjoy and addresses other decisions young people make on a daily basis but also addresses the fact that these decisions aren’t the be all and end all and it’s okay to change your mind.

 

As a group, we started by looking at our own personal experiences from school, revisiting memories and having a lot of laughs along the way! In reality, we were at school not too long ago and although fashions and music tastes have changed, relationships, family matters and friendships haven’t and these were what we found fundamentally important and therefore wanted to explore.

After the performance, if we have time, we talk to the students about our own personal experiences and, in turn, they can ask us questions. This lets the students know, I hope, that we understand what they’re going through because not too long ago, it was us making these decisions.10168412_10151942663477167_271546574_n

After weeks of rehearsal, we began touring the programme every school day to secondary schools across the Midlands (and even Wales!) between the 10th of June and the 5th of July. We performed in classrooms to group of up to 30 children three times a day, five days a week. We also performed a couple of times for staff members at the university and I think it’s safe to say the performance was very well received! In fact, it was so well received that we were asked to tour again at the end of January this year and also this summer. It was a bit of whirlwind, to be quite honest, and it was very tiring but also great fun.

The whole team really have been great. The programme has been directed by one of our Drama and Performance lecturers Alison Reeves, who specializes in educational theatre (as far as I’m aware) and Julie Fisher who does tons of youth theatre work and is 1796605_809806049046659_1850771991_ncurrently studying for her MA in Drama at the university whilst working in the Outreach and Communications departments! It’s all go!

We also found late last year that the university had put us forward for a prestigious HELOA (Higher Education Liaison Officers Association) award, which we were shortlisted for! A team from the Outreach department went on to present the programme in January at the annual conference and we only went and won!

 

So I can now turn around and say that I’m an Award-Winning Actor! We’ve now been asked to tour the programme again this summer for four weeks and we’re also taking it to the Natural History Museum in London for a week in June as part of Universities week 2014 – all expenses paid!

One of the best things about this programme for me has been the friendships formed between the group (as cheesy as it sounds). When you’re working every single day with a small group of people, it’s fair to say you become pretty close.

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Driving for miles around the country, laughing (sometimes bickering) and performing every day, doing something we all feel very passionate about is the most amazing feeling and I cannot thank the university enough for this experience. Bring on the summer!

My journey to become a teacher – Gap year or no gap year?

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A topic that has cropped up a few times in conversation recently, is how much everybody wants to travel the world.

When I was younger, I never really thought I’d be the travelling type.
I never really thought that I’d feel independent enough to want to book myself a round-the-world plane ticket.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my course and being at University (as you’ve all heard a million times,) but I do wonder when my time will come to explore all of the places that are on my bucket list.

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Being a teacher is, and has been for years, my biggest ambition. I got accepted into  University of Worcester straight out of sixth form and it seemed like too much of a great opportunity to defer. I guess secretly that I was a little worried that if I took a year out, I might somehow forget how to study and miss my real chance of becoming a teacher.

I’ve loved University so far and wouldn’t ever want to change the experiences that I’ve had.
But.. do I regret my decision to not take a gap year?

I do of course, envy those of my friends that had the time, the money and the bravery to take a year out after school and see the sights. I also seriously envy my best friend from back home who has just bagged herself a year studying in Hawaii. (I know right!!)

gap 1But, one of the brilliant things about having a career in teaching (as many people like to point out,) is that we do get a lovely summer break. Of course it is likely to be filled with medium term plans, marking and stacks of paper work, but it does give me hope that there are still many summers coming up that I can spend travelling.

I wanted to travel a few years ago, but becoming a qualified teacher was my first priority. So University it was.

Little did I know at the time though, that I would in fact get to experience a bit of the travelling life, when the University offered me a scholarship to teach for a month in Madagascar, at the end of my first year. I got the best of both worlds in that sense and explored an incredible country. More can be found about my trip on my Extra Opportunities blog.

If travelling feels like the right path for you, then do it. Studying or working can always come later.
And the same goes for booking that plane ticket. Get your studying out of the way first and travel later, if that’s what you want to do. You never know, you might get lucky like me and have chances to do both at the same time!

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I guess this blog is aimed at helping those who may be wondering whether a gap year is for them or not, or for those who are in the same position as me.

My advice, if you choose to take it, is to do what feels right for you at the time.

One of the things that has become so apparent over the last few years, is how pressured we all are to grow up fast and make huge life decisions before we are ready. Decisions so big and scary that I feel like I’ve missed out on so many things already, when I’m only 20!

Thankfully though, I have realised recently that you do not have to pick one or the other.. there is time for both.

Because of this, I will continue to browse through travelling websites and brochures for many years to come, and eventually I will jump on that plane. But right now, I know that I made the right decision for me at the time.
My dream job comes first, and University iof Worcester can provide me with that.

Play Your Part in Moving the University of Worcester Up in the World

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For most students applying to Universities, or even those just laying down some groundwork to apply in years to come, University League Tables play a key part in their research to decide where it is they want to go.

Now, this sort of research can go one of two ways. It can either reinforce previous opinions of institutions people may be interested in or keen on, or it can turn them away from Universities they previously were fond of.

It all seems very official at the time of looking, but one thing most University students are aware of, especially after they have been at a certain institute for a year or so of their degree, is that these League Tables are by no means the be all and end all when it comes to decision making for prospective students.

Take, for example, studying sport at our beloved University of Worcester (unexpected turn of events, I know).

The table can only show a certain amount of things, and these are things that are usually easy to measure and are deemed suitable to form an accurate opinion on the University course as a whole.

This means there are some things which just can’t make it in to the table. The more specific stuff, like the level of placement opportunities offered or the wider quality of life and activities in the city itself, get summed up in broadly titled categories like ‘Career Prospects’, which means some of the information is lost (to a certain degree) along the way.

Now, one thing that greatly affects this League Table every year, forming the very basis of the entire table, is the National Student Survey. This is a survey that all third year students have the opportunity to take towards the end of their time at University.

From  the perspective of an Institute Rep, here, this is an absolute dream opportunity for third year students. You not only have the chance to reflect upon your entire experience at the University, but have the opportunity to do your bit in making your degree count for even more.

The League Tables take into account not only the level of feedback given at the University, and the ratings put forward for each question, but even have a section for the percentage of students who filled the survey out.

Now, from a student’s perspective, this is fantastic. It is not only future students who are aware of these league tables, and where the University stands, but future employers as well.

So, when I am offered the chance next year to make my degree count for even more, and display the University in the best light I possibly can, I am certainly going to take it.

So…. now I have hopefully  used this blog to dance my way into all your hearts (you’ll see why that’s clever in a moment!) why don’t you do the same, current third years? :-)

Here are a couple of videos showing some of the fantastic work you have done this year that will hopefully trigger some more happy memories from across your three-year span at the University.

Enjoy watching, and remember to follow the link below once you’re done to give your opinion on your time at the University! It won’t take long, and I promise it’s worth it!

http://www.thestudentsurvey.com/

Drama students: Doing a written dissertation is optional.

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When I say this to people, they automatically reply with ‘I HATE you!’

I tell them that next year, I’ve got the choice of doing the standard individual research project or a final performance.

If I do choose the final performance, I will work in self-selected groups or on my own. I prefer the latter!

This project gives me so much freedom as I can choose whether it’s devised, text-based, applied or a whole mixture of these.

This practical project also requires a great deal of effort, time and patience.

I have to be responsible for all aspects of my performance, including technical, scenographic, marketing, audience liaison and production, as well as the acting side of things.

There will be a tiny bit of written work towards the Final Performance. 2,000 words.

Okay, it might not seem so “tiny”, but I’ve talked to some people that have to do a 10,000 word project. So, I think I have it lucky…

The writing will give me the opportunity to show and reflect on my individual research and contribution to the project. I will have to add in ideas and approaches from the theorists into an appropriate area of performance.

Whether you do an independent project or the final performance, you will be allocated a supervisor.

They will offer advice in the selection of a topic or approach appropriate for Drama and help keep your ideas realistic!

But it’s up to me to prove the ability to work independently in both researching and presenting a topic of my choice. The supervisor will offer me guidance, support, advice and commentary, when appropriate.

I’m already starting to think on what I need to start doing for next year, as I don’t want to leave it to the last minute. With whatever subject(s) you’re studying, it’s the right time to start thinking of a topic.

Free cake for students!

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What? = Café Quench.

Where? = Conference Centre, University of Worcester.

When? = Every Friday from 1:15-2:15.

Food? = Cakes, biscuits and other pastries.

Drinks? = Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate – All of which are fair trade. Cold drinks include squash.

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Free tea and cakes? Why not.

University students work ever so hard and deserve a treat every now and then. Besides, money gets pretty tight from time to time…

There’s absolutely no catch whatsoever. It is run by the Christian Union, but it is open to everyone and doesn’t practice anything whilst you’re devouring your sensational snacks.

At the same time, it offers the opportunity of speaking to the University’s chaplain, Fiona. She helps serve the food and drink and is happy to talk whether you have any spiritual curiosity, want to get more involved with the union or you simply just want a  chat!

It’s simply a great place to unwind and socialise after or before a lecture with relaxing music and some prime pudding with your pals.

picture 2Some days there are lots of delicious homemade delicacies by St John’s, Bromyard Road Methodist and Worcester Baptist Church, whereas some days there are selections of store-bought goodies. At the end of the day, they’re both treats: they taste great and they’re free. There are also special requirements taken into account, so there are some gluten free items to choose from.

It’s in the conference centre, so there are a lot of tables – you can sit with a bunch of your friends if you wish. As I’ve mentioned, it’s a friendly atmosphere, so you can also sit at a table with others and meet new people.

There is also a charity box available each a week and 100% of it goes towards the Worcester food bank.  Since January, the café is proud to announce it has raised:

£75.08!

If natural disasters happen, Café Quench likes to step up and help those countries out, for example, for the Philippines Typhoon they raised just over:

£27!

The donation box is completely optional; you will not be stared down if you don’t sacrifice some silver. They’re not like that…

Café Quench has really flourished and sees new people visiting each week with a variety of beliefs and backgrounds.

So…

Come on down! It’s a nice friendly atmosphere with plenty of time to relax and pig out on some cheeky desserts.

Café Quench welcomes you with opens hands.

University of Worcester Arena hosts THE FIRST EVER British Wheelchair Basketball University Championships!!

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One thing that is always talked about on Open Days and Interview Days for sports students coming to Worcesteter is the amazing facilities we have here at the University.

The University Arena is perhaps the pinnacle of these facilities, as has been highlighted in earlier blogs! It not only provides us with an international standard sporting facility at the University itself, but has allowed for more of a focus on disability sport, becoming the home of the Great Britain Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team, and opening the door for our Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport degree pathway.

So when this fantastic Arena was first being talked about amongst all us students and members of staff, there was a real excitement about the possibilities it could bring to us as a University, and all the events we could hold in this dazzling new place! (And I mean literally dazzling…have you tried looking at it in the sunlight?!?!)

Well, I am pleased to report to you, ladies and gentlemen, that the Arena has not disappointed… and has already made history, by hosting..

University of Worcester team

University of Worcester team

THE FIRST EVER British Wheelchair Basketball University Championships!!

Now, for those of you who weren’t there, I will do my best to briefly describe to you the events that took place, as I was lucky enough to work as Sheffield Hallam’s team liaison for the majority of the day, and be the announcer for the final!

The inaugural tournament was made up of five universities, with teams from the Universities of: Northampton, Durham, Nottingham Trent, Sheffield Hallam, and… no points for guessing this one… Worcester!

The tournament itself started with a league-based round robin structure, meaning everyone played everyone before the final standings were decided. Then the two bottom placed teams, fourth and fifth, would play each other for a chance to play the first placed team in one semi-final, with the teams that finished second and third facing up in semi-final number two, with these two matches deciding the finalists.

All reaaaally straightforward, right? ;-) Or perhaps I didn’t explain it too well… it made sense on the day, I promise you!!

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Anyway, the first round of the tournament itself was played in a great spirit, with all teams battling hard for that top placed spot that would see them straight through to the first semi-final.

There was a huge range of experiences and abilities on display, from the heroic Sheffield Hallam team who had never played together before this tournament and still ended up finishing third after a disappointing first match, to the Worcester team housing a handful of internationals, including GB women Sophie Carrigill, Jordana Bartlett and Ella Beaumont.

Though this difference in experience was apparent on occasion, it only added to the spirit and feel of the whole tournament, highlighting one of the main features that makes University Wheelchair Basketball so great: the inclusive nature allowing both able-bodied and disability players to take part.1653698_758590110840383_247216968_n

The entire day was full of not only extraordinary amounts of athleticism and skill on display, but great sportsmanship, team work and determination as well, with more than one instance of competitive banter on the court being hugged out post-match.

It was a great advert not only for the University Arena, proving itself more than capable of hosting such a big event, but for British Wheelchair Basketball on the whole, displaying some of the sport’s finest athletes and qualities in a fiercely-fought tournament.

Once 4 o’clock came round and all the round-robin matches had been played, and the semi-finals contested, there were only two matches left to decide who got their hands on the first ever University Championship medals:

The third place play-off between Durham and Sheffield Hallam, and the grand final, between Worcester and Nottingham Trent.

1781907_758595517506509_1261582798_nWith both matches being played simultaneously on parallel courts, there was a phenomenal amount of talent and great viewing on display for the spectators, and after four quarters of sheer grit, the medalists were decided!

Third place went to the inexperienced but determined Sheffield Hallam, with commiserations to Durham and Northampton, who both narrowly missed out on their third place medals and were fantastic all day.

Second place went to Nottingham Trent, who had a brilliant tournament, beating all teams but Worcester, and showing an incredible amount of skill in some close matches earlier on in the day.

Which means… First place went to…. The University of Worcester!! Who had demonstrated a huge amount of team spirit and heart all day, with five different scorers in the final alone!1653926_758589190840475_1843915291_n

Once all of these places had been decided and the dust had settled, the medals ceremony took place, and some final pictures were taken not only of the award-winning teams, but all participants who had made history by taking part in the inaugural University Championships.

It marked a great end to an even better day, showcasing not only what Wheelchair Basketball and our University Arena are all about, but exactly why BUCS need to take this event on in years to come as well!…. hint hint!

*Photos courtesy of Paul Beard