Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

The quickest January ever in the history of ever…

📥  Health

Most people tend to have post-Christmas January blues, but not us!!!

Our return to the Netherlands meant more excitement for the second half of our placement year.

With the new year under-foot we decided to stick to the same old routine and make more tracks and mems with European day trips!!!

First on our agenda was Antwerp!

Antwerp

With some beautiful weather and super convenient and cheap transport (Flixbus for the win!) a day trip to Antwerp for some Belgian culture was exactly what we needed to look forward to (minus the early wake-up call once again!).

We had a very cultured day out and again managed to fit in a lot in a small space of time! Here’s the highlights:

Centraal:

We arrived at Antwerp Central Station which is simply a stunning building, let alone train station.

It can only be described as Europe’s answer to Grand Central.

 

From here we gathered our bearings (and a strong coffee) we headed to the castle on the banks of the River Scheldt.

Grote Markt:

A classic Belgian square with gold, stepped rooved houses and the Brabo fountain as the centre piece.

 

Antwerp, quite literally means hand throwing, and surprisingly enough we actually knew the story behind this!!

This European lifestyle is making us so cultured, who’d have thought!!

So, according to mythology Brabo is said to have killed a giant who would ask for money from people to cross the bridge. Those who couldn’t or didn’t want to pay would have their hand cut off by the giant and thrown in the River. But, Brabo defeated the giant and the statue depicts him throwing a giant hand into the river.

 

There is also a Giant hand on the main street… you can see us sat on it here!

me and my right hand man ...

Cathedral of Our Lady:

You really have to visit this to appreciate the scale and beauty of the architecture!

 

Shopping:

Shopping (Meir) Street, one of the main reasons of course that I enjoyed Antwerp was because of the huge street of every shop I could possibly wish for!! And even better when there are still January sales going on!!!

Chocolate fondue:

When in Belgium one must sample local cuisine and of course we had to try authentic Belgian chocolate fondue!!!

@oliviaperfect for the caption

Another day well spent experiencing the culture of this beautiful city!! Antwerp has definitely been one of our favourite cities so far, so much beauty and the same grand architecture that Brussels has to offer just without the hustle and bustle of thousands of tourists!

 

Research

Our return to BeLife after the Christmas break has given us the very exciting opportunity of undertaking our own research study!

As we previously mentioned we are getting to grips with muscle ultrasound technology and decided it would be a great idea to put this into practice whilst getting *hopefully* useful results!

Sprint Interval Training (SIT) is the latest phenomenon to sweep the active nation. The possibility of two 20s bike sprints inducing the same improvements in fitness as a 45-minute run seems too good to be true.

Living in a society where no-one has ‘time’ for exercise and everything needs to be shorter and faster, no more than 140 characters of effort, SIT seems to provide the answer.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05w69pf - this clip features a work colleague and Niels who used to be a member of the physiology team at Bath.

Current research proposes that rapid glycogen depletion induced by ‘all out’ high intensity sprints is responsible for fitness improvements.

Glycogen is depleted during the first sprint and undertaking a second sprint in this already depleted state induces adaptation.

Although, muscle biopsy remains the gold standard procedure to determine glycogen depletion it is invasive and only a small area can be sampled. Ultrasound technology has been shown to be a potentially effective non-invasive method of assessing depletion.

We aim to explore the efficacy of ultrasound as a method of determining percentage glycogen depletion following SIT.

For us, this is massively exciting!

But, an opportunity for us to have complete responsibility for an entire project and organise absolutely everything does not come without its’ challenges!

So, keep your fingers crossed for us throughout February where we really get started with our data collection!

 

Groetjes,

Kate and Liv

 

It's a desk life!

📥  Uncategorized

Halfway through placement (and I still haven't written a blog post...whoops)! Well here we go - never too late to start.

My name is Anna and I’m working in Social Research at the Welsh Government in Cardiff.

When thinking of what to write about for my first blog a few ideas have been floating around in my brain, varying from the experience of being a country lass living in a big city, to the structure of different levels of government in Wales. I'm still not entirely sure what to focus on, so we'll see where this goes.

At first I found the experience of work rather odd. The simple act of sitting inside, at a desk I struggled with. Ever since I was small I've enjoyed being outside and moving, therefore having to sit down all day was a shock to the system. At school I was always moving between my lessons and the sports pitches, then a couple of years later at uni I was always up and about for lectures and sporting activities. So the first couple of months of my placement, sitting down inside when the sun was shining outside (think my memory may have tainted the picture a bit) were quite difficult. It’s safe to say that I found the adjustment from the student life to the desk life challenging. I decided that I never wanted another desk job and that I was going to be some sort of active/outdoorsy instructor instead.

I have titled this blog post “it’s a desk life”. This is based upon the phrase “it’s a dog’s life”. The meaning of this phrase has changed over recent years. In the past dogs’ lives were unpleasant; they slept outside and lived off scraps. In present times, dogs’ lives are very leisurely; they are pampered, groomed and come and go as they please. The transformation in the meaning of this phrase is somewhat representative of my experience of the desk life at the Welsh Government.

At first, I found it uncomfortable and unpleasant, however now I’m very happy with it – I’m even considering abandoning my prospects as an outdoors instructor to pursue a career in a desk based occupation, quite the turnaround. I feel very comfortable sat at my desk cracking on with tasks and projects.

The key to this change was not external like it was for dogs, my improved circumstances have been solely due to internal factors. I have adjusted to the new way of life and have grown used to it – I am very content with the desk life.

The original phrase originated in the 1600s when dogs’ lives were at their worst, so if I were a dog I’d say I’d be living in the late 20th century. I get to sleep inside and get fed everyday, but I haven’t made it up onto the sofa or bed. But I think that’s pretty good going.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog post, it’s just a little insight into one of the several challenges I’ve faced so far this year. I’m sure there will be many more but as a result I’ll be so much better equipped for all that life throws at me.

 

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

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📥  Health

Although our last two posts may suggest otherwise, in between all the sightseeing and eating we have actually managed to fit in some work!

We have progressed to starting tests alone and have been given free rein in testing each other and colleagues, which also meant we unfortunately didn’t manage to put off doing our own CPET any longer.

A CPET assess an individual’s heart, lung and muscle function during exercise to identify possible weaknesses within the system. Every client at BeLife undertakes a CPET before their programme, and again at halfway and the end of their programme, which allows us to monitor progress.

The test usually only lasts around 15 minutes during which the client cycles at the same speed as the resistance on the bike increases.

The wires, stickers and tubes are excessive to say the least (there are 21, see below) but serve important functions in allowing us to monitor the function of the heart and lungs during stress.

 

The data is used to calculate VO2, a measure of the ability of the body to take in and use oxygen during exercise and heart, lung and muscle function collectively. Independent measures of heart and lung function are used to determine possible limiting factors during exercise. These, alongside blood samples allows us to build a better picture of how an individual functions during exercise and create an effective treatment programme.

Kate: Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy to put someone else through a CPET but doing it myself is a whole other ball game. The worst part is there is nowhere to hide, all your data is right there on the screen. So far, I have done two CPETs, and both have been equally stressful. You might think that knowing exactly what is going to happen would help with nerves, apparently, I am an exception to that rule.

Kate, are you nervous?

-       No not too bad

Your heart rate is 135 at rest?

Okay, so maybe I was, just a little bit.

Despite my apparent fear, you can learn a lot about yourself and your health. I started the year relatively healthy, and now have a mildly obstructive lung condition ... and doesn’t everyone know!

Olivia: For anybody who knows me will know that the thought of me doing a CPET is quite laughable, so to say I actually enjoyed (?) the experience is a surprise, even to myself. I do feel like maybe because my results highlighted that I am (surprisingly) quite efficient and all of my graphs looked so beautiful (only something myself and Kate appreciate) the experience was of value. I have done two more CPETs since just to make sure that the results were accurate, and it seems to be the case. But, I’m sure there are plenty more to come …

Testing on ourselves has been an invaluable experience! Comparing our own tests with each other and our first test to the second has been helpful in improving our understanding of the data output and translating this into real life outcomes for the client.

Numbers often don’t really mean much in terms of day to day life, and for some clients the numbers don’t really mean much at all. We have to be able filter the data to select only relevant information and differs depending on whom we are reporting to. This has however, got easier with practice and we now understand 'normal' results and can suggest possible limitations for each individual.

We are also more self-sufficient and proactive in the lab. We know what needs to be done before, during and after a test and take an active role in giving feedback to both clients and colleagues.

Alongside CPET’s we have also started to get to grips with MuscleSound software. This ultrasound technology is a relatively new concept that allows us to gain an insight into muscle condition. A transducer probe creates an ultrasound image to determine glycogen stores and highlight possible muscular imbalances or nutritional deficits. Images can also be used to determine muscle and fat boundaries for body composition, alongside muscle size and catabolism. Although still in development, we have had to opportunity to see this utilised across elite sport, health and critical care environments.

 

Olivia: Understanding how to use MuscleSound has been interesting to say the least. Firstly, trying to work with the software in Dutch was a challenge in itself before getting technical. We did however realise (after nearly 2 whole days) that we could just change the tablet language settings to English…

We have a basic understanding of the histology of the muscle, however translating this into the image we see on the screen is a different story. It’s a lot of trial and error, every image looks invariably identical to the last, and working out what is what is taking us a little time. But persistence is key and I am sure we will get the hang of it soon.

 

Scarily, we have reached the halfway mark of our placement this week.

Looking back, we have both gained knowledge, confidence and self-awareness over the last four months which we hope will serve us well beyond both BeLife and Bath.

It is strange to think how much we have changed (for the better we hope) in the past 4 months. You don’t quite realise that there is a huge difference between being an adult at uni and being an adult in the workplace until you become an adult in the workplace.

 

This new year brings new challenges for the pair of us, but we’re ready as we’ll ever be.

 

Kate and Liv x

 

Just a Couple of Brits Abroad

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📥  Health, Uncategorized

Wow, what a crazy crazy 4 months it has been!!! We have a bit of a backlog of our trials and tribulations so here goes…

KORFBALL

So I will get you started with attempts to broaden my horizons whilst in the Netherlands outside of work. Since netball is not played out here, I have found the next closest thing. Korfball

Similar in many ways, but different in many more. In brief, it is played with a team of 8 players, 4 guys and 4 girls, the aim is to score more goals than the opposition. Seems simple right? Wrong

You change ends after every 2 goals, so the attackers become the defenders and visa versa, you can shoot from anywhere and 'achter' and 'voor' are important, although what they mean I am honestly not sure?

As the only English member (ever), I feel a responsibility to make an effort as everyone has with me, so I unwittingly agreed to attend the tournament that was to be held in Wageningen – a small town with little going for it other than the large specialist ‘farming’ University and a multi-storey cinema complex. A rather rash decision that I later regretted when I discovered that the overnight stay involved airbeds, sleeping bags and a gymnasium floor. An experience if nothing else!

AMSTERDAM

Whilst we are here we have decided we should be making the most of what’s around us and take in as much culture as us Brits abroad can manage.

Until now we had managed to avoid the (mainly irritatingly British) tourist capital that is Amsterdam. Our loyalty to Rotterdam had thus far kept us away from the pretty but narrow suitcase filled streets and stag dos. But we could only be kept away for so long …

Arriving in Amsterdam is a culture shock. Locals don't greet you in Dutch instead everything is in English, from the menus to the information signs and leaflets.

Once we had figured out what we wanted to do, we decided that we would make the most of the canal network and used the hop on hop off boat to get around to all of the sites (with the added bonus of not having to walk around in the rain).

1.        Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House offered an incredible insight into the life of Anne Frank and those that she had been in hiding with for just over 2 years.

Throughout the exhibit you heard of the tales Anne's father, family and friends. I found it a sobering exhibit and would highly recommend if you are in Amsterdam.

 

2.    I Amsterdam Sign

I mean, obviously we had to visit the sign purely for the insta opportunity! With more people than letters a photo-bomber is inevitable with absolutely no chance of getting the whole sign free. For us to have even three letters is nothing short of a miracle.

See below for our attempts.

 

3.     Chocolate Crepe

Shock, once again we are eating!

Or 'embracing the culture'. An eye-wateringly overpriced chocolate crepe at €10 a piece.

 

4. Ice skating

So when a festive ice rink is around OF COURSE we just had to give it a try!! I had actually forgotten that I was ok at ice skating so for the first 10 minutes I was pushing a green plastic chair around like Bambi on ice and then once I had found my feet, I was off! I even managed to not fall over. I think there’s a figure skating career for me if all else fails …

 

All in all, we enjoyed Amsterdam!! And despite the fact that these 2 cities are just a 30minute train journey from one another, they really are worlds apart!

BRUSSELS!!

Seeing as we are so experienced with Dutch culture, we decided it would be a great idea to take on some more and hop over to our neighbour Belgium for the weekend! Also to visit a friend who is currently on placement over there (s/o to Megan for putting us up for the weekend).

Okay so this trip started with a 7am coach journey i.e 6:15am wake up call on a Saturday!!!!! This went along the lines of: ‘KATE HUN ARE YOU FOR REAL? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?????’.  However, as much as I may have moaned, it was a good idea as we got into Brussels at around 10:30 had a coffee, met with Meg and then had the rest of the day to explore.

-       Arcade du Cinquantaire: situated in a small area of parkland the impressive arch is topped with a sculpture of a woman holding the national flag. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side, but had it been less cloudy we would have gone to the the viewing bridge at the top of the building which gives a fab view of Brussels!

 

-       Grande Place: the name says it all! This absolutely stunning, grand square formed from beautiful gold buildings has a Gothic appeal. Another must see if in Brussels.

 

-       Belgian Waffles: embracing culture again, all I have to say about this is that I endorse this aspect of Belgian culture greatly. They are delicious!!

-       Chocolate: it would be rude not to sample some of the finest Belgian Chocolates when in Belgium. They passed the test, officially delicious.

-       Manneken Pis: the Pissing Boy. I am not sure quite what we were expecting, but it definitely wasn’t what we got! We needed binoculars to see the statue, through the sea of iPads and iPhones. Quite a strange and SMALL exhibit, however he was dressed up for the occasion although what occasion that was we aren’t really sure…

 

-       Delirium: Beer! MORE CULTURE! Authentic Belgian beers only though.

-       Maison Antoine: chips certified by Angela Merkel, branded the best in Brussels. If they are good enough for Angela, they are good enough for us. Again, extremely delicious and not good for the waistline!

SINTERKLASS!

So, the official Sinterklass event is not until 5th December, but Sinterklass and Zwarte Piet arrive in the Netherlands in the middle of November.

An event predominantly for children (and English students) this is a national celebration like you wouldn’t believe. Whole towns show up on the riverside for the arrival, and the bid to host the official televised Sinterklass rivals that of the Olympics.

As someone who until last month had never heard of Sinterklass let alone celebrated it, the whole concept can only be described as bizarre.

In short, Sinterklass or Saint Nicholas and his helpers Zwarte (black) Piet’s deliver presents to the children in the Netherlands in the run up to Christmas. Children place their shoe under the chimney for the presents. Usually this is sweets, commonly a chocolate letter in the first letter of their name and kruidnoten which are small cinnamon cookies. The sentiment was nice, albeit questionable hygienically.

 

Sinterklass arrives on a large steam boat, with many Zwarte Piet in tow including Elvis, circus and musical renditions. They arrive onshore all in costume, with a large brassband playing traditional Dutch songs that everyone knows word for word apart from the bumbling British tourist’s.

Despite the controversy associated with the event, I could appreciate the importance of the tradition in Dutch history and its unrivalled ability to bring people together!

 

MAASTRICHT

Of course being in Europe the Christmas markets are spectacular and we just had way too many to choose from! Hearing many people’s recommendations, we opted to stay semi-local by heading south to Maastricht. A short 3 hour train ride (it would have been quicker to go to Belgium) we arrived at Magical Maastricht. A day filled by wandering the markets, sampling the glühwein and churros and a (slightly traumatic) ferris wheel ride. I can think of worse ways to ring in the Christmas break!

 

Groetjes,

Kate and Liv x

 

 

Rewind 2017

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

So here we are, on the last couple of days of 2017. I think it is fair to say that we've all had an eventful year. It is very hard to look back on this year and ignore all the unpleasant things that has happened around the world. I'm not going to name them, but I'm sure you know of a few events. However, we should also try to put in some positive juju into our reflections on 2017, whether it is a global event or a personal memory, look back on those and hopefully, may it put a smile on your face.

Today, my own rewind would be mainly focused on my placement journey. The last few months have been so eventful that I had to refer to my planner to see what I have done. So prepare for a rewind of the last few months of my 2017:

November 2017

I learned a lot about data processing this month. Played around with the quantitative data on SPSS (numbers always excite me) and got to familiarise myself with NVivo. After awhile, being fully aware that it is an unpaid placement, my supervisor as well as other members of the team asked if I was willing to do some transcribing of the audio files they collected in the first pilot. Paid, of course. Despite their warning of how terrible transcribing is, I agreed. Mainly because that extra cash would help a lot and also, for the experience of transcribing. Throughout the 20 hours of listening, replaying and turning sounds into words, I realised that though at points I wanted to 'pull my hair out' because I was unable to decipher certain inaudible dialogue, it is a rite of passage any researcher has to go through at the start of their career. At least now I really know how tiring transcribing is. Then again, it made me 'closer' to the data, as I know what the 'general theme' is (if thematic analysis is the preferred choice) and whatever that is bad with the audio serves as a 'what not to do' next round of data collection.

Another thing that I've found to like about UWE is that it is the home of the Centre of Appearance Research. With the bulk of my work surrounding Body Image (dissertation included), it is definitely a plus for me as it makes it easier for me to arrange a meetup with one of their research members and also get to attend some of their events. One that I went for this month was the Eating Disorder Health Integration Team (EDHIT) Research Conference, which I found informative and interesting. It was an insight to all the new, ongoing research that is taking place in the region regarding eating disorders where body image is often brought into the picture. Even though it wasn't a direct link to my current project, still Eating Disorders is something I hold very close to my heart and it is always helpful to know the recent developments in the research world and what steps are being taken to turn research into practice.

December 2017

Despite being on holiday for the later part of the month, the first few weeks were filled with exciting developments in our current project. So much so that I didn't even have time to record anything to pictures or words, all I have with me right now are my memories and we know how fragmented and unreliable that can be at times. Despite that, I'll try my best to give an accurate account as possible.

This month, I finally had a chance to visit our pilot school up in Derbyshire. It was a 3-hour long drive to somewhere near the Peak District but that journey was filled with so much information about REvaluation, the direction of the project and what we are meant to do at the school that by the time we arrived, my head was still trying to digest that bulk of information. To be honest, I was quite nervous about that visit to the school as we are meant to introduce REvaluation to the teachers and start the whole process. In essence, it is a form of story-telling. Our job, as the research team was to help get those stories out and turn them into values. Frankly, I wasn't quite sure if I am up for it. However, I needn't worry much as this is the first time ever that REvaluation is being used in a school system and everyone is learning as we go as well. When the story telling was happening, I found myself seated with mid-day supervisors, listening to their stories about kids during break time, basically giving them a voice. It was a very exciting and fruitful day. I'm genuinely excited to see what's to come as we are due to do another pilot in March and start our data analysis, finalise our own sections for a paper and submit an abstract for a conference. How very exciting!

After that day, I've started to find myself growing attached to this project, or as my supervisor put it: "being embedded", which rings true. I guess being part of the first stages of the project causes one to attach part of oneself onto it, like a horcrux, just without the murderous spells and half-living nonsense. This then started a thought of the possibility of doing a PhD in this project, once that started, much like many of my past ambitions, it started a spiral of questions, pathways and decision-making. I have a tendency of thinking too far ahead and losing focus on the present, so for now, as advised by Dr Fiona, I should focus on my dissertation and coming up with a research question for it. So that will be my focus for now, the PhD can only happen if I finish my BSc, so I am sorting out my priorities now.

2018 will be an exciting one and I cannot wait to see what will happen. You'll definitely hear about it here.

Extra information:

All info about REvaluation can be found here: http://www.revaluation.org.uk/

To those not familiar with the Harry Potter reference, here is a brief explanation to Horcruxes: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Horcrux

Centre for Appearance Research website: http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/hls/research/appearanceresearch.aspx (highly recommend listening to their podcast, Appearance Matters).

Thank you for reading this far! Here are some photos from my Christmas Dinner:

The joy after prepping and cooking for 8 hours!

I enjoyed feeding this lot this Christmas.

To all reading this, I wish you a happy new year and may your resolutions be realistic enough to commit to it.

Till then,

Liza x

 

 

Being Aware about Raising Awareness

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Hello! It has been awhile since my last post. Exciting things were happening all at once that I hadn't had time to properly sit down and talk about it, until now! The first term has finally ended and I couldn't believe it has already been 3 months since I first started out, not really sure what was waiting for me. The last month itself saw myself growing a deeper understanding of what the current project entails and the impact it potentially has in changing how people view physical activity and their own body. Spending a full week of just going through papers upon papers about body image and/or physical activity/exercise/sports made me reflect on my personal experiences relating to body image and physical activity.

And this is what this post is about. There will be another post detailing what I've done so far on placement but I just want to talk about what I've learned. Take this as one of those thought pieces in journals, with no data, methodology; just a personal, well-articulated (hopefully) writing on why I feel even more passionate in this field than before.

Like any good story, there is always a beginning. Growing up, I've always remembered being involved in some form of sports, my fondest memory with my father is when we went to an open field and he taught me how to kick a ball. Fast forward, I was recruited to be part of the basketball team in primary school, at the same time having tennis lessons and dancing for the school's yearly performance night. Few years later, I was flying off to other countries to compete in fencing competitions. Now, however, I'm not quite as active as I used to be, I've become sedentary, as they would say. I've lost motivation to go for training or try a new sport. Main reason is, there is just too much to think of: time, money and energy.

At the same time as this was happening, my body was being scrutinized on a regular basis. For a brief period of time, being an early bloomer, I was one of the tallest in my cohort. Then when everyone else caught up with me, I found myself moving to the front of the line and standing in the first few rows when photographs were being taken. In high school, I "suffered" from the worst case of face acne, so bad that I went to two dermatologists (that's how many we have back home) and had to take medicine that either made my lips crack like a piece of land in a drought or made me throw up everything I've consumed that day. Also, I was so ashamed of how I looked that I refused to glance at my own reflections. While still suffering from this, I gained a lot of weight (10kg) during college and the weight is still here.

Okay, this is not a sob story about my life. I do have a point to make. Stay with me.

While all of that was happening to me, one way or another, it seemed to have an affect on other people. So much so that they had to do something about it. What did they do? They opened their mouths. "OMG Liza, look at all the pimples on our face!" "Sorry, I can't concentrate on what you're saying because I want to pop our pimple." "Can I pop your zit?" and when I was training almost 5 days a week I got: "Liza, you're so small!" "Liza, your leg muscles, they're so hard and big!" "Footballers would die for your legs", and when I was 10kg heavier: "You look more meaty now huh?" "Wow, you ate a lot during college is it?" and the occasional, "Liza, you still have pimples??" I would get comments like these from everyone, friends, family, people I haven't had a proper conversation with in years. If you're reading this and suddenly realising you're guilty of saying this, not just to me but to anyone, then, that's where the problem is. It's not inherently just your problem, there is a bigger picture to be seen.

We are living in such an appearance focused society that it is so deeply ingrained in us to focus on looks. Because of this, instead of being proud of my achievements as a fencer in high school, I was too preoccupied with whether the acne will go away or how my legs looked in a dress. We've become so attentive to the minute imperfections on our bodies that we forget the amazing things we are capable of, like sports, writing, singing, dancing, expressing, feeling. You might tell me that people are starting to be more accepting of imperfections on their bodies. A good example is when Chrissy Teigen instagrammed her stretch marks, and people went: "wow, revolutionary, models ARE just humans like us", while that gave us normal women a brief sigh of relief, what I found myself after is that I start to look out for imperfections in pictures of models and other people. It was so toxic. I was looking out for scars, cellulite and fats in other people just so I can feel good about myself, instead of just loving my own body without having to compare it with other people.

That's why I'm so grateful to be working on children's body image because it allowed me to be exposed to research on this concept and why it has garnered so much interest. "Why is it so important to avoid negative body image in children?" "Why is negative body image so detrimental to overall well-being?" "How do we promote/maintain positive body image?" these questions are currently being answered by researchers across the globe and I get to be part of it. From all the reading that I've done (which, by the way, is just scratching the surface), being unsatisfied with how your body looks is associated with other psychological problems, i.e. eating disorders. It also leads to people exercising for the wrong reasons OR to not exercise at all. For the latter choice, the ideal of 'getting fit, toned and lean' might seem so far-fetched for them that they just don't want to bother at all. They then see exercise as a form of a chore, "I need to run x amounts of time so I can lose x amount of weight", instead of seeing exercise as an activity that can be enjoyed in many different forms. This is why sedentary levels are staggeringly high among adults and children, being sedentary then leads to many health complications like obesity which comes with many problems in itself. This then leads to governments and public health organisations seeing "Obesity" or "Sedentary Adults" as a problem to eradicate rather than encouraging "Enjoyable Exercise". This then adds on the prominence of seeing exercise as a chore. See how complicated this web is?

What I want to bring to the surface is that, it all starts from us. From us, normal individuals not in the research world, to stop wanting 'an ideal body', to stop wanting others to have the 'ideal body'. This morning I came across a quote by Margaret Heffernan, in her TEDTalk, she said "Openness alone can't drive change." Being open about different body ideals isn't enough, we need to start standing up to people whenever they start making appearance-related criticism to us or other people. Don't be afraid to explain to them why it is wrong, because most of the time, we aren't aware of the impact of our words on people. This is the most effective way of raising awareness: calling it out whenever it needs calling out. Don't just wait for a conference or a special 'awareness day' to do it. We need to be active agents in this process of change. Also, Maalrgaret's talk on conflict is also helpful when you want to confront people, watch it here.

I hope I made some sense, I want to say so much more but I had to cut off a lot of things, otherwise, I'll end up writing a book.

Interestingly enough, this made me want to pursue my research in body image and physical activity for a PhD. Anyone knows anyone who might want to fund my research? Email me at lzyl20@bath.ac.uk.

Okay, funding call aside, let's start having real conversations. Tell someone you admire their work, rather than comment on how they look on the outside. Trust me, it is more beneficial to both of you than you'd think.

Thanks for reading this far, here is a nice photo of the Bristol Business School in UWE:

I'll be writing before the New Year! Till then, have a merry Christmas everybody!

Liza.

 

 

Being Welcomed into Twerton

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📥  Social & Policy Sciences

This year I am spending time living and working alongside the Church of England in Twerton, Bath. I am gaining experience in social work, Christian ministry and theological studies. At 2.5 months in, there is a lot to learn...

What is Twerton like?

Twerton is found in the west of the city of Bath and has a population of almost 6,000. When I walk from home into Twerton I walk through housing estates, the colours in keeping with the beige-y creamness of the rest of Bath, and I look out to the gorgeous green fields in the distance. I hear trains crossing the railway bridge which boundaries Twerton from Lower Weston. As I get onto the highstreet (where a lot seems to happen!) there are usually people around. I often pass people who have visible disabilities. The Government Area Profile in 2011 stated that just over 20% of the population experienced a limiting long-term illness, the highest proportion in Bath and above the national average. There are a few people I pass who sit on a bench opposite the church offices, often men, and who I'm told are often waiting for a drug drop-off.

A recent report states that over a third of local children live in poverty, making Twerton the poorest ward in Bath. At a wider perspective, Twerton falls into the 10% most deprived areas of England. Looking at the Government Area Profile from 2011, the number of people who were unemployed was above the national average, and 31.73% of people (16 years and over) had no qualifications, the highest percentage in Bath and way above the national average of 17.92%. In day-to-day life these statistics play out as many families accessing free school meals, poor mental health gripping many members of the population, low-level educational attainment and crime, among other realities.

I share with others on the church staff team a sense of refreshment needed for Twerton. Many of us have used language around water, I saw an image in my mind's eye of a river flowing down through Twerton, the community being filled with life. Others have talked about colour and a rekindling and redirecting of the energy and quirkiness which Twerton holds so much of. God is providing hope and reshaping the way we can sometimes see the area through these images and words He seems to 'download' to us.

What is happening? What are my responsibilities?

I work sort of part-time across MANY different areas of church life. It has been interesting so far to get a picture of what the church is doing in the community, and to take a bit of time to dream about what new things could spring to life.

Church family -staff meetings, church meetings, life group
Church responsibilities -worship team, children's work, youth work, student work
Local community -waitressing at 'Rose Cottage' community cafe
School work -helping the chaplain at local junior school with after-school club and lunchtime mentoring, as well as future 'accompanying project' meeting weekly 1-1 with a year 6 student transitioning into year 7
Practical Theology course -over in Bristol once a week at Mullers House, completing regular assignments and helping to lead morning worship

There are two other interns here with me: Beth and Scott. Where I focus a bit more on student work, Beth focuses on youth and children's work, and Scott focuses on 'The Rec House'; an arts centre used by local creatives to record and perform. Spot us being introduced at church at the beginning of this podcast.

Where am I living?

I am living with the family of the curate of St Michael's. Joel, Lella and their two young children Heidi (4) and Austin (2) have so kindly welcomed me into their home for this time I am with the church. It is fun to learn to live with new people, particularly with another family unit. It is a very special home which sees people visiting fairly regularly. It is a lovely haven for me to rest and enjoy family life. It is so much fun playing with the kiddies, reading stories and spinning them around on the lazy-susan from the kitchen (LOL). It is a privilege to be part of this family's routine, welcomed into their home life, and I enjoy cooking, eating and sharing what I am learning and going through in life with them.

What is God teaching me/speaking to me about? If you pray, what can you pray for?

  • Working in the midst of societal pressures and struggles and human needs is TOUGH! Working with so many people who have challenges with their mental health is really tricky
  • It is so important to look after and keep ourselves healthy when we are giving so much of ourselves to others
  • Divides: how does St Michaels' bridge the divides we have in society, even in the church?!
  • The future is exciting!!! But I'm here now so I want to be fully present.
  • Keeping up with friends outside of this little world can be a challenge, life in Twerton COULD take ALL of my energy if I let it
  • How do we live out this wisdom of God which sends ripples into the powers of darkness?!

 

Settling into the role (and Bristol)

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📥  Psychology

It's November! As of today, it has been exactly two months since I've started my placement. It is expected by now that I've got some idea of what my role within the team is. Safe to say, I think I've got a good sense of what a research assistant is all about. It is partly due to the number of times I've been asked: "So what do you do exactly?" when I told them what I'm doing on placement. I think I got tired of repeating "Oh, I assist someone with their research" that I started to really think about what my job is. So, here I am, attempting to coherently explain what I actually do as a research assistant.

First of all, the project that I am part of is looking at physical activity as a culture, in a primary school context. It is applying social practice theory and seeing how physical activity as a practice (day-to-day routine, in simple terms) can help shape/change children's behaviour and ultimately, their physical and mental well-being. It is more of a sociological take on physical activity and children. Now, as a psychology undergraduate, you might think that this really doesn't apply any psychology-related theories. Well, *puts one hand on the hip and points knowingly with another*, part of the project is looking at body image and children; specifically, positive body image. So, I've been given the task of reading through previous literature related to (positive) body image, children and physical activity. As it is a relatively new construct, I'm currently reading different strands in the body image research and also looking at just physical activity and children. I feel like I'm playing connect-the-dots with the journal articles and hopefully be able to end up with a whole picture. It is definitely a challenge; excited to see where it goes!

In short, my role as a research assistant on this placement is to be in a way, a body image 'expert', i.e. knowing what the literature has found and what is missing from it. I feel like I've given a tool to plough through a fresh piece of land. So that's my job, as for now. Oh, I also get to process fresh data which is always fun. I'm sort of a fan of SPSS, or stats in general because I like numbers. My mum used to say that I should've taken a Maths degree but after struggling with (read: failing) Advanced Maths (I) in high school, I know I'm better off relying on software programmes to do the calculation and I stick to the interpretation of the results. Also, this project will get me involved with a lot of qualitative data, which means learning how to use NVivo, which was fun. Always good to learn new things.

So that's all on the work side of things. I think I'm finally finding my feet here in Bristol. I've stopped being scared of the city and have made it a point to embrace what Bristol has to offer, which is a lot! Secret bars, screenings of Blue Planet II, interesting restaurants and stunning views like this:

Clifton suspension bridge at night.

This stunning piece of architecture was taken last night when my friend, Camilla and I went to the Clifton Observatory to see the fireworks. Unfortunately, my phone camera wasn't good enough to capture the fireworks on display so might have to leave that to the imagination. We also stopped by the Cori Tap before to try their famous Exhibition cider, which only comes in half pint glasses because it is too strong (8.5% alcohol content!). It was a good drink to sip when enjoying the pyrotechnics in 4°C.

The Coronation Tap in Clifton.

Doing more exploring soon! A perk of being on placement, we get weekends off, which gives me the flexibility to see and do more things.

 

Thanks for reading!

Liza x

 

Rotterdam or Anywhere ...

📥  Health

Getting Here:

Liv: Anytime that somebody asked me if I was excited to go on placement my face most likely said I'm not sure even though I was so excited!!! Obviously I was apprehensive and nervous!! Moving to a new city,  having an actual job, meeting new people, making new friends (again), not having my dinners cooked and my washing done for me like I’ve just got used to again living at home for 3 months and of course the big question, will there be a local Zara in this new city?

Kate: I am not afraid to confess I lack culture. Cheshire is renowned for footballers and their wives, although unfortunately I can’t claim to be either. As much as I love home, I will be the first to admit it is hardly a bright lights, big city. That had always suited me and before arriving in Rotterdam I wasn’t sure city life would be for me. I am not the most streetwise, even in Manchester I could only probably only direct you to the Arndale and back on a good day. But maybe that is all the more reason to take the chance and see what the next year holds.

Kate: My parents flew out with me, mainly just so I could utilise the extra baggage allowance. Flying to Schiphol in under one hour (taxiing the runway was definitely longer than the flight itself), we then had a short train ride to Rotterdam. This turned out to be stressful viewing as the Dutch apparently don’t feel the need to put all the station stops on the information board, only the final one. So unless you know that, you aren’t going anywhere quickly.

Liv: Okay firstly, packing is stressful, but packing to live away from home for 10 months that is practically breakdown worthy. “Only the essentials”, “packing lightly” and “baggage allowance” are not words that work well with me so 6 suitcases later we’re eventually travelling the short and sweet 185 miles from my home to my new city: Rotterdam.

Views from the 8th

Let’s get this adventure started…

First Week at Work:

Liv: After a tearful goodbye on a sunny Sunday afternoon it was time to settle in, meet my flat mates and be prepared for our first day of work.

So, we are working at BeLife which is a specialist rehabilitation centre / human performance centre where we are working as Clinical Exercise Physiologists (we’re not quite sure what it means yet either). Our first day did not go quite as we had planned, BeLife had taken on one of their biggest projects to date, and no that wasn’t us! We had plenty of people to meet but just not quite the time to do it!

Day 2 went a little more smoothly and by day 3 we were proficient lab cleaners and had started with real work … kind of!

Modelling our lovely uniform

Understandably we were not let loose on the clients straight away, so we did some experimenting of our own in the lab…

Here’s the evidence, some went better than others….

When working 40 hours a week is too much...

Allergic to this working life!

A Little Bit of Culture:

Experimenting with the culture obviously means … FOOD!!!

A quick introduction to Dutch cuisine from the friendly faces at work include:

  • Stroopwafels
  • Chocolate sprinkles for breakfast - with bread and butter obviously?
  • Speculaas - basically a unbranded Lotus biscuit
  • Liquorice - affectionately known as 'drop'
  • Herring - which surprisingly enough we have chosen to avoid

Thank you to Stefany for supplying our first food parcel!

Shouldn't all food be bigger than your face?

Besides clogs, the colour orange and of course tulips, the Dutch are also renowned for their love of cycling! Something that we have fully embraced and actually become rather fond of! It took some of us more time than others… I’m sure you can figure out who!

Liv: Unfortunately I didn’t get the memo that helmets are a no go zone here, but it was ditched after a week (sorry Mum).

So all that was missing after our first few weeks was the Instagram to prove that we are officially living in the Netherlands!

CUE EXPLORING!

Travels:

Liv: So as you may have already guessed, this Essex girl and rain are not a very good combination and so a trip to the Hague in the pouring down rain was exactly what I did not have planned on my lovely day off! Especially after struggling to cope with working for 40 hours per week!

However, my personal tour guide Kate had different ideas…

Kate: Anyone who knows me knows I am stingy with my money, if I have paid for something I will get my money’s worth - even if that does mean traipsing round in the pouring rain! Ok yes it may have been nicer if it wasn’t torrential rain, but bit of water never hurt anyone right? Wrong … whoever said this clearly hadn't met Liv.

Smiling through the rain!

EUGH!!!!!

Finally though we stumbled across some culture Liv would get involved in! An inside shopping centre!!

And we even saw the girl with the pearl earring ...

 

The Netherlands is very similar to the UK in terms of its weather, it’s just that the people moan a lot less than we do!

But it does rain ALL THE TIME…

Liv: So on a rare but welcomed sunny Sunday Kate took it upon herself to take us exploring once again! This time I really couldn’t complain! We cycled to the local park where there is a lovely lake with sailing boats, watersports and lots of picture perfect families all enjoying a lovely late summer afternoon!

We cycled around the park (the excitement of finding 2 windmills was way too much for me) and stopped off for some lunch with a view, which topped off the end of a crazy month perfectly!

Could think of worse places to spend a Sunday!

Groetjes,

Kate and Liv

 

 

 

 

 

Roller-coaster Start

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📥  Psychology

Hello everyone!

Just thought I'd kick things off with an introduction about myself and what my placement is all about.

I'm Liza, a psychology undergraduate and I'm from Malaysia. I came to the UK to further my studies in 2014 and worked very hard to secure my spot in this university. The placement degree caught my attention because I thought a year working in the field would help me get a good idea of what career I'd want to have. In addition, it is a good break from all the studies.

So here I am. I'm currently a research intern/assistant at the Bristol Business School in University of West England (UWE). My placement supervisor is Dr. Fiona Spotswood and we're currently working on a project to understand how physical activity affects body image in primary-aged children. It is still in the early stages of research so there's plenty of exciting things to explore!

As I'm settling well in the new Business and Law school on the Frenchay campus (just like 10W!), I struggled a little bit with adjusting to the busy city life in Bristol. I've decided to live in the city center because I'd figured it'll be easier for me to explore this vibrant place. It caught me off guard at how overwhelmed I was with all the hustle and bustle of Bristol. Despite being 20km away from Bath, it is a very stark contrast between these two cities. For the first few weeks, I felt a little bit lost. It was hard getting used to seeing the city still very much alive after 11pm. As I grew up in a fairly small town back in Malaysia, having lived in Bath for the past two years, Bristol is my first big city that I've actually lived in. I guess the shock was natural.

Some graffiti work around Bristol.

I am beyond thankful to have made a group of friends here who are mostly from Malaysia. They've welcomed me into their squad and made me feel at home. I think I can finally say that I'm slowly getting used to the pace here in Bristol thanks to them.

New friends in Bristol with a famous Malaysian dish, Nasi Kerabu.

I'm excited to share my journey here with you and thank you for reading my blog!

Here's to more,

Liza.