Humanities & Social Sciences placements

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

Posts By: Liza

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.

 

 

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

 

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.