University of Sussex Lockdown Live: Emily Bailey

In June I was invited to take part in the Lockdown Live conversations happening over Zoom. It was an opportunity that I was excited to accept. I’m one of the few for whom lockdown has been a time of expanding accessibility and opening doors, as discussions moved online: I have had a chronic illness since the age of nine and often face-to-face events have been inaccessible to me.

This summer others have finally understood the rapture with which I praise the connectivity and accessibility of the internet, which enabled a group of students from Sussex to meet and interview Sherri Hope Culver in the United States about disinformation, and discuss mental health with students in Kenya and Turkey. Together we formed a valuable online community, although physically we were apart.

I was privileged to add my voice to the variety of experiences considered throughout the series, and to learn how Covid-19 has affected my peers. My particular highlight was week one’s discussion of Learning in Lockdown, where we discussed the accessibility of online teaching. Like many other disabled students, I’ve spent years campaigning to have my course supplemented with online materials so that I am not placed at a disadvantage when I experience a flare-up of symptoms, or because a classroom is inaccessible to my wheelchair. The relief I felt when I saw the effective shift that Sussex University made to online learning was immense to say the least. This could well be a life-changing development for so many of the would-be students who find the traditional systems of education inaccessible.

It was incredibly rewarding to discuss this with the group and consider how the successes and failures of this time may drastically change the face of accessible teaching in the future. I would highly recommend this talk (and all of the other interviews and discussions) to anyone interested in the barriers various students face in accessing their education. I for one came away with a much more diverse understanding of the topic!

Emily Bailey is a second year English student in the School of English. 


University of Sussex Lockdown Live: Jennifer Chinenye Emelife

At the time the world was stagnant, the Sussex Writes/Youth Cafe Lockdown Series jumped in and offered us an outlet, and a reminder that all isn’t exactly hopeless. Every Friday in June, we highlighted issues around Covid19 including education, employment, misinformation and the need for young voices in politics. The experience taught me that there are several ways of getting connected; that a pandemic that tore the world apart physically is indeed capable of uniting us all. Interacting with young people like me from across the world taught me that being together transcends borders.

But again, it’s shown me that we can’t afford to be blind to the privileges of technology. As raised in our conversations, while others are getting connected virtually, many are cut off the world, unable to access the new virtual reality. Understanding the world for this group is dependent on others. In the interview with Sherri Hope Culver which I highly recommend, I learned about digital literacy and why it matters. Being digital literate means that we are accountable for not only how we process information but in how we pass it on. When we accept the responsibility of verifying, digesting and spreading healthy information, we are slowly filling the gap between the connected and the disconnected.

Talking to Ayo Sokale reminded me of the role we can play in our local communities in these times of instability. Among other things, her interview inspired me into starting a GoFundMe campaign for teachers in low income private schools in Nigeria who have, since March, been forced out of employment due to the closure of schools. Sokale asks us to look around and ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference. By starting the GoFundMe Support for Teachers Affected by the Pandemic, I’m recognising my ability as an individual capable of creating change.

I’m most delighted to have been a part of the Sussex Writes/Youth Cafe Lockdown Series. From all the sessions, I feel reenergised in my passion towards contributing my quota in improving the state of teaching and learning in Nigeria. The Lockdown Series taught me many lessons and I’m applying them for good. You too can be part of something worthy by supporting my GoFundMe campaign.

What will equality in engineering look like in 2119?

This year’s International Women in Engineering Day took on extra significance as it coincided with the centenary celebrations of the Women’s Engineering Society in the UK.

Here three University of Sussex female engineering students look ahead to the next century and outline what progress they hope to see on equality in the sector.

elizabeth olisa
Elizabeth Olisa, engineering undergraduate student at the University of Sussex

Over the next 100 years, I hope the number of females studying to become engineers increases to at least half of the total number of students.
With approximately 10 girls out of 200 on my Bachelor’s (BEng) course, and 5 out of 50 on my Master’s (MEng) course, currently we are significantly under represented.
Without fail, almost everyone I speak to is shocked I studied Engineering as a degree and after four years, I still could not tell you the exact reason why this is.
Hopefully in 100 years, it will be considered an equal degree for both men and women.

I also hope this extends into the job sector. I believe it is true that women bring a different dynamic to the engineering industry.
We look at situations from a different perspective to the majority of men. A team of engineers is never completely successful unless it is diverse, which includes a mixture of both men and women.

To reach these goals, we need a lot more representatives.
Female Chief Engineers or Project Managers would be a start towards encouraging more females in the engineering sector.
Equal opportunities such as pay, promotion and job responsibility would incentivise more women to enter the field.
Currently, it is a daunting concept, and takes a lot of determination to pursue a career in engineering. This should not be the case.

Robogals Emma Fox

Emma Fox, engineering PhD student at the University of Sussex

Attitudes towards women in engineering have undergone a dramatic change over the past 100 years which I hope will continue over the coming century.
Historically women in STEM based subjects are underrepresented yet it is clear that on an intellectual scale, females are able to compete with their male counterparts.
Notable examples of female ingenuity in engineering include the pioneering works of Edith Clarke, the first female electronic engineer, and Ada Lovelace the computer prodigy.

In order to inspire a new generation of females in engineering it is essential that young girls in education are given every opportunity possible to explore engineering as a possible career pathway, without the expectation that they should settle for a more stereotypical role.
Furthermore, it is important to educate the public as to what engineering actually involves.

Engineering is extremely diverse and covers a range of occupations from NASA scientists to working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
Changing public perceptions such as engineering being a heavy-duty, labour intensive job, which is rarely the case, will hopefully inspire parents to encourage and support their daughters to pursue the subject.
Ultimately, by taking the above steps, the engineering workplace will consist of an equal ratio of men to women in 2119.

robogals saloua

Saloua El Fantroussi, computer science undergraduate student at the University of Sussex and new president of Robogals Sussex

I hope that in 100 years a girl doing my course will walk into an exam hall and see at least 45% of girls.

While girls get better grades than boys in STEM subjects, engineering and computer science are still widely considered “male degrees”.

I believe this has really impacted a lot of women’s decisions regarding their studies.
I was the only girl in my computer science class in high school and it could’ve discouraged many girls as they wouldn’t make female friends in class and would get treated differently.
In university I was sad to see less than 10 girls between hundreds of students in my lecture halls.
When talking to peers there will be a few who assume I have never done computer science before or don’t understand computing words.
While I do get great support as well, the support can come with awkward comments about how men love “smart” girls.

I really wish for both attitudes to stop, no underestimating women or excessive appreciation for them.
I want equal treatment in the future. I want to see more female lecturers as a female teacher really pushed me towards this course.
And I want to see a lot more girls pursuing this career.
While it is true that female representation is missing in the professional sector, I think the progress needs to start in schools and universities because if there are no girls studying the subject then there won’t be any to employ.
My school had a girls-only STEM day and I wish for many schools to continue in that direction until engineers and computer scientists are at least 45% female.

Period. End of stigma? How we hope to end unnecessary isolation and suffering to women everywhere because of their monthly cycle

The Oscar win for Period. End of Sentence as best documentary short could hopefully signal 2019 as the year that one of the last great taboos was lifted.
Even in victory one male academy member, who wrote no man would vote for it because the subject was “icky”, showed there’s plenty to do to change attitudes in the US.
In rural India, the setting for Rayka Zehtabchi’s film, the stigma about the body’s natural processes can be deadly.
That is why in our research at the University of Sussex, we were determined to find a solution that means women our age and younger would no longer face exclusion from their communities, needless suffering and tragically in some circumstances risk death simply because of their natural, monthly cycle.

Menstruation is so taboo in India that if a woman gets her period, she cannot touch anything. She is considered dirty or cursed.
In our research, we read how a 14-year-old girl died when the hut she was forced to sleep in alone during a cyclone because she was menstruating was flattened by a tree.
In 2017, a seventh grader in Tamil Nadu committed suicide because her teacher yelled at her for staining her clothes.
Nearly a quarter of Indian girls drop out of school when they begin their periods while a Unicef study found four out of five of women in Tamil Nadu had little knowledge of menstrual hygiene.
There’s much to be done through education, public discourse, Government messaging, the media and the arts to bust this taboo. That will take time, the women of rural India need a solution now.
Our aim was to create a practical solution that is sustainable and educational. The physical product is a period pad, but the way it is made and used makes it a potential game changer.

Many women in rural India use pieces of cloth, reusing them when damp which causes illness and infection.
Our product would give a barrier against infection but can be disposed of sustainably.
The main material is varying densities of cotton to absorb blood while the bottom catchment layer, sticking material and container bag would be made using polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic made from tapioca starch which degrades into compost.
Tapioca starch is a major export of Tamil Nadu, so our product could be locally made and the compost could contribute to growing the next tapioca harvest creating a cyclical structure. These are cost-effective materials, 1kg of tapioca starch costs 46 rupees (£0.5).
Container bags could be printed with educational diagrams and disposal bins would be placed in accessible locations, such as schools, to bring the topic into the open.
We decided to use pads instead of tampons which are not used by many Indian women because of religious beliefs. Vaginismus (the tightening of the vagina as soon as something is inserted often caused by sexual trauma) is also sadly an issue for women in India and elsewhere globally.

While we hope our sustainable solution to the period taboo could save lives and reduce suffering, we wish there wasn’t this problem in the first place.
Unfortunately it remains a global issue because there is not adequate and informed discussed on the subject.
Throughout history, women have faced limited access to education and this restriction leads societies to come up with their own explanations and solutions to periods which don’t necessarily put a young girls’ best interests to the fore.
Long-standing cultural beliefs create confusion and negative associations while religious taboos link menstruation to sexual reproduction, creating associations of shame and embarrassment.
The anatomy and chemistry of a woman should be properly studied and normalised through education and campaigns.

Even in the UK, the stigma remains because there is no rigid education teaching young people about periods and little training for teachers.
Menstrual education is in the curriculum but 15% of students told the DfE they didn’t learn anything about it in school.
Hopefully making lessons about periods compulsory in England’s schools by 2020 will mean all young women will finally get access to the information they need. Even then, lessons will need to be effective.
A recent study found more than three-quarters of young people thought their menstrual lessons awkward and embarrassing, 60% considered them old-fashioned and unrelatable.
Period poverty is still an issue despite the success of campaigners to heighten awareness.
More employers could follow the example of the University of Sussex and regularly hand out free menstrual products but real progress would be abolishing the Tampon Tax – the 5% VAT imposed on sanitary products.
The success of Period. End of Sentence is a brilliant start but the global battle still has a long way to go.
No child is born thinking menstruation is taboo.
It is only from the influence of those around them that young women learn to feel ashamed of periods.
If we want change, we must teach young children to understand the beautiful, life-giving reasons their body is behaving the way it does.

Cara Griffiths and Tala Haddadin are first-year students at the University of Sussex’s School of Engineering and Informatics.

The Christmas I never had!

Being away from home is hard. Adulting is hard. Setting the biological clock with an entirely different weather and time is terrible. Coming from India; the country of festivals, I am accustomed to festive vibe throughout the year. India, well known for its diversity, does celebrate Christmas. We used to have a choir prepared for singing Christmas carols in school. I also remember one of my classmates being dressed up as Santa Claus for morning assembly. For me, that was the extent of celebrating Christmas.

When I joined the university this year and went through our timetable, I noticed we have a winter-break of 20 days. My immediate reaction was to plan a trip away from university. Disappointingly, despite of having friends from different countries and cultures, I could not plan a trip. However, as soon as December started, I was taken back by the sudden increase in enthusiasm and energy levels of people around me. It was as if tinker bell had sprinkled some pixie dust on everyone.

At coffee shops they started serving coffee, tea in cute red Santa cups. Brighton’s Christmas light switch on amplified the vibe of Christmas. It became hard to worry about the weather before stepping out of house and completing assignments became a secondary task – because attending Christmas dinners and events was more important! Despite of all the surprises the weather had in store, Christmas trees were erected on campus, special stalls for sold Christmas gifts and souvenirs and paths became illuminated with fairy lights. Every time I passed that path, I literally felt that “Lights are guiding me home”!

It is all so beautiful and magical, that a person will really have to try hard to feel sad about anything. There are always so many things happening on and around campus that one ends up with a huge network of people. Co-ordinating the attire or in some cases accompanying each other for a bus ride to a new place builds up the sense of familiarity and comfort.

The feeling, that I have someone who is struggling just as hard as me to fit in and make it through this phase, was strangely amazing.  It made me reach out to the other person, care about people who are with me in the same boat. This resulted in forming a family I never had with people I met just 3 months ago. A found family of my own!

I might be far away from home, but I guess, being here at the university, during this magical time has given me the best Christmas gift of all time: a sense of belonging in a place I don’t know well. A family of multicultural people from different parts of the world. And a home away from home to celebrate the Christmas I never had.

Kalpshree Gogte is studying for an MSc in Genetic Manipulation and Molecular Cell Biology  at Sussex. She is from India. 

Seven reasons to watch the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl – it’s the biggest event in the US sporting calendar where families gather round the TV to watch a night of world-class entertainment, multi-million pound commercials and intense sporting drama.

More than 1.25bn chicken wings and 14,500 tons of chips will be consumed this Super Bowl Sunday while on average 1.5m people will call in sick the next day.

But while almost 200 million fans tune in worldwide, the Super Bowl remains an uncelebrated event here in the UK despite London playing host to three NFL games each year.

University of Sussex Saxons cornerback Stefano Quaradeghini gives seven reasons why even American Football novices should check out the game this weekend.

To see an underdog make history

The Philadelphia Eagles have never won the NFL’s Lombardi trophy since the launch of the Super Bowl era in 1967.

And that makes them serious underdogs for a clash with the New England Patriots who are bidding to tie the record for the most Super Bowl victories of six.
The Eagles started the season off with a bang with sophomore sensation quarterback Carson Wentz leading the team to a league best 11-2 record before his season was ended prematurely by an anterior cruciate ligament tear.

Losing Wentz, who had already managed to break the Eagles’ regular season completion and touchdown record before his injury, has led many to write them off.

Against all the odds and public opinion, back-up quarterback Nick Foles has grown with each game he has deputised in, culminating in the 38-7 demolition of the Minnesota Vikings’ star defence to get into the Super Bowl and prevent Minnesota from making their own slice of history as the first team to play the Super Bowl at their own stadium.

Now the Eagles are desperate to prove that underdog tag is misplaced one more time against the NFL’s greatest modern-day dynasty.


To see one of sport’s great coach-player partnerships in action

The New England Patriots defy the spirit and rules of the NFL which, with its wage cap and draft, is designed to ensure no team dominates.

Under surly coach Bill Belichick and All-American hero quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots have won five of the last 17 Super Bowls and are bidding to win it three times in four years for the second time in their incredible dynasty.
After a shock season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, questions were raised whether the dynasty was coming to a close but instead it’s been business as usual as Brady systematically picked apart the league’s defences.

Earlier this same season the Patriots even offloaded promising young back-ups Jacoby Brisett and Jimmy Garoppolo, the latter of which was widely expected to be the heir to Tom Brady’s throne as the seemingly ageless star’s presumed retirement edges nearer.
That could have been seen as a foolish move as it left the Pats without any experienced back up, especially when Brady, who will become the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history on Sunday, had to nurse a hand injury through their AFC Championship game.

But most seasoned NFL watchers no better to doubt coach Belichick’s judgement after so many years of success and even fewer dare air those criticisms to a hard-faced coach who conducts media interviews with a fearsome contempt.

To cheer on a Brit

If you’re struggling to know who to root for on Sunday, then the Eagles can make a claim to your patriotic side.  London-born and Arsenal fan Jay Ajayi has made quite a name for himself since joining the league in 2015.

Having made a splash with the underperforming Miami Dolphins, where he became a real  fan favourite for his lung bursting runs, Ajayi’s personal prospects were suddenly boosted by a surprise mid-season trade to Philadelphia at a point in the season when the Eagles’ were crushing all before them.

If the Eagles win, he will become the fifth British-born player to claim Super Bowl victory following in the path of Osi Umenyiora, Marvin Allen, Scott McCready and Lawrence Tynes.


To see some fantastic athletes in action

American Football is a big team game – 45 players on each team will be in their kit and ready to play come Super Bowl time.

And that means a lot of talent and a lot of characters will all be trying to influence the direction of the match and may well catch your eye on the night. They come no bigger in talent, stature or character than the freakish Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski who never flies under the radar with his throwing of monster blocks, ridiculously athletic catches despite his 6’6” 265lbs frame or drilling the ball into the turf with his trademark ‘Gronk’ spike to celebrate a touchdown.

They also have grizzled veteran linebacker James Harrison, who has spent the majority of his career chasing down Tom Brady with his former team the Pittsburgh Steelers, before a mid-season trade to the Pats.

On the Eagles side, their number two ranked defence is spearheaded by defensive tackle and qualified big dude Fletcher Cox (who weighs in at almost 300lbs).

Cox has provided one of the images of the week of build-up by donning a Mexican wrestler mask for an one-hour long press conference but he’ll be hoping to provide a few more memorable images before the weekend is through.


To see friends reunited

With such big squads and teams battling to keep within their salary caps, it’s not unusual for NFL players to go round the block a few times.

So playing against their former teammates this weekend will be Eagles running back LeGarette Blount and defensive end Chris Long who have the chance to make history by winning the Super Bowl in consecutive years with two different teams.

Playing in the same position as LeGarette Blount, and thus charged with running the ball back through a crowd of 11 former teammates all determined to stop him in his tracks, will be Pats running back and former Eagle Dion Lewis. Pats wide receiver Danny Amendola even keeps an Eagles shirt in a frame hanging up in his house but that’s not out of love for Philadelphia – it’s a reminder that they cut him from their squad before he ever played a game for them almost a decade ago.

To see sports’ biggest spectacle

Like with any great sporting event in America, it wouldn’t be a season concluding match without a limitless budget, high production show that involves everything from fighter jets flying overhead in formation, pyrotechnics and blaring music at every opportunity.

Even the mid-game adverts are an event with their own media build-up with Hollywood stars Margot Robbie, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt and Danny DeVito all appearing in 30-second slots which have set companies back £5million.

There’s more star power with the celebrity appearances for the singing of the national anthem and the half-time show.

Previous years have seen an endless list of legends perform including such as Prince, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Paul McCartney to name a few.

Justin Timberlake is the star performer this year in an act which is set to be either spectacular or at the very least memed for your amusement.

To learn the game from those who know the game

American Football has a lot of pundits. Big desks lined with ex-players all stuffed into suits.
But punditry for American Football is different to football punditry here in England, it actually tells you what is happening on the pitch.

Every play is a carefully choreographed move by the team with the ball with an equally meticulously planned response by the defending team trying to stop that move.

It’s a huge chess game with 22 two very strong, smart and athletic pieces.
Thanks to the pundits and their magic pens, you too can pretty quickly see how that game-changing touchdown was scored or that game-saving tackle was pulled off.
And when you can spot that, you will be hooked on NFL and will be cursing having to wait until September for the next season to start.

By University of Sussex student and Sussex Saxons cornerback Stefano Quaradeghini

”I’m So Tired”

…*Music playing* …

I haven’t slept a wink; I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink…

Can you relate to the tune? That’s how The Beatles would sing the deadline pain away.

With deadline day being just around the corner – and exams dangerously close as well – it’s easy to go bananas and reach your breaking point. So, here I am sharing with you the most idyllic, calming places on campus, capable of embracing your weary soul during these dreadful times – you are welcome:

  1. ACCA café. Has your eye ever spotted that iconic, multi-million-pound refurbishment opposite Falmer Bar? The Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA), formerly known as the Gardner Arts Centre, has now been polished; its new looks and old-fashioned jukebox, combined with its minimalist vibes offer views capable of helping you lower those high cortisol levels. Do help yourself to some independent magazines and artsy brochures…
  2. Arts patio. We couldn’t have asked for a better ‘bridge’ connecting Arts B to C. Aside from benches and silence this area also accommodates fish. Judging from its colours, it’s a fantastic place to hide. I mean…REVISE! Look at these smiley souls making the most of it…
  3. The Dhaba. While it’s evident that our campus has a lot to offer, including a great selection of cafés and restaurants, not everyone knows of The Dhaba – the restaurant located just a footstep away from Jubilee, that provides its guests with delicious vegetarian food and garden facilities. ‘Loved by herbivores and carnivores alike, Dhaba is the place to go for a wide array of delicious vegetarian and vegan options.’
  4. Café Room 76. Located at the back of the infamous Falmer Bar, Room 76 offers a fabulous selection of cakes, fair-trade coffees and bubble teas, all brought to you with a cosy atmosphere sought after by many book and indie-décor lovers far away from the heavy smell of the bar. Have I mentioned their loyalty card?!
  5. Hills. Catch your breath around the greenery of campus hills. Your Sussex experience would be incomplete if you didn’t grab the chance to roll down a hill with a mate or two, or three, or four, or…okay. They see you rolln’ they hatin’.
  6. Jubilee study-cubicles. While some students are deemed to freeze in dark, isolated study rooms BMEc students have the luxury to place their butts and MacBooks over the warmth of these diamond-shaped creations, which I’ve named ‘cubicles’. We don’t get anything quite similar in Psychology…khm, khm!
  7. Meeting House. Has anyone mentioned FREE COFFEE? While the vast majority of the student body have nothing timetabled here, the award-winning Meeting House always has its doors open to the weary, dozy learners. When life gives you free milk, coffee beans and hot water, make a coffee!

The list could be endless, including places such as the small Innovation Centre café and stress-free Language Centre PC clusters. Have any of these places ever caught your eye? Has anything slipped my mind?

Regardless of where you choose to unwind, remember to breathe, sleep and eat well; and when things get dark remind yourself you can make it – in a parallel universe, you’ve already done so.

Good luck.

*Music still playing*

Maria Andreou has recently graduated having completed a BSc in Psychology. She is from Cyprus.

The perfect body myth

The rise of social media has seen some incredible developments and benefits. You can meet new people who you would never meet in your everyday movements, speak to people on the other side of the world and just generally keep up with all 900 of your Facebook friends. But wow does it have its downsides.

If you’re anything like me, you’re being bombarded everyday with pictures of people with perfect lives, bodies and diets that definitely don’t match up to your own. Fitness pages on Instagram are full of men and women with incredible bodies, rather than help and advice on how to stay fit and healthy. How does this way of posting help anyone apart from boost the egos of those in the pictures?! No thanks. Continue reading

Sussex student society engages young people in politics

With yet another apparently era-defining election on the horizon, it is easy to see why the British people might be getting bored with politics. The low voter turnout among young people is particularly worrying, as recent elections have seen significantly fewer people under the age of 30 going to the polls. This apathy is what sparked Beth Munro (International Development 3rd year) to start Politics in Education (PIE), a group aimed at engaging young people in politics through interactive workshops and discussions.

PIE is a society based at Sussex University which aims to engage young people in politics through workshops in local schools. Over the past six weeks I, along with other members of PIE, have been leading workshops with 13-15 year-olds at Ringmer Academy, as well as in Brighton Youth Centre, where the young people gave us loads of ideas and suggestions for interesting topics and fun activities to use. Our aim is to break down confusing political concepts and show how relevant they are to all of our lives.

Many members of PIE, myself included, are not Politics students, meaning that the process of developing the workshops has been an interesting one. In our first meeting, we brainstormed “what we wish we’d known” when we were at school (and also what we wish we knew now!) and decided on 6 topics that we wanted to address in our workshops:

1) What is politics and why is it important?

2) Voting and elections

3) Political parties

4) The media and finding reliable sources

5) Human Rights

6) Activism and getting involved.

We then spent our meetings devising workshop outlines. We spent the first half of the sessions trying out some activities to familiarise ourselves with the topic and see which ideas work best, and then we’d write up a lesson plan. The workshops are all student-focussed, encouraging them to form their own opinions through discussions and debates, and so avoiding any bias from us.

In our first workshop at Ringmer, students got into groups and designed their own island, using pictures and words to show how it would be run. They had to work together and we, the PIE team, gave prompts, such as: “Are there leaders or not? How do people make decisions? Are there hospitals, schools, prisons? If so, why? And how are they run? Is there a system of money, or something else?”

This was a fun activity which got students discussing issues together, thinking about how their “ideal” society compares to the one they live in, and demonstrating the wide range of decisions and issues that politics encompasses. Some students came up with surprising features – including a statue of Matthew McConaughey in the centre of one island, and an underwater prison filled with Piranhas on another!

In other weeks we have held debates, compared newspapers and played “vote with your feet” – where we read out statements such as “We should get rid of the royal family,” or “Social media should never be censored,” and students move to different sides of the room to show whether they agree or disagree, and then say why. By tackling core political concepts in a fun and welcoming environment, the project aims to counter the perception of politics as for fired-up activists or boring politicians.

Excitingly, there are plans afoot with a number of local schools to integrate the workshops into lesson time for pupils, addressing an absence of politics on the curriculum.

Positive feedback has been received from local MPs and councillors, while attempts are being made to foster links with similar projects at other UK universities. It is early days for the Politics in Education project, but with an abundance of ideas and enthusiasm, the future looks bright.

The project is always looking for new members, particularly those in first and second year. If you are interested in getting involved, send an e-mail to, see our Facebook page at, or come along to our weekly meetings on Wednesdays, 2pm, Bramber House room BH-234.

Curing the apoliticism of a generation is a tall order, but it has to start somewhere.

Harry Reddick

The value of working for nothing

A lot of people struggle to find the time or motivation for volunteer work, simply because financial gain is something we require to survive in today’s societies. It is, however, in my opinion really important to gain some experience of volunteering your time and skills for no financial gain whenever you’re able, simply because of the different benefits it provides both for you and others. Personally, I have been involved in a couple of volunteering roles, both of which I have found massively rewarding – albeit challenging at times.volunteering-1

The role I’ve decided to write about is one that people may not instantly think of where volunteering is concerned. When thinking about a volunteering role, we often think of fundraising, DIY projects, conservation and the like; whereas some of the more unusual roles are often forgotten.

As part of work experience for my potential career in Clinical Psychology, last summer I underwent a volunteer placement in a local psychiatric hospital, which involved working with some really vulnerable and risky patient groups. Due to the risks involved in this role, it wasn’t something I took lightly and would probably not be considered your typical ‘fun’ volunteering project that we often see portrayed in the media. But I think it’s really important to look for the more unusual roles if you’re interested in volunteering and not just staying in your comfort zone.

Volunteering can provide you with some really amazing opportunities. There is a self-centered culture within jobs in our society of pushing yourself to the limit and working as hard as you possibly can, even under great levels of stress. Whereas in the volunteering sector, there’s less emphasis on slogging your guts out and more on personal learning and growth, as well as providing for those who are less fortunate than you.

From working with a variety of patients, to women with long criminal histories and complex mental health needs, to men with learning difficulties, I learnt a huge amount about myself and how I cope in stressful situations. In addition, I also helped some really poorly people, without the pressure of being paid.volunteering-2

I felt myself more willing to just sit and talk to these people – which is what they ultimately needed – simply because I didn’t have the constant financial pressure to perform. You’re also provided with a sense of pride that you’re giving your time for free to those who really need it, and there’s no greater feeling in my opinion.

Even though volunteering is a more altruistic path to take compared to paid work, there will always be certain aspects of personal gain. Through volunteering, I was able to improve my CV and gain some key clinical experience towards my career progression. But there’s just something about volunteering that people admire and appreciate, regardless of the role you’ve taken.

Whether it’s doing your next door neighbour’s gardening, volunteering for a charity or working in a psychiatric hospital, there will be so many personal lessons you will learn simply by being there. Sometimes we need to get away from the financial pressures of the rat race and realise that to help people, we don’t need to be paid in money, or any other currency for that matter!

I think it’s important that we experience human kindness – both giving and receiving – at some point in our lives so we can remember that we are not working machines. As much as being paid in today’s world is important, so is personal growth, kindness and providing – simply because we can.

Melissa Kirwan is a full-time postgraduate student currently studying for a MSc in Clinical Psychology and Mental Health.