Meet Jack – Bristol Futures student mentor

Have you already taken one or more of the Bristol Futures Open courses? Ever thought about what it’s like to be a Bristol Futures mentor? Applications are open until the 7 September via MyCareer.

In this Digitalk blog, we hear from Jack about his experience as a student mentor on the Bristol Futures Sustainable Futures course in academic year 2021/22.

Profile photo of Jack, student mentor smiling.

The Sustainable Futures course first came to my attention when I was completing it as part of the Bristol PLUS Award. During the 4 weeks, I was impressed with the various aspects of sustainability that were exposed in such a short period. Throughout every step of the course, I was intellectually stimulated, giving me the opportunity to level up my skillset. The opportunity to explore sustainability with an online community of users and mentors made the whole experience more interesting and enjoyable.

With the wish to relive the experience, I further completed the other two courses that the Bristol Futures Team had to offer – I was hooked!  With a lingering sense of euphoria after the courses, I eagerly watched (stalked) the careers website praying that an opportunity to join the team would appear… and it did!

The beginnings

Trained and prepped, I was ready for my first run on The Sustainable Futures course. Working alongside me was a friendly close-knit team from all diverse backgrounds, some experienced some new. As the floodgates opened, users rushed in, brimming with new and fresh ideas. You could feel the positive energy through the screen, people from all walks of life joining together to discuss one of the most important issues of our time – it was incredible!

The week progressed smoothly, with topics of happiness and purpose being discussed throughout the week. Towards the end of the week, we began to highlight any key themes which were present for the lead educators to produce end of week feedback. When the week finished, I was taken aback a bit. I could not believe how enjoyable this was – I felt like I was learning not working.

The peak

The next two weeks flew by, with the topics of food waste and microplastics being a hit with many users. As we journeyed through these weeks, we monitored the chat, stimulated meaningful discussion, and promoted social learning. This was achieved through researching and sharing information which we had found relevant and interesting to the discussion in hand.

Watching the progression of users throughout the course is exciting, as they become more comfortable in expressing their thoughts on each topic. On occasions I got a bit carried away reading about other’s experiences and lessons they had learnt, from nurses to retired miners, they were all willing to share their wealth of knowledge that made it difficult to stop reading.

Halfway through our journey we were given the opportunity to share Bristol-specific events, societies, and local organisations that deserved promotion. This was an amazing chance to do some extra research (and try them out in person) to find out what is being done within Bristol, stumbling upon new start-ups, apps, and initiatives all looking to become more sustainable.

The goodbyes

From the personal, to the local to the global and finally back to the personal, we come to the final week of the course. Often neglected topics were covered throughout the week including mental health where many users shared the difficulties they had faced, how they overcame them and the lessons they learnt. Being part of an online community where people are comfortable enough to share their issues is truly amazing.

One of my favourite aspects about being a mentor on the course is seeing the impact we have had as a team through reflections from users at the end of the course. Here are some examples of user reflections.

From Changing views on sustainability:

‘I always thought people who made content sustainability where toothless in their approaches.  However, after completing this course, it changed my mind.’

To helping people, seek comfort:

‘It was enough for me to ease my climate change anxiety and helped me to have new and different perspectives to do things about it.’

To inspiring:

‘What I got from the course was learning about FoodCycle – I had my first volunteering session with them on Saturday and I enjoyed it so much, as it encapsulated what I enjoy doing most.’

The course had unfortunately come to an end, however for a Bristol Future Mentor the journey has just began. I have just finished mentoring on my third course, and it gets better each time. Each course stretches over 4 weeks, with 3 course runs (with mentors) each year, starting at the beginning of each term and after the summer exams. With the ability work flexible hours, you can ensure that can prioritise your studies when necessary. This makes it a perfect part-time job. If you get the opportunity to take part, grab it with both hands you will not regret it.

Interested in becoming a Bristol Futures mentor?

To apply, see the full role description and link to the application form due by the 15 September 2022 via MyCareer.

Further information on the Bristol Futures Open courses can be found on the Bristol Futures website.

If you have any further questions, you can e-mail the Bristol Futures team on uob-bristolfutures@bristol.ac.uk

Meet Freya – Bristol Futures student mentor

Academic year 2022/23 is soon upon us – which means we are recruiting again for enthusiastic student mentors for our Bristol Futures Open courses. Applications are open until the 7 September via MyCareer.

In this Digitalk blog, we hear from Freya about her experience as a student mentor on the Bristol Futures Innovation and Enterprise course in academic year 2021/22.

Freya, Bristol Futures student mentor profile photo.

 Why did you apply to be Bristol Futures Mentor?

As an Innovation student I was extremely excited to when I saw there was an opportunity to become a Mentor on the Innovation & Enterprise Bristol Futures Open course. It seemed like the perfect part-time role – it would enhance my knowledge of innovation, fit in around my University studies and help me to develop some really valuable and useful skills. Furthermore I’d really enjoyed taking part in the Sustainable Futures course the previous year, and during the course had enjoyed the way that many comments that I posted would get responses, either from academics or mentors or other course participants.

What do you enjoy the most about being a Bristol Futures Mentor? 

After a successful application I began working as a Bristol Futures mentor and have just finished my third course run. One of the main things I enjoy about being a Bristol Future Mentors is the interaction that you get to have. All of the people undertaking the course have chosen to do so because they are interested to learn about the subject area, this means they often very keen to discuss and learn more. As a mentor, I enjoy looking at the comments that people have posted and seeing where there are opportunities for them to learn more and stimulate this through a reply with questions. Another enjoyable thing about being a mentor is that you get to have direct input into how the courses are run and make suggestions regarding future improvements and development.

What is the most important skill to have as a Bristol Futures mentor?

Whilst being an Innovation student is helpful to being a mentor on the course, it is definitely not essential. All of the mentors I have worked with are all from different subject backgrounds, which can create an interesting variation in our responses to learners comments. I feel that the most important thing for being a Bristol Futures Mentor is having a passion for the subject area. It doesn’t matter how deeply knowledgeable about the subject area you are, as long as you are willing to have interesting conversations you will do brilliantly. It is due to this that I would highly recommend becoming a Bristol Futures mentor, the opportunity to engage with others who are passionate about the subject area is brilliant.

What advice would you give to new Bristol Futures mentors?

My tips to any future Bristol Future Mentors would be, take your time when interacting with course participants. Taking the time to send a detailed reply to one person with further information about something they’ve discussed is far more likely to stimulate interesting conversation, than simply replying “Great job”. The great thing about the Innovation & Enterprise course, is that a lot of the content is subjective, and learners can express and justify their own opinions. Even if you read a response and personally disagree, rather than directly expressing that you have the opportunity to craft a response full of questions that allow you to engage in a friendly debate with the learner. Some of the best conversations I’ve had on the course have been when I’ve taken the time to really understand what the learner has said and respond to the individual points they have made. Sometimes when you challenge learners, they come back with some really impressive responses.

What have you gained from being a Bristol Futures mentor?

Personally, I have gained a lot of skills from being a Bristol Futures mentor. I think the most important one is written communication and clarity. When I first started the role, I found it quite difficult to craft tailored and specific responses to students and would spend quite a long time replying to comments. However, over working on several course runs I have developed this skill and can now write concise and relevant responses to students with relative ease. This skill is not only important when discussing with learners but also when feeding back information regarding the course run to the academics.

Outside of the course, I now find that I can write more concisely in emails and other communications. Communication is such an important skill and one of the most important ones in an age where interactions are becoming less and less face to face. Therefore it is one of the key skills that employers look for. Being a Bristol Futures mentor is an extremely good example of using communication skills, but alongside it gain knowledge of interesting subject matter and have some brilliant conversations with learners from all around the world.

Interested in becoming a Bristol Futures mentor?

Sign into MyCareer to see the full role description and link to the application form due by the 15 September 2022.

Further information on the Bristol Futures Open courses can be found on the Bristol Futures website.

If you have any further questions, you can e-mail the Bristol Futures team on uob-bristolfutures@bristol.ac.uk

Kick start your summer with Bristol Futures Open Courses

Congratulations on coming to the end of your summer assessments for 2021/22!

A picture containing tree, grass, outdoor, person throwing papers in the air in celebration.
Photo credit: Ketut Subiyant

While some of you may be ready to not look at a book or a screen for the next 3 months, some of you may find the transition from the academic year to the summer quite unnerving. To help you ease into the summer months, Bristol Futures Open Courses is a great option for you to learn outside of your usual degree subject for free!

You can join the courses starting on the 13 June 2022 on one or more of the following themes:

  • Innovation and Enterprise
  • Sustainable Futures
  • Global Citizenship

The courses run over four-weeks and take approximately 3 hours a week.

Who can learn?

Exactly what it says on the tin, the Bristol Futures open courses are open to all! The courses are aimed primarily for University of Bristol students, but in fact students, staff, and alumni from all around the world can sign up and engage in the courses. This gives you, as the learner, a unique opportunity to gain a wider perspective on the theme.

Who are the mentors?

The Bristol Futures Open courses starting on the 13 June 2022 will be mentored run. This means that your learning and engagement will be further supported by trained student mentors from the University of Bristol.

How you can join

As a current University of Bristol student, you can join for free via the Open Courses tab on Blackboard.  You can sign up for a course up to 6 weeks after it has started. But you will benefit most from the mentor support if you sign up before the start of the next course run on the 13 June 2022.

A picture containing the word summer in scrabble letters on some sand.
Photo credit: Ylanite Koppens

We hope to see you on one or more the Bristol Futures Open courses over the summer. Otherwise, from all of us in the Digital Education Office, we wish you a very well-deserved summer break – whatever you decide to do!