‘Knowing that there are people willing and generous enough to help me is huge’

Rhea Griffiths, studying Politics and International Relations, tells us about the difference having a Futures Scholarship has made during her first year.

My school’s catchment came predominantly from the council estate where I grew up – there were only 12 of us in my sixth form. I took a year out after A Levels because I needed to work. I’m the oldest of four children and my mum had lost her job so I was helping to pay for rent.

When I said I wanted to go into higher education my mum was sceptical because she always saw it as a huge expense. When I found out I had got the Futures Scholarship it felt like such a relief. The Scholarship funding has helped with my deposit for next year’s rent – I wouldn’t have been able to afford that otherwise. I also enjoy going to public lectures on topics relevant to my course. Some of these are in London so I’ve been able to afford to travel down there so I can attend.


‘It’s opening so many doors for me, thank you’

Praxciana dos Santos is a first year studying Psychology. Her Futures Scholarship helps her balance her studies with her caring responsibilities.

I’m the oldest of three children. My brother, who’s a year younger than me, has cerebral palsy. Because my mum is a single mum, I like to think I’m kind of a second parental figure for my siblings. My other brother is only 12, so if mum needed someone to be in the house while she took my brother to the doctors then I would usually take on that role. As she’s a full-time carer herself, my mum can’t really have a job, so I used to do waitressing work as well, which meant that if my brothers needed anything they could let me know and I could buy it for them.


Your messages of welcome for our Sanctuary Scholarship students

This summer, we asked alumni, staff, students and friends of the University of Bristol to contribute pictures and messages of welcome for our newest cohort of Sanctuary Scholarship students.

These students, who all come from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds, have been able to take up places at the University of Bristol because of the Sanctuary Scholarship programme. Each scholarship is a lifeline that makes a world of difference to the recipient.

We were so overwhelmed by the volume and heartfelt nature of the messages; we wanted to say a huge thank you and share some of our favourites with you. You can head to our Facebook page to see the full selection of messages.

“I wanted to send a welcome photo to show that Bristol is a safe and welcoming city for all, including people seeking sanctuary from war, violence, persecution and impact of climate change. And also to offer our solidarity to the University of Bristol for launching a programme which offers life-changing practical support to refugees and asylum seekers who are coming to study in our diverse city of hope.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol


Alumni interview: Izzy Obeng (BSc 2014), Managing Director of Foundervine

After graduating from Bristol in 2014 with a politics degree, Izzy Obeng worked at KPMG before starting her own company – Foundervine. This award-winning social enterprise helps diverse founders build start-ups from scratch and specialises in delivering digital start-up and scale-up acceleration programs.

Since launching in 2018, Foundervine has helped over 2,000 future leaders from diverse backgrounds to create and build their own ventures. 27-year-old Izzy is now based in Accra in Ghana, and her team of twelve work remotely in locations up and down the UK. As well as sitting on the Alumni Association Committee, Izzy has been involved in alumni events – including a recent Bristol Connects Live event focused on entrepreneurship. We spoke to Izzy to hear more about Foundervine, her time at Bristol and what it was like to meet the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.


Inspirational student speakers at Class of 2020 Virtual Celebrations

Our Class of 2020, who are enjoying their Virtual Celebrations this month, had some inspirational student voices speaking at their digital events. We caught up with some of them to hear about their time at Bristol, their passions, and their plans for the future. And we welcome them into our alumni community!


Renowned speakers to join Class of 2020 in Virtual Celebrations

Top row L – R: The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond, Vanessa Kisuule, Sir Paul Nurse. Bottom row L -R: Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Jenny Griffiths MBE, Dame Julia Slingo.

From final-year medics graduating early to work on the NHS frontline, to groups organising foodbank donations, throughout this year Bristol students have been stepping up to assist those impacted by the pandemic. Many of our final-year students have been taking part in such activities, all whilst working hard to complete their degrees.

For these students, their time at the University is almost at an end. So, to mark their incredible achievements and commemorate their final year, the University is hosting a series of virtual celebrations for the class of 2020. The events will be hosted online and will see Bristol students from all over the world signing in from home to watch with their friends and family.


Help to welcome our Sanctuary Scholars

Every year, just after welcome week, the University hosts a welcome event for our Sanctuary Scholars, an incredible group of students who all come from asylum-seeking or refugee communities.

The welcome event is always a really special day, where the newest cohort of scholars get to meet each other, as well as staff and students from the University.

This year, as you can imagine, we can’t welcome our scholars in quite the same way. But whilst we might not be able to be together in one room, we can still do our very best to let these students know that they are a valued part of the Bristol community. We hope you’ll join us in doing so!


Bristol medical students lead the way on nutrition for health benefits

Ally Jaffee and Iain Broadley founded the Community Interest Company (CIC) Nutritank in 2017 while studying Medicine at Bristol. Jaffee is currently in her fourth year and Broadley is a member of the cohort who have graduated early [April 2020 instead of July 2020] in order to quickly support the NHS during the COVID-19 crisis.

Described as ‘an innovative, informative hub for food, nutrition and lifestyle medicine’ Nutritank is a one-stop shop for students of medicine, current medical practitioners and anyone interested in food for health. In a world where many widespread conditions such as heart disease and diabetes have contributory dietary factors, the founders are passionate about advocating healthy eating for all, promoted by those working in the health sector.


Bristol Voices launched to support students through COVID-19

The first wave of Bristol alumni and staff have already volunteered to support remotely – via phone or messaging services – current students affected by social distancing as a result of COVID-19, through our just-launched Bristol Voices programme.

The University is home to many students and this is a particularly difficult time for them. Whilst the University has comprehensive support available, a lack of regular contact with friends, colleagues and classmates can quickly lead to feelings of isolation and anxiety.

Bristol Voices is our response to supporting students during this uncertain time. Through Bristol Voices, we are connecting students remaining in Bristol with a dedicated member of the Bristol community for enhanced, one-on-one interaction to support their social wellbeing. Bristol Voices is a collaboration between the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) and the Student Services team and is part of the University’s wider response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The University of Bristol already has a dedicated support system in place with free services for all students. Bristol Voices is an additional programme established with our alumni community in mind, to offer extra, informal social support for our students during COVID-19.

Our volunteers have a wide range of experience and backgrounds, and knowledge of student life at Bristol. We have alumni signed up to volunteer who studied an array of subjects and work in many different fields, including teachers, managers and researchers. But what they all have in common is a willingness to help and lend an ear to these students who may currently be struggling with social isolation.

We are very appreciative of the alumni who have put themselves forward during these difficult circumstances, and we welcome them joining the hundreds of volunteers we currently work with across a wide range of programmes.

Read more about alumni volunteering opportunities.

Why I’m running the London Marathon in support of student mental health

This April, third year History student, Bethany Marris, will be taking on the London Marathon in support of the University’s Healthy Minds programme. Here, she talks about her marathon journey and explains why she was inspired to raise funds for student mental health.

Bethany (right) with her friend Katie (left) after last year’s Bristol 10k

“I’m from Yorkshire and where I live it’s very, very flat,” said Bethany, “so training for the marathon with Bristol’s hills has been interesting! I really like running around the Downs up in Clifton. They’re not too far out of the city and you don’t have to dodge past lots of other runners when you’re out there, although there’s still a big hill to conquer before you reach them!”

22-year-old Bethany from Hull took up middle distance running as a teenager – a hobby which became even more important to her when she began studying at the University of Bristol.