Staying mindful during lockdown

Reading Time: 3 minutes

How university prepared me for lockdown

Everybody’s experience of lockdown is different, but the way you perceive this time changes the way you use it.

Last semester I took part in a mindfulness course with the School of Geosciences. A 10-week programme designed to help us deal with stress and conquer our demons. But it did so much more than that. Now I have this opportunity to reflect, it is even more important to be mindful.

So what does this mean? Being mindful?

Essentially, mindfulness is about stopping and focusing on your body. Using breathing techniques amongst other things which forces you to focus on you in the present moment and not thoughts which may be bothering you.

Girl picking flowers

It sounds really simple but it works!

How can I be mindful?

The main technique we were taught is a FOFBOC – feet on floor, back on chair – close your eyes and breathe. You could even follow this up with a 7/11, which is counting your breaths (in for 7 out for 11, but you just make the numbers fit the breath don’t actually try to breathe out for 11..!)

Just stepping aside for 15 minutes without your phone, focusing on your body and calming down your breathing will help you to be more at peace.

Why would I be mindful?

By focusing on your body and breathing, you take the energy away from the negative thoughts which may come into your brain. If you find yourself thinking about these negative thoughts take your consciousness back into your body – how are you feeling? Count your breaths? Do a body scan from head to toe really trying to feel each body part and focus on you.Man running through Richmond Park

The benefits are endless – it can help you regain focus and positivity during the day. Or before bed can help you fall asleep.

How else can I be mindful?

Other ways in which we were taught to be mindful is through eating. When you are eating a snack – take it all in! How does it taste? How does it feel on your tongue? Is it spicy? Is it crunchy? Spending 10 minutes doing this makes you appreciate what you’re eating much more – rather than just consuming whole bags of crisps (which I know I’m definitely guilty of….)

Likewise you can be mindful on your daily walk – what can you notice that you don’t usually notice? Are there any sounds? How does your foot feel against the ground? If you change your walking pace does the sensation change? Does your shoe make a funny sound? Etc

A small bird in garden

Often we are so preoccupied with ourselves we neglect to take in the world around us.

My personal takeaway from this experience has helped me so much with lockdown so I thought I’d share. It helps us to stop and just be. To appreciate the moment, and be aware of whats on our mind but not invest so much energy into it. Instead focus on your body, your breathing, and being mindful!

A geography student’s top secret guide to Edinburgh

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I am a Geography and Social Anthropology student in my second year and I have to be completely honest, when it came to me choosing Edinburgh I picked it as my first choice before I’d ever been. I knew there was something drawing me towards this city and I didn’t realise what a perfect fit it would be for me until I moved in. I took a gap year to travel and amidst my travels I managed to squeeze a visit to the capital in and I automatically fell in love

Fast-forwards to freshers and I felt the EXACT same way. The city is magic

Now that I’ve lived here for a while I will let you in on some of my best kept Edinburgh secrets…

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  • Grrr boring right? NO! The sooner you get your head on straight understanding what you have to do for the academic year the more you can enjoy the rest of your life!
  • My best advice I could give is to stay on top of work and know what assignments you have. Sometimes creating a visual calendar can help with this.
  • The great thing about studying Geography at Edinburgh is you can choose your modules and tailor your degree to be more suited to you. I wish before I’d come to Edinburgh I had done some more research and got ahead on the key readings – most of them are super interesting.
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  • Enjoying burgers at the Boozy Cow.Edinburgh has an amazing underground food and beverage scene, and here is a way you can taste the best Edinburgh has to offer AND be sustainable too! Below is the Boozy Cow who do some of the BEST burgers in Edinburgh (no bias)
  • This applies to clubs too, some of the oldest institutional clubs in Edinburgh are tucked away. Sneaky Pete’s, Subway and Bongos on Cowgate are my personal favourites
  • Close to uni are some great dinky, reasonably priced places to eat
Strike up a conversation!
  • The people of Edinburgh are lovely, don’t be afraid

My family is Scottish, and there is something so distinct about the way that the people of Edinburgh make the atmosphere so calming and happy. One of the first thing I noticed was how friendly taxi drivers are (SO the opposite to my hometown of London). This is a feature of Edinburgh which makes it feel so safe

Explore BEYOND the city centre

Me with poster protesting for climate change.

  • There are so many beautiful experiences to be had beyond the city centre, for instance the beach? Arthurs seat? The Craggs? Holyrood park? Blackford Hill? Leith (best charity shopping in my opinion)….
  • Being in a capital city you can get involved with global movements !!! Me and my friends went to the climate march outside parliament in Holyrood.
  • There are lots of great music festivals at Edinburgh – like FLY, woodlands Me and my friend dancing at a festival.

 

 

And finally…. Get involved!
  • Lectures are sociable places, you can always go for a coffee after with your friends, or if the sun is shining hang out in George Square!
    People dressed up for the Ceilidh.
  • Join a society – I joined the Geographical Society and can never look back, some of these people are my best friends. (I’m social secretary and I get to organise the socials – the picture to the side is from our annual Ceilidh)
  • There are extra lectures put up by the RSGS which are fascinating and explore topics beyond the course materials.

SO, in short there’s many reasons why Edinburgh is fantastic. I hope you follow my guide and have the best years … ever. 

Access Anglesey 2018 – Encouraging diversity and inclusion within GeoScience

Reading Time: 6 minutes

During the first week of September 2018 I was lucky enough to participate in a research project sponsored by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) that aimed to address and improve access to field trips for geoscience students with disabilities.

This took place in Anglesey and was a unique trip that involved meeting 11 other students from various universities across the UK. We were able to test a range of technology and teaching methods as a group (shown below) that aimed at increasing inclusion on field trips. As well as this we were able to learn a lot about the geology of Anglesey which is not a field site visited during my degree.  

Technology used during the week:

  1. Tour guide system  
  2. Relay stations (using Wi-Fi) connected to remote cameras and iPads.  
  3. Walkie talkies 
  4. Ipads and Android tablets with apps and pens to annotate
  5. Virtual Mapping 
  6. Portable microscopes 
  7. Camera able to instantly relay photos back to car/van
The view across to the Snowdonia National Park from the coastal path right next to our accommodation in Rhoscolyn!

Below I have summarised what we did each day and how the inclusive practises helped us as a group:

Day 1 – Parys Mountain

Earth or Mars?!

On the first day we visited an old opencast copper mine called ‘Parys Mountain’ which has been used as a Doctor Who filming location due to its vivid colours!

The morning was spent identifying 3 major rock types: rhyolite, shale/mudstone and blue/ yellow ores formed during the cooling of hydrothermal fluids. This was the first opportunity to test out some of the technology. Relay stations were positioned at the top and bottom of the mine in order to connect staff and students at the top of the mine to what was happening in the pit with live video. A camera was also used for close up examination of vein networks in the centre of the pit with the pictures being instantly sent to students with iPads. Despite some initial difficulties with the technology we were all able to experience the geological features within the mine and had a good start to the trip!

Day 2 – Red Wharf Bay and LlanfairPG

Investigating the carboniferous sandstone’s and limestone’s on the beach was a good opportunity to test out the tour guide system. Every student had an ear piece to listen to the staff member speaking. This meant we didn’t have to crowd around the speaker or worry about missing something as everything could be heard using the earpiece! This proved popular with everyone as it meant we all knew what was going on and what we were meant to be doing, helping to increase the feeling of inclusion within the group. By the end of the week it had been named ‘Chinchilla radio’ due to the fluffy round microphone that had to be held by the speaker’s mouth!

There were some very interesting sandstone ‘pots’ and columns sat within limestone beds at the beach- strange! The layers above appeared to be subsiding which all together made this a fascinating and unique locality that everyone was able to get access to.

Rare blueschist at Llanfair thought to be 570 million years old!

Day 3 – Lligwy and Cemlyn Bay

A visit to Lligwy bay meant we were able to see some deformed Old Red Sandstone and staff were able to make improvements to the tour guide system so that everyone could hear despite the strong coastal wind. Being careful to avoid the quicksand 5-10m away from the rock exposures!

The afternoon took us to Cemlyn Bay to look at rocks part of the Cambrian New Harbour Group shown in the photo below. A trip to the pub after a day out in the field was a good way of getting to know everyone and relax looking at views out to the Snowdonia National Park.

Photo: Dark red sandstone overlain by an epidote grit with a ‘messy’ boundary.

Day 4- Llanddwyn Island

I took the opportunity to try out using a tablet to produce my field notes instead of the usual paper notebook. This worked well even in the rain and I could annotate photographs which helped a lot with understanding. After speaking with everyone else in the group we all agreed that they are a great way of reducing the stress of trying to get field notes done in time, especially to students with a learning disability. The pen meant you could choose to type notes or draw e.g. annotations which made it more flexible as well as the range of apps available to make notes on or even to assist with taking dip measurements!

There was some very interesting geology as this location including pillow lavas on the beach and a “melange” on the tip of the island made up of a total mix of rock types! Probably the coolest geology example I had ever seen!

Photo: Melange at Porth Twr Bach at the very end of the island had a complete mix of green lava, light pink-white-lilac quartzites, shales and limestones metamorphosed at a subduction zone and later intruded by dykes.

Day 5 – Rhoscolyn Mapping Area

During the second to last day we familiarised ourselves with the mapping area we were going to focus on during day 6.

I got the opportunity to learn about metamorphic geology in more detail by sketching and understanding the plastic deformation of a cliff face showing z and m folds. The relay system was used extensively due to the steep cliffs and difficult access for vehicles. Walkie talkies were essential to coordinate the group and ensure everyone got to participate.

As we got more familiar with everyone in the group we felt more comfortable asking each other what equipment worked best and how we could work as a group to ensure nobody missed out.

Day 6 – Virtual Mapping

The bad weather on our final day meant we were forced to stay indoors. It provided a great opportunity to test out a virtual reality mapping landscape of Rhoscoyln that a couple of the trip organisers have been working on for years. Using a laptop to load the virtual Rhoscolyn site you were able to walk around the mapping area (accurate to the real locations we visited the day before!) looking for outcrops with notepads. These gave you details of the rock type and measurements for the dip and dip direction so that a full geological map could be completed the same as if you were in the field.

Close to the start of the virtual mapping site. The Rhoscolyn formation is shown on the RHS outcrop with a notebook that gives details required to produce a geological map.

Overall this was a truly amazing opportunity to learn about alternative teaching methods and how fieldtrips can be thought about differently in future, with the student and staff on the trip making everyone feel very welcomed and relaxed. I came away from the trip a lot more knowledgeable about the different ways a fieldtrip can be organised to improve inclusion and access, and keen to share what I learnt with academic staff.

DiG-UK is the branch of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD) that is focused on improving access to geoscience within the UK. More detail about the organisation set up in the UK can be found at:

https://theiagd.org/
https://theiagd.org/dig-uk/