- Grace Anderson
Booking to attend the Student Minds Festival, I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. I honestly did not know what to expect and was really worried about staying somewhere for 3 days on my own without knowing anybody else attending. However, after being asked to assist in one of the talks, I bit the bullet and thought why not, what have I got to loose. I found myself carrying the biggest bag in the world (nearly falling over and knocking out people several times!!) containing all my camping gear on a train to Oxford. Then at Oxford station cramming myself and three other girls I had never met into the back of a taxi with barely any space to breathe. Upon arrival I realised that I was going to be okay. I was going to have a super fun few days; everyone from Student Minds was really friendly, greeting us, making us tea and helping us assemble our tents.
Spending a very long time attempting to put our tents up successfully, blowing up air beds with no pump, trying to take a successful group picture, we didn’t care that we were soaked from the rain. Luckily it didn’t take long for it to brighten up (obviously only rained when we were putting out tents up, sods law!), the sun glasses game out and we sat outside chatting and introducing ourselves to each other, whilst hopefully getting a bit of a tan (one can only hope!).
Once we were settled in, we attended a large array of sessions over the duration of the Festival including; a talk from The Loss Foundation on being more compassionate to oneself and others in the context of grief. In this session, Kirsten discussed what to do and what not to do when speaking about bereavement. Grief “is not personal, its universal”, thus is an issue that we will all come across at times in our lives. We also attended a talk from Action for Happiness in which we explored our own happiness by looking at what we have seen that is wonderful, what we are thankful for, what we are looking forward to, who or what do we really love and what positive changes we are going to make. This was all filled out on flashcards and really made us think how lucky we all actually are, with many of us keeping the cards as reminders for when we need them most and Sórcha Haverty the VP Welfare from the University of Derby, putting hers up on the wall in her office (something that will stay with us after the student minds festival is over).
The Student Minds team also put on some very informative sessions consisting of; effective campaigning, how to measure impact, building resilience, using social media for social good, a fundraising masterclass, safeguarding and a super fun session on creating your own wellbeing tool box (consisting of lots of stickers, glitter and colouring in!!!). We also got the chance to attend sessions on our graduate options and employment advice including sessions on building a career in the third sector (Worthwhile), top tips on completing applications and assessment centres from Think Ahead and an informative session on the journey to become a clinical psychologist from Dr Felicity Cowdrey.
My favourite session was a talk Emma from It Gets Brighter delivered. We learnt about the campaign which is a video based web platform and watched some of their collection of inspirational videos, in which people spoke openly about their experiences and reassured us that it can and will get brighter. Following this, I was lucky enough to speak in The Power of Sharing Stories session. Seb, Vicky and Student Mind Bloggers, myself and Rose held a question and answer session on our experiences sharing our own stories; the good and the bad and what worked for us and what we would suggest to other people thinking of doing the same. This was a very powerful talk that really highlighted why I do share my story through blogging for Student Minds and we received such a heartfelt response from all the students there. This was all reinforced again when I shockingly was awarded student minds blogger of the year (2015).
To continue, we were also lucky to find out about interesting campaigns such as Ripple - Student Minds new campaign against depression which seeks to promote the idea that small acts can have a ripple effect in creating wider positive change, therefore encouraing students to create positive ripples in their lives. #BestNightEver is another campaign that from Tuesday the 6th of October Student Minds are inviting you to post a picture on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook of your night in which the hastag: #BestNightEver this is because all to often on social media we only post photos of our ‘exciting times’ such as parties and nights out but fail to share photos of our evenings in such as a night watching films with friends (which may I add can be just as fun!). Therefore, showing that going out is not everything and having a night in does not mean that you are missing out and can sometimes be just what you need.
Right on to the fun part (kidding I loved all the sessions), despite the sessions and talks being informative and inspirational and something I will take away with me, my favourite part of the Festival was meeting all the other students that attended. Enjoying sitting around the camp fire roasting marshmallows, cramming 12 of us into the same tipi to sleep, playing games, going on a walk in the pitch black to find a shop, watching a film with hot chocolate and snacks, having meal times all together and just generally having a laugh and speaking to like-minded people. Funniest part being Soti (another student at the festival) and I being asked millions of times if we were from the same university and if we already knew each other… We didn’t and no we weren’t ‘best friends’ as many people asked, we had only just met! Just goes to show that it doesn’t matter whether you know anyone. If you are to attend a similar event on your own, please don't feel fearful of doing so because you will be lucky enough to meet some amazing people.
Leaving the Festival, I have not only met some really amazing people, whom I hope I’ll stay in touch with, but knowing I have built my knowledge around mental health further, learnt the things I can do to promote positive change and have been equipped with the skills to have the biggest impact when doing so. Most importantly the ability to promote my own wellbeing and having the confidence to succeed this year.
Final statement on my time at the StudentMindsFest; it was ‘intents’, please say I am not the only one who found this joke a little bit too funny. I hope to return to the festival next year and see lots of new faces and of course those of the hilarious people I met this year. If you choose to come too, please wrap up warm, bring any blankets you can find as the tents do get really really really cold at night. The first night I could actually see my breath, but I guess it made the whole trip an experience to say the least.