The Peer Mentor scheme at Bath Spa – and many Universities run similar schemes – is designed to match up 1st year students with 2nd or 3rd year students in order that the experienced students can provide basic information on a whole range of topics about living and studying at Bath Spa.
It is a means of providing re-assurance to new students, many of whom may be leaving home for the first time and faced with lots of decisions such as budgeting, shopping and so forth that up to this point in their lives may well have been taken care of by others.
It also relieves Student Services of answering basic questions and I often think new students feel more comfortable about asking a fellow student what they often feel is a trivial question rather than the full time staff.
Whilst there is no limit to the topics that can be discussed between mentors and mentees, mentors are trained to escalate any issues they feel are beyond the scope of the scheme – so for example if a mentor was seriously concerned about the health or well being of a mentee then it would be escalated to the professional support staff.
From talking to other peer mentors happily any such event seems to be very much an exception and most issues can be resolved by email or a chat over a coffee. I have been a Peer Mentor during my 3rd year and have been assigned 4 students over the year, including one overseas exchange student. In line with the experience outlined above topics have been very routine mainly regarding facilities, teaching methods and so forth.
As a mature student I believe I was able to bring a slightly different perspective to things and actually have had a number of conversations with other mature students about the challenges of returning to education events which I have both personally enjoyed and based on the feedback useful to the other party.
Another common experience seems to be that it transpires that some mentees have required little or no support during the year, nonetheless, I still think the scheme has much merit as I think the idea of having a mentor and the reassurance that provides to new students, and often parents, is as important as any actual help provided. Most people of course arrive at University and adjust perfectly well on their own, daunting as it may have seemed at the outset.
Other activities in the year as a Peer Mentor have included providing photography support for various events such as recruiting mentees during registration and manning stalls at Freshers week and various Student Service events at both Sion Hill and Newton Park. The most recent was a request from Sophie, the Peer Mentor Coordinator to take some photographs of the 2017-18 Mentors being trained to use for marketing the scheme in the upcoming busy student recruitment and registration periods.
For me the Peer Mentor experience has been very positive, I have both enjoyed the interaction with the mentees, further it has helped me feel more a part of University life which I think is often a slight challenge for mature students as so much activity is, quite rightly, directed towards the the 18-25 age group the vast majority of students are.