Three current Student Mentors talk about their experience of the role and what they’ve gained from it…
Many students starting university have questions and queries and sometimes it is difficult to know who to turn to for support. As a Student Mentor you are able to help first year students from your academic school settle into university and be there to answer some of those questions or to point students in the right direction.
It is an incredibly rewarding role, you get to give back to your academic school, build up a sense of community and meet some interesting people along the way. As a Mentor you receive training and support, so you are never alone. By volunteering for this role you also build up your employability skills such as leadership, organisation and communication. So if you want to be part of a team of volunteers and enhance your CV then this is the perfect opportunity.
What does being a mentor involve?
- Attending a Meet Your Mentor session when the semester starts
- Meeting weekly/fortnightly with mentees (you complete 4-6 sessions in total)
- Planning these 30-45-minute sessions (on topics such as new ways of studying, settling into accommodation, budgeting, choosing modules, assignments, essays and exams and finding housing for your second year)
- Writing up a brief log of the meeting and emailing this to the Skills Centre.
Katy, third year English Student, enjoyed building key employability skills…
I chose to undertake this role as an extra-curricular activity for personal-development reasons, as there are many essential transferable skills that employers look for which you can develop from this programme which you might not gain from studying alone.
Mentoring allows you to develop your leadership skills as you take on the role of a leader, rather than simply working with your peers in group work. For example, I feel much more confident leading a team, organising meetings and leading discussions within meetings.
Something I’ve come to realise is that University has not just been about coming out with a degree, but rather emerging with a wide range of transferable skills designed to equip you with the ability to take on a role in a working environment.
Whilst we’re on the topic of employability, mentoring also a good way to get your hours in if you’re doing the Cardiff Award – another reason I took part in the scheme!
I also decided to become a mentor because the idea of giving something back to my school (ENCAP) appealed to me, as the staff have provided me with all the guidance I’ve needed throughout my years at Cardiff. In my year, we didn’t have a mentoring scheme in place, so I never had a student mentor – but I wish I had, as this would have made life so much easier!
Being a mentor is a flexible role as you can pick when you plan and carry out each session, so don’t worry about the issue of over-committing yourself to the role as you can organise meetings as and when you and your mentees would prefer them.
Another concern I had was worrying about the content of the sessions. Don’t panic! – the content of each session is largely based on experiences that you will have inevitably encountered such as settling in, budgeting, essays and exams, etc…
Therefore, you’ve already got the knowledge, and there are plenty of resources already on Learning Central as well as a very detailed guide to mentoring to help you!
One of the main pieces of advice I would offer to those considering this role is to remember that you’re not taking on the role of a teacher, but rather a friendly face other than their personal tutor that guides new students who are navigating their daunting first semester!
I found that mentoring provided me with lots to talk about when asked questions in interviews (e.g., give an example of a time when you were faced with a problem and had to overcome it…). On this basis, being part of the scheme has added value to my University experience and I’m so pleased knowing that I’ve gained coveted employability skills that I can implement into my life after University such as leadership, time management, interpersonal and organisational skills (and many more) all without over-committing myself when I’ve been busy with assignments and exams.
Hopefully this post has informed you a little bit more about the benefits of becoming a mentor and has potentially inspired you to undertake the role!
English, Communications and Philosophy Student, Lucy, discusses the rewards of being a Student Mentor…
We all remember what it was like starting university, feeling both nervous and excited, and having questions but not being sure who to ask. Talking to a friendly Student Mentor who has been through a similar experience can really help students, and removes some of the pressure first-year students have of not knowing who to turn to with their questions. You choose the time to run your sessions, how often you’d like to meet (usually weekly or fortnightly for up to an hour) to suit your timetables, and what topics to cover. Popular sessions are things like budgeting, academic referencing, housing, and student life in general – but it’s completely up to you and your group what you cover and when.
You’re also given loads of support from everyone involved in the scheme: you get extensive training, weekly emails from the Skills Centre, Mentor Management Meetings, support from staff and your Mentor Consultant and a module on Learning Central containing an abundance of valuable resources, so you never feel unsure of anything. There are plenty of resources and experienced staff to help you along the way.
Furthermore, being a mentor can help you to gain valuable experience to use for competency-based questions in interviews: it shows great leadership skills in running the sessions, problem-solving by answering any tricky questions or adapting sessions to suit the number of mentees, and communication skills from working with a variety of people, just to name a few!
Not only is mentoring an excellent way of boosting your CV and developing those key employability skills, it’s also a really rewarding experience that allows you to help other students and build your own confidence along the way. The sessions can be as fun as you make them, and receiving positive feedback from your group gives you a fantastic sense of achievement.
I’d recommend taking part in the Student Mentor Scheme to anyone!
John, Computer Science and Informatics Student tells us how he found the Mentor Scheme…
Being a student mentor this year has been a fantastic opportunity and extremely enjoyable. There’s the expected benefits of it looks good on your CV and counts towards the Cardiff Award (another great scheme I would highly recommend).
As I study a technical degree, the chance to hone and demonstrate my soft skills was particularly useful. However, being a mentor is also fun, allows you to give back by encouraging and supporting new students, and make new friends. You’ll receive training beforehand so there’s no need to worry about not knowing how to run a mentoring session. The training sessions were informative and there’s always free sweets or biscuits provided! The training is there to provide a framework but one of the most enjoyable elements of the scheme is that you are allowed to tailor your sessions according to how you want to run them and how you feel your mentored will best benefit.
An unexpected element of the scheme is that I quickly became friends with my mentees. At first they were quite nervous about both the sessions and the transition to university in general, but as I began to ease their concerns they relaxed and enjoyed the sessions more. It’s always great to say hi to one of my mentees in the corridor and have a quick chat about how they are getting on. You get to see them develop as they begin to seize the opportunities university offers, and having a sense that you were at least a small part of that is unbeatable.
Rachel, English Literature Student, enjoyed helping new students find their feet…
Being a student mentor during my second year has been fulfilling and worth every second. Helping another student settle into university, offering academic advice and sharing my knowledge of Cardiff and the University has been incredibly rewarding. By volunteering with the Mentor Scheme I have learnt a lot about myself, how to support other people and how to take a leadership role with compassion.
I was fully trained before becoming a student mentor, which included: learning key management expertise, how to listen to others, how to give the advice needed and how to signpost if you don’t know the answer. I developed valuable organisational skills and time management skills. I’ve found the training and the skills I developed useful for me as a student and in my part-time work; it helped me develop skills that will stay with me for life. Alongside helping other students, I attended meetings with a Student Mentor Consultant or staff member, so there is lots of support and the chance to complete the Student Mentor Advanced Award (which requires further training) if you wish.
Each time I planned a mentor session I would email my mentees asking what they would like to go through for that week so that it was mentee-led. The popular choice was usually study advice and academia. I would discuss where to get reliable resources, how to use Learning Central and signpost my mentees to other services and staff if they needed extra help outside my role. Each week I would bring resources along to help my mentees and I planned a rough guide of what I would like to discuss during a session.
Being a student mentor is so rewarding and not as much hard work as you would think. I planned my sessions in advance and took resources along but these are all readily available on the Mentor Module on Learning Central so I didn’t ever feel under pressure to create lots of new content. Also the training really prepares you for what to expect. I met with my mentees every fortnight for around 45 minutes and kept in touch with them between meetings.
Supporting others is such a great way to feel good about yourself while helping someone else. You will become a knowledgeable person assisting someone who has little to no knowledge about university life. I do highly recommend becoming a student mentor. This year I have helped others improve how they study, encouraged University social involvement and helped my mentees feel like a part of the University. Helping other people makes me feel happier as I walk away from each session knowing I have helped someone that day, that week, that month, that year!
Watch the Student Mentors discuss the scheme
Interested in becoming a Student Mentor?
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Katy, Lucy, John and Rachel, Student Mentors.
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