Monday 4 February 2013Kate Nevin, one of the PASS (Peer Assisted Study Support) student organisers, and third-year student in the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film (SLLF), writes about the highs and lows of mentoring and encourages first-years to come along to meet them.
PASS stands for Peer Assisted Study Support, and is a mentoring scheme run essentially by students for students. It offers all manner of helpful, friendly and confidential advice to the first- (and occasionally second) year students of the schools of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Dentistry, Economics and Finance, Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Engineering and Materials Science, English, Geography, History, Languages, Linguistics and Film, Mathematical Sciences and Physics. Led by some of Queen Mary’s most talented and enthusiastic students, the scheme has proved extremely successful in many of these schools, not least in high numbers of mentees attending.
As we walked into the G.O. Jones building for the first PASS session of the year last term, however, our own hopes of being able to practise any of those mentoring skills we had been so thoroughly trained in were, frankly, quite low. Quite aside from the mystery surrounding the location or existence of the G.O. Jones building itself, in my entire time as a PASS Student Organiser for the School of Languages Linguistics and Film I had yet to see a single mentee. I had had just under a year to get the organising bit down to a T, but the mentoring part of my role remained an enigma. Not the darkest of enigmas, granted, as I had worked widely as a mentor and tutor before – growing up in Italy, the daughter of two British teachers, it would have been silly not to put my language skills to good, and profitable, use – but one which made this first session a poignant one nonetheless.
I need not describe, then, the surprise my fellow mentors and I felt as we noticed a friendly face appearing at the threshold. Momentarily stunned, we thought she must be knocking on the wrong door, so the almost rhetorical (but ever eager) question ‘Are you here for PASS?’ was posed in a smiling, but not entirely serious mood. Our scepticism was to be proved wrong; our first mentee had arrived.
Henna Akram, Student Organiser for PASS in the School of Economics and Finance (SEF) – which has, like the SLLF, lately experienced a ‘dry spell’ – rightly says: "Although the turn out in terms of mentees has been low, the team in SEF is extremely dedicated and committed to making PASS a success in SEF. The continual support from both the Academic and Central Coordinators has been great and the mentors are always enthusiastic and ready to provide support during sessions.” The value of the PASS experience spans far beyond the academic help available to first-years; as part of the PASS team, mentors and mentees alike are given a weekly slot to interact and socialise with people bringing similar interest from an array of backgrounds. “One great experience I have had while working for PASS is the amazing team I have. All the mentors are enjoyable to work with, their dedication to help is inspiring and their resilience to overcome difficult situations is very motivating. They are the reason why PASS at SEMS has been excellent this year”, says Juned Ahmed Uddin, one of the two Student Organisers for the school of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS).
We mentors are very aware that we are getting just as much as we give, and our appreciation is summarised perfectly by Meena Kumar, Joint Student Organiser for Dentistry, who shares: “I have found being a student organiser and a mentor a very fulfilling experience. Helping first years, organising and running study sessions has not only boosted my confidence levels when it comes to speaking in front of a group of people, but has also given me a deep sense of satisfaction and pride owing to the huge gratitude that the first-years have shown time and again for all our efforts for them. Running PASS sessions has also given me a sense of being a part of a team of mentors who are ready to work together and help each other out during sessions when the need arises. Most importantly it has shown me that helping the mentees of today creates enthusiastic mentors of tomorrow.” I have no qualms in admitting that I for one would definitely enjoy basking in first-year gratitude – and yes, Linguists and Economists, please feel free to take this as a shameless hint!
As every first- and second-year student of Languages, Linguistics or, indeed, Film will know from the cheerful email they must be thrilled to receive week after week, PASS mentors all across campus ‘can help with anything from essay writing and coursework to library queries and general uni advice’ and I am certain the call to ‘please feel free to drop in and have a chat about any course (or non-!) related queries’ will not continue to go unanswered for long.
To find out more about PASS and the support available, or how to become a mentor, go to www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/schools/educationliaison/wp/pass/index.html