Blog: How I’m supporting students as a Peer Mentor

Author, Heather Mackelden is a Peer Mentor and 2nd year English Literature student at the University of Liverpool.

With the second lockdown underway, it’s essential students have resources to go to for support and advice. The Peer Mentor team is there to provide this and in this blog I’ll share with you what the role of Peer Mentor is and what we’ve been doing to support students this year.

My main job is logging onto Handshake every day and responding to any messages that students have sent me. In previous years, I would’ve loved to talk with a mentee over a cup of coffee somewhere on campus but, as we’re now online, the main platform for the Peer Mentor team is now Handshake. However, remember if you’re not self-isolating you can still get outdoors for a walk with your household, or one other person.

At the moment, the most common questions I get from students are centred around the feeling of loneliness that the restrictions on social gatherings can create. Particularly for international students, the sense of distance between family and friends can be exacerbated. To help combat this the Guild’s societies are free to join at the moment and, though I know it might feel a little awkward attending events online at first, they’re a great way to meet friends and safely socialise. If society events are a little overwhelming for you, even a quick chat with a Peer Mentor on Handshake might help you feel more connected.

If you haven’t got any questions or queries for the Peer Mentor team, I really recommend finding us on Handshake and familiarising yourself with the service anyway. That way you’ll know exactly where to go if you do need us! We’re happy to chat to you about anything and everything, be it academic and otherwise, and will always lend an ear if you need to vent! We can also signpost you to other departments designed to support university students.

As well as one-to-one support, we also work hard to create new resources for the University. For example, during Welcome Week, you may have seen us running sessions with an aim to help students settle into University life. These sessions ranged between introducing Societies with Q&As, developing skills for online learning and wellbeing advice with the help of the SWAG team.

More recently, we are running a series called ‘Peer Mentors Recommend’ in which we’ll share our favourite books, podcasts, recipes and more to keep you entertained during lockdown. I’m looking forward to sharing my wonderful pasta bake recipe with everyone! These sessions will go live in the coming weeks and I’d really recommend following our twitter: @livunimentors for more information on how to access them.

For more advice on keeping well during lockdown, I really recommend Ana’s blog. I especially loved her point about arranging time to do something that you enjoy and can look forward to each day. I’ve found a lot of enjoyment in connecting with students as a Peer Mentor and I think the role has been very beneficial to me too as it commits me to talking with people regularly during a time in which I might not get the chance to otherwise. Plus, as a student, a lot of the resources and sessions we run are also really helpful to me too!

So, don’t be afraid to say hi – you’re not bothering us at all – we really do want to help! I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience as a Peer Mentor and, if you want to reach out, feel free to talk to one of the team here.