With Welcome Week fast approaching, nervous and excited students are probably frantically packing the last of their university essentials, while the rest of us are bracing for the storm that is a hoard of newbies to campus. We purchase our club tickets for the opening days commencing on Monday 24th and are starting our reading before term is underway, at least we should be. What often goes unnoticed, however, is the sheer hard work and determination of the committed Welcome Mentors who drive the daunting first week of university life. On hand to help new students navigate the city, move to their new accommodation, and ensure they get back safely after a night out, it is these Mentors that are essential to a smooth transition. Impact speaks to last years Welcome Mentor and this year’s Lead Mentor for Cavendish Hall, Georgina Pittman.
How did you first get involved with Welcome Week and what were your motivations in becoming a Welcome Mentor?
I really enjoyed Welcome as a first year but, as someone who (surprisingly) came to university fearing alcohol, I didn’t take full advantage of all the events on offer. Volunteering for the programme was the perfect opportunity to get involved again to, firstly help new students to get more involved than I did, but also to (admittedly somewhat selfishly) experience the events I felt I’d missed out on.
What was the highlight of your week last year?
Being a dancer, the Welcome dance is the perfect pick-me-up on club night events. It’s a short dance you learn to the chorus of a current song. Last year, for example, it was ‘Came Here for Love’ (Sigala and Ella Eyre). When you’re on another night of sober, sleep-deprived, vomit catching, the first few beats of that song give you an energy boost like nothing else. Also, if I had to be cliché, I made some amazing friendships through Welcome that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. Most people don’t realise the legacy Welcome has, not just for the new students but the Welcome Mentors and Committee too.
“It’s not unusual to be on campus from 9am and then later have a shift until 2am”
Was there any particularly difficult situation(s) you dealt with?
I was quite lucky when it came to this. There were stories of mentors having to dramatically catch vomit in their own hands in the absence of a bin bag but I didn’t have anything quite so dramatic whilst on shift. One thing I would say that Welcome Mentors collectively experience, however, is the lack of sleep. It’s not unusual to be on campus from 9am and then later have a shift until 2am. Luckily, we do get compulsory shifts off, mentors look out for each other and it’s all worth it for the impact we can have, but please spare a thought for us if we seem a little vacant when walking through campus between shifts!
What are you hoping to gain by the end of your second Welcome Week?
This year I’ve been upgraded to Lead Mentor for Cavendish, so I’ve definitely already had to adjust my approach from last year. I don’t think I appreciated how reliant I was on my Lead Mentor (the wonderful Harry Bodington) last year until I was on my own this time. Don’t get me wrong, I love this responsibility and the freedom to get creative with it but, as well as expanding on the usual aspects of independence and organisation, I’ve also generally gained a greater appreciation for the programme as a whole.
“You sometimes get to enjoy a bit of a dance with your friends”
Are their particular roles/shifts you prefer and why is this?
Despite the fact any mentor will tell you club nights are by far the busiest events, I think everyone secretly loves them. They’re the only events that the whole Welcome Mentor team comes together for, you sometimes get to enjoy a bit of a dance with your friends (new students and fellow mentors) and they lead to the most rewarding situations after helping students in need.
What would your advice be to someone considering being a Welcome Mentor next year?
Definitely do get involved! The benefits easily outweigh the negatives: endless welfare and organisational experience, several leadership opportunities, unexpected but long-lasting friendships and a unique volunteering experience.
Article images courtesy of Georgina Pittman.