Starting university can be challenging. More so, for an international student when you have to travel abroad, to a country you have not been to before. This was the case for BSc Information management for Business student Andrea Ulicna when she joined in September 2019. She shares her experience with the UCL Transition Mentors programme and why she thinks it is an invaluable asset for mentees and mentors alike.
What is the UCL Transition Mentors programme?
Being a student at UCL guarantees you a great student experience from the very beginning. Among other things, it is very much thanks to the Transition Mentors programme. UCL Transition Mentor Programme is an initiative that matches every first-year undergraduate student at UCL with a second or third-year student from the same degree programme - their transition mentor. Through weekly meetings, transition mentors help the first-year students settle in and can provide advice on academic topics, support services and administrative tasks.
The experience as a mentee
Looking at the induction week timetable in my first year at UCL, a session called “Meet your mentor” caught my attention straight away. From the presentation of the older BSc Information for Business students, our transition mentors, it was more than apparent, that the transition programme was designed to offer the right support for all sorts of challenges a first-year student may face.
Following the induction week, transition mentors would host small-group weekly mentoring meetings which run throughout Term 1. Each week, we’d cover a particular topic, ranging from effective time management or getting around London to wellbeing support. But, perhaps, more importantly, we had a weekly opportunity to ask questions about virtually anything. It was at these meetings many of us realised that we are not the only ones getting lost around campus when trying to find the right seminar room or wondering whether there are some microwaves on campus available to students. (I still have the map with the microwaves that my transition mentor sent me bookmarked - have a look here if you are also a fan of home-cooked lunches!). In addition, we could reach out to our transition mentor and arrange one-to-one meetings and get timely advice.
During the term, there were also social events for multiple groups at a time that our transition mentors organised to make it easier for us to make friends across the cohort. Learning about other people’s struggles or even better, realising that they have the same struggles as you, very much helped with breaking the ice.
The experience as a mentor
After the great experience of having someone to ask advice from in my first year at university, I decided to apply for the role of a transition mentor in both, my second and third years. As a transition mentor, I had a chance to see the transition programme from “the other side”. In the role, I was able to apply what my transition mentor taught me the year before, but also share my first-hand university experience which is, quite inevitably, unique for everyone.
I really liked that there was an opportunity to, continue with the transition programme throughout my studies. First of all, it was a great way of contributing to the development of the student community at UCL and having a real-time positive impact on younger students. Another reason was the opportunity to improve my communication and mentoring skills and have a tangible experience to put on my CV. Also, while the focus is very much on supporting the first-year students, the transition mentors also get additional support from the Transition Team to develop in the role, but also in general. Lastly, the transition mentor role is actually a paid role, so it is a great way to get some extra money.
Why is this kind of support important?
While we may try to prepare for a transition to university, challenges that we may not have anticipated will inevitably arise. Mostly, but not only, in such cases, having someone to talk to and remind you that it is totally fine to struggle at first or take some time to figure out what kind of activities truly work for you, can go a long way. More so when that someone is someone just like you with similar experiences. That is why I think that the Transition Mentors programme is an invaluable part of a first-year UCL student’s journey.