‘It’s not just the academic, it’s everything.’ Our PALs reflect on their experience this year

Not only was Friday the end of term, it was also the Peer Assisted Learning awards event, celebrating the students who were instrumental in the success of the PAL scheme this year. PAL has gotten bigger and better this year. There were over 100 new PAL Mentors, sessions in 15 academic departments and over 1000 hours spent on PAL sessions.

I caught up with two third year PAL Mentors, Alice and Sera, to find out about their experience this year on the PAL Scheme and about their plans for life after Goldsmiths.

Tell me first about your degree programme and why you chose it.

Sera: I chose Media & Communications because theory wise, it offers such a broad range of subjects and ideas. I want to go into radio production, (and now) I’m already working in radio production. It enabled me to have a really fine-tuned skill set.  I’ve just finished a commission for BBC Radio 1. I led the production team to produce and research an hour long documentary which aired in February, about smart phones and the impact that they are having. I had entered some work that I had produced at Goldsmiths in my first year to the National Student Awards and won. Off the back of that (I) was able to able to make a network in the industry away from Goldsmiths and it’s just snowballed from there. I’ve got more and more freelance commissions and things off the back of it, but it all started with Goldsmiths and I wouldn’t have had that step into industry had I not started here. So it’s been great. It’s been a fabulous course for me and I’ve got everything I wanted out of it.

Alice: I’m just finishing a BA in Sociology. I did it for A-level and it was actually the interview here that made me want to come. I was going around all the (Open Day) introductory lectures and I spoke to the head of department and he said it was great and so interesting and he was just so passionate. There were other students who got up there and spoke and they were so passionate about what they were doing. At that point I was considering doing English, and I thought that the people in sociology are more passionate.

Why PAL?

Sera: I became PAL Mentor for my third and final year. One of my friends had been a PAL Mentor since second year in the same department as me. I saw her poster on Facebook and I thought that’s something I really want to do. I think it’s really important to go to university and not just work really hard in the academic sense, but to be able to put something extra on your CV which says that you participated and contributed when you didn’t have to, to better the university community and also yourself.

Alice: This is my second year doing it. I remember sitting down and applying for it on the last day that the application was open and thinking, I really want to do this. At that point I was trying to get into the course a bit more. At the end of the year, everything comes together and at the end of the year you just get it. You start to get really passionate and really into it and I wanted to help other people do that and get more involved. It’s run by a new lady this year (Miriam Lowe) and I met her and I thought I definitely want to do it this year.

What did you get out of the scheme?

Sera: I’ve had a really great year doing it. I run two sessions a week and it’s been so lovely. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some first years from their first week to their 20th week. It’s been a real privilege and a joy for me to get to know people who are in first year and to reflect on my time here and be able to play a part in making their time as special as my time has been.

Alice: So I do the Gold Award and it has helped me try and analyse everything that I’ve been doing and what I enjoy the most and PAL was the one important thing.  We (Gold Award mentor) were talking about communication and trying to communicate in different ways to different people. For example, you learn something in a lecture and I speak differently to my course mates who are in third year than I do to first years and teachers. It’s all very different and it’s enjoyable to understand it in different ways. That was the really important thing about PAL. That and the friends that I made as well. I still talk to and have coffee with the people who I was a PAL for last year.

What impact do you think you made by being a PAL?

Sera: It’s been really enjoyable seeing students who have just been like me when they started. They have so much potential, but you know university is hard, you don’t get all of the help that you could get and I am really pleased that I can be here for you to just let us harness it in a way that we can and give you that personal touch.

In terms of the scheme, I think that you can see it more than just turning up for an hour and hosting a session, and more about right, how can I be a leader of a scheme and not just a session.

We have been in contact with the lecturers, we’ve made sure that at the start of every lecture there is a poster up on the projector, onto the big board, saying who we are, when our sessions are, what our emails are, when to come, what we will do, the statistics and the improvements that they will experience if they were to come regularly. So I feel that we have helped the scheme become more connected between departments and sharing tips on promotion and strategic advertising.

What did you learn about yourself from taking on the role?

Sera: Alongside the PAL thing, I’ve also undertaken the PAL Mentor Plus and I’ve done the student leadership development course. So I feel like I was able to not only do what I really like and help people, the leadership course enabled me to build on my skills and learn new skills more specific to leadership. I think that was a really good opportunity for me to have and I could put it in to practice (not just) in the PAL sessions but also have made lots of mental notes for the future when I find myself in paid work and further study or group situations.

What advice do you have for students thinking of joining the PAL scheme next year?

Sera: Definitely just do it. It’s absolutely invaluable, not only because of the feel good factor, but also you are a student, times are tough, you’re skint. The fact that you feel like you can do something for the greater good and get paid, is really important, so you can hit both boxes.

I’ve found it really helpful when I’ve been applying for my masters to put that on there and I think it just lets future universities and employers know what kind of person you are.

Alice: I would say to be honest on your application form and try to be reflective about what it is that you like doing and how you can do that in PAL. Each mentor is different and you can have very different styles. Miriam (PAL Coordinator) is very good at understanding the kind of things that people do and helping specific departments. So if you tell her honest stuff, she’s helpful in putting people in the right place.

What will life after Goldsmiths look like for you?

Sera: I’ve been accepted to start a masters at Cambridge, a Masters of Philosophy in Sociology (the Sociology of Reproduction) which is really exciting. So that starts in October. (Before then) I have 6 weeks left until deadline day where I need to be ploughing out 20,000 words and I’ve got a summer of holidays and radio industry work, before I up sticks and head to Cambridge.  I’m in the process of wrangling my way into Radio Cambridge and if I could do Sunday breakfasts, producing there alongside the masters, that would be really great, so that when I finish my time at Cambridge, I’m then academically ready and have a CV of industry work so that I can then decide what my next steps are and with as many doors open as there could be.

Alice: I want to go out and help people and find something which involves the principles of PAL outside of university because I came straight from school and I went straight to uni, and I’ve just been in it and completely involved in everything, so I’m having a year out and I don’t want to be left on my own. What I love about PAL I want to try and take with me and that is literally my goal to try and help people in the same way that I do with PAL.

 

Watch Miriam Lowe talk about the PAL scheme and what it involves.

Find out how to become a PAL Leader. Applications are now open. The deadline to get your application in is 5 May.

Find out what PAL roles you can gain recognition for on your HEAR.

 

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