How peer mentoring has helped me and how I give back

Entering into any university program can be a daunting change for any student, but with optometry being such an intense and fully-loaded program, many students can find it overwhelming.

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I was lucky enough to have the help of a peer mentor to guide me along the path of first year.  When the offer of being a peer mentor came to me, I immediately jumped on the opportunity, as I knew I wanted the new incoming students to feel as welcome as I did. 

This year, I was assigned with four mentees, with all of them being international students.  Being an international student myself, I felt it best that I would be able to help them with moving to a new country, adapting to the way of life in the UK, as well as coping with the vigorous class schedule.  We were given their names and emails over the summer break so that we would be able to start communicating with them before the new term began. I was able to help them with their transition to a new city and new school, as well as giving them tips and ideas on how to be independent, living away from home and studying skills.  They were all eager to begin their time here at Aston.  Once everyone had arrived in the UK, we were able to finally meet in person and we continue to stay in touch as the year progresses. 

The experience of being a peer mentor has given me the opportunity to help my fellow classmates, as well as improving my problem-solving, critical-thinking and communication skills.  I would highly recommend to everyone to be a peer mentor!

Some tips to any new incoming optometry student:

1. Do not panic! Everyone before you has been in the exact same position and you will definitely be able to get through it.

2. Do not be afraid of asking questions, whether it is to a fellow classmate, upper year students or even the professors.  Everyone understands the position you are in and are always there to help. 

3. If you are an international student, make sure your electronics can accept the 220-240 voltage in the UK or else you might need an adaptor or transformer. Also, have an adequate supply of pound sterling cash on hand for your first week before you can open a bank account.

4. Get into a good study schedule right from the beginning of term, as there is a lot of material to cover. Last minute cramming the night before an exam (especially once you get into the upper years) will definitely have a negative impact on your grades.

5. Finally, RELAX and enjoy your time, study hard, but also take the time to go out with friends and participate in extra-curricular activities and sports.  Sports are an excellent way to destress from the rigors of university life. Relish the time at university, because before you know it you’ll be a pre-reg and then a fully qualified optometrist!

Jonathan Tsang
Aston University