3 ways peer support can decrease social isolation on university campuses
Almost 1 in 4 students are reported to feel lonely either most or all of the time. For many, university can feel like the time of their lives, but for others it can be a lonely experience. How can we use peer support to encourage more students to feel a sense of belonging within their university ?
Breaking the ice
For many students attending university, it can often be the first time they’ve lived alone, in an unfamiliar environment, and without any peers alongside them. This can be a hugely daunting experience. The idea of walking up to a stranger and making friends can seem impossible. As a result, many students can become isolated within their campus communities – simply because they’re afraid to reach out.
Peer mentoring breaks the ice by facilitating communication between new students and their peers in a way that doesn’t feel awkward, uncomfortable or forced. It’s simply what peer mentors are there to do. By matching students with mentors who they can relate to, it helps them to begin opening up communications with their peers. Crucially, it helps them understand that they’re not alone.
Been there and done that
A peer mentor is chosen to be a person that students can relate to. Someone who has similar interests to them, has studied the same course and has ultimately been in their shoes. For students who are feeling alienated, it can be a huge relief to realise that there are other people within the campus community just like them.
Even more importantly, it’s important for them to realise that they’re not the first person to feel alone and isolated. A conversation with a peer mentor is the difference between feeling like you’re the only one who doesn’t fit in, to understanding that everyone was new once, and that feeling lonely at first is often part of the process. A simple ‘I felt like that when I first started, it’s completely normal’ can make all the difference.
Peer mentors also act as great sign-posters to the other forms of support a university offers. They can direct students to the best forms of support based on their needs. If a student is feeling bored and lonely, their mentor can direct them to the extracurricular activities and societies available. Similarly, if a student expresses a mental health concern, a mentor can refer them on to the university’s wellbeing support.
By acting as a first point of contact, mentors ensure that new students will always know where to turn, and can funnel them to the right sources of support.
To read more about how we’re supporting UK University students through streamlined and integrated online mentoring, head over to our education product site Tyfy.co.