Melisa Sahan is an MSci Psychology student. She shares her experience volunteering as a student mentor with IntoUniversity, an organisation that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to attain either a university place or another chose aspiration.
Tell us a little about your volunteering.
I am currently a student mentor for a charity known as IntoUniversity, which provides one-to-one support for young people from underprivileged backgrounds. I have remote or face-to-face meetings with a pupil in year 10 every two weeks, where I provide guidance in their academic, social and future goals. The aim of mentoring is to support the pupil's academic and career aspirations.
How did you find out about the role?
I found out about IntoUniversity through the Volunteering Service in 2019. I signed up to a short-term summer mentoring programme. Since January 2021, I have been involved with more regular volunteering with IntoUniversity. I have recently graduated, but I have continued to volunteer with IntoUniversity.
What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?
I have provided a good level of academic support to my mentee, particularly in Maths. Leading up to their mock exams, my mentee said that having the sessions was comforting as it allowed them to focus. I have given small tips to help enhance their confidence during exams, which had previously helped me during GCSEs. My mentee appreciates that I have taken time to help her, and has even said that I explain things easier than her Maths teacher. It is very rewarding to have an impact like this on a student.
Why did you want to become a volunteer?
I was motivated to be a mentor because I realised how much of my experience of the British education system could help a young person from an underprivileged background. I initially applied because I wanted experience working with young people, as this relates to my future aspirations in educational or clinical psychology. I have continued volunteering because of the positive reaction of my mentee and the staff at IntoUniversity. I would like to continue supporting my mentee next year, as I believe they would particularly benefit from the academic support I can provide for their GCSEs.
What impact has volunteering had on you?
Studying during the pandemic has been isolating at times, and mentoring was a great way to connect with new people. Volunteering has been very enjoyable and has motivated me to continue working with young people. I am more confident in my ability to effectively communicate with children and adolescents in an academic context. I would definitely see myself working in schools or children and adolescent mental health settings.
What’s the best thing about volunteering?
The best thing about volunteering at IntoUniversity was that it has a real-world and direct impact on other people. As I aspire to become a psychologist, I have realised that it is not enough to be book smart. I think it is important to keep up-to-date with the experiences of younger people, so that I am able to communicate efficiently with them. A great thing about mentoring is that I am able to enhance my own skills as well as supporting my mentee.
And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges?
I have started to mentor more regularly during my fourth year which was quite academically challenging. I had to balance writing up my research project and other courses which took up a lot of time. However, I was able to fit it an hour of volunteering every fortnight as the sessions were mostly remote. IntoUniversity was flexible about arranging meetings during times I had deadlines, so I was still able to successfully complete my degree. I have continued to volunteer after completing my degree, as I am more available.
Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering.
A memorable moment during volunteering was when my mentee told me about wanting to study Psychology at A-Levels and then University. I feel that I have accomplished a goal in motivating my mentee to study at university, as they are from an under-represented background in education. I was delighted to hear that they wanted to study Psychology, as I had given a lot of information about many other subjects, including STEM subjects.
Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why?
I would recommend volunteering because it has been a great addition to my list of experiences. It doesn't take a lot of time to make good connections with people who need support, and it is ultimately rewarding for the volunteer as they can make a real change to someone's life.