Although I do believe in what PALS stands for, to me it is a personal pride.
PALS aka Peer Assisted Learning Scheme are sessions run by second and/or third year students to assist the first years. To become a PALS leader, I had to undergo a training session and had to run mock PALS sessions with my peers in order to understand how to run my own session when the time came. I was paired with a coursemate of mine who I had met in lecturers but never got to know. On sitting down with her for a few hours and planning the upcoming session, I was glad that I had made a new friend. The inspiration for our sessions came from each other as well as stealing ideals from our debrief sessions that we had after every PALS session, where all the leaders from the degree programme would discuss their respective sessions.
I chose to become a PALS leader because I wanted to be supportive and empathetic towards the first years and I even got paid to do so. When I was in my first year, I wish I could have known even quarter of the things I know now as it would have made my year a lot easier (not saying that my PALS leaders didn’t do a good job!) and that is something I try to implement to most, if not all my PALS sessions. These sessions are often misunderstood to be scheduled teaching sessions which isn’t the case as all! It is not a compulsory session, and is purely just to help and give advice to the new students.
I mean, when I was in my first year I didn’t attend all of my PALS sessions! PALS is not only for students who are struggling academically or for students who are apprehensive about approaching lecturers, it is for EVERYONE! I have found most of my PALS ‘chicklets’ (as I like to call them) email me post the sessions expressing their appreciation – some thanked us for providing them with extra information, some thanked us for giving advice about coursework and revision strategies, some thanked us for actually bringing in our good and not so good course works to achieve some sort of inspiration and some thanked us just for having a fun hour in between a busy day and for thebiscuits (everyone needs a little bit of bribing). The appreciation and just a general sense of giving and to see people grow from that is what I enjoyed most about being a PALS leader. Another bonus is the Gala Dinner we had during March where all the PALS leaders from different courses came together and had an amazing night.
In our PALS session we tried to tackle most things we found challenging in our first year; for example, speaking and presentation skills for which we had the entire session dedicated to build some confidence, writing a scientific poster and handling statistics (!) which switched on their analytical side, what to expect during the amazing field work we have on our course (France, Portugal, South Africa and Sweden) which excites them.
On a serious note, throughout our PALS journey we have tried to convey a few key messages –
- Appreciate where you are and make the best of it
- Everything that we do mention are clearly our personal opinions and things we wished we had known when we started University
- Everyone is in the same boat; we were in their shoes last year and that they will be in our shoes this year.