30 August 2021

Like puzzles? Match freshers to peer guides

Welcome Week will soon be upon us! And Welcome Week is nothing without peer guides welcoming our new cohort. And again it falls onto me to pair them up. And that sounds more trivial than it is! The freshers are expected to submit information such as their age, their nationality, their address, and whether they want communication in Welsh. And the peer guides indicate whether they are willing to be a peer guide to students in particular categories, such as under 18's (in which case they need a DBS check), mature students (rule of thumb is that mature starts at 21), local students, EU students, other international students, and Welsh speaking students. In addition to this, we nowadays have a foundation year; this is not taught on our campus, but the students do participate in the general welcome week. They do get put into groups of only foundation year students, as these will be the people they will hang out with during the academic year.

If you want to allocate the freshers to their peer guides, you have to make sure you keep and an eye on all the categories. You might have a 28-year-old foundation year student from Mexico. That means that you need to allocate an entire group of foundation year students to a peer guide who accepts both mature students and international students. Or you might have an 17-year-old from the EU. That requires a peer guide who has ticked two boxes and has a DBS check. And so on!

The complicating factor is that you can not download the data for GDPR reasons, and only sort the data in a few ways. You can sort them by age, and by nationality, and by degree, but for instance, you then get the nationalities in alphabetical order, and not grouped by UK, EU, and other. And if you sort them by degree you get them alphabetical as well, with the foundation year mixed up with the other degrees.

You can also filter the data. So if you want to only see the foundation year students, you can, but unfortunately that is more complicated than a mouse click. There are tens of degree programs on the list! And you have to manually search for the foundation year ones. You can filter on non-EU, but not on EU.

Altogether it is big puzzle! At least I can now do all of it at home, and I won't have to rely on Wi-Fi in a chalet park, as I used to have to do when we still had the residential fieldtrip the week before Welcome Week. Last year that wasn't an issue, of course; 2020 wasn't a year for residential fieldtrips. But last year was trying as it had much stricter Covid restrictions than we expect to have this year. The poor students couldn't be welcomed the way it normally happens! And I know that some students felt bit lost due to the lack of personal contact. I hope and expect that this year will be a lot better. 

And I get a relatively easy task; we only have some 200 students, but the School of Natural Sciences has about 500. The lady who has to sort that out is already looking tired! But it's well worth the effort. Welcome Week is a pivotal time. I still have friends from then! And I'm sure I am not the only one. So even though the process is tiresome, at least you know that when you are doing it, you are making a difference…

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