Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Being a Student Peer-Trainer at Cardiff Student Union's SDS

Nowadays it’s almost impossible to go through university without holding up some form of part-time work. The problem is that fitting a job around studying can be a pretty tricky business, in fact it may seem downright impossible at times. Do any of us really have the time to juggle shifts, literary reviews, lectures, some form of social life, 8 hours a night sleep and work experience? No, not really. But I guess there's always that exception to the rule and some students will appear to breeze through uni no matter how many commitments they take on. I am definitely not one of those students! Yet this year I managed to be able to hold down a part-time job, get great work experience and keep up with all my uni work. Bet you're dying to know my secret!

Well, I was pretty lucky this year and managed to secure a job working for Cardiff Student Union’s Skills Development Service (SDS). If you're undertaking degree study at Cardiff then you've probably heard of the SDS and are aware of the type of workshops they run on employability skills. By attending a variety of SDS sessions you can work towards acquiring Certificates of Professional Development (CPD) which make a great addition to your CV!  My role in the Skills Development Service is that of a Student Peer Trainer, which means I work alongside other members of the SDS team to regularly deliver these sessions to students.

You receive a full week of training to prepare you for the role!

The SDS workshops  taught by Student Peer Trainers fall under the three different Certificates they offer which are entitled Communication, Personal Effectiveness and Leadership. After the training week in September all the Student Peer Trainers were allocated to teaching the workshops from one of these three categories. I was put in the Communication group at first, however as the year went on and our skills, knowledge and confidence grew we were able to jump between session categories with ease depending on our availability and preference.

As a Language and Literature student I found I already had a good understanding of the theories and terminology explored in most of my allotted workshops which meant I could prepare my own notes easily and looked forward to changing things up by teaching a session on 'Coaching Skills' or 'Motivation' every now and again. My teaching of these sessions all counted towards collecting Certificates of Professional Development of my own, so I was keen to try and collect as many as I could and expand my knowledge on each topic.

Full session plans and activities are given for each module.

The time taken to prepare for session varied depending on how it was approached and which session was being taught. Although each session lasts 2 hours you don't necessarily have to take it all by yourself! Most of the time Student Peer Trainers take sessions in pairs, teaching an hour each. Speaking of which, have I mentioned how lovely all the other peer-trainers, and SDS staff are! If you regularly attend our sessions you probably already know, but it's truly heart-warming to be part of such a wonderfully kind and supportive team.

I would usually spend an hour preparing for any session, or sometimes more if it was the first time I'd taught it. I would make up my own notes, make sure I was familiar with all content and activities before working on adding in my own personal touches in the forms of witty examples or anecdotes. When it came to the day of any given session it was necessary to arrive half an hour before the published start time; the computer needs to be logged in to and loaded up, any worksheets need to be photocopied, tables and chairs may need to be arranged, lesson plans may need to be revised and you need to be looking cool, calm and collected by the time your first students turn up! Which means each 'shift' would work out as 2 and a half hours, time that flies by! The training week I received during Fresher’s week fully prepared me for my role, and gave me all the confidence I needed to dive straight in to teaching.

SDS Christmas Social

So what is it like being a Peer Trainer? In short, it’s great! Which is why I felt compelled to share my experiences in this post, I just hope it helps anybody considering applying for the academic year!
I’ve gained so much from this role in such a short amount of time, and thoroughly enjoyed it! Working as a Student Peer Trainer provided me with great regular work experience, the like of which I would have organised on a volunteer basis if not for getting this job.  While the flexibility of lesson-taking enabled me to work the shifts around my studies and other commitments, so I never felt that I had too much on my plate.

I can only speak for myself but as someone who attended these sessions in the first and second year, they really make a difference! I’ve gained so much confidence from my role and learnt a lot from the content of sessions I delivered. Before the Cardiff Award and Skills Development Service I hated presenting or speaking in public, I would seldom volunteer my ideas to seminars let alone be able to imagine teaching a class without potentially fainting at the idea! Social anxiety is something that I’ve always struggled with from a young age, but have managed to slowly master this during my time at university. This started through completion of the Cardiff Award and ended with spending this year teaching. Such experiences have changed my outlook on presenting from something I use to have nightmares about (if I managed to sleep at all) to something I really enjoy. I’m so grateful I got this opportunity, and am thankful for all I have gained from it.

Great training means you feel fully prepared for teaching your first session.

In all I would recommend this role to anyone looking for relevant work experience. It really doesn’t feel like work which is the best part! But this is a job recommended not for the hours or money, but for all the other things you gain, which is LOTS!

Remember you must be a Cardiff Student for the academic year 16-17, but it doesn't matter whether it's 1st, 2nd year or you're studying Postgraduate etc. The deadline for applications is the 20th March 2016, if you have any questions in the meantime feel free to reach out! Good luck! 

If you're not a Cardiff University student I would urge you to be on the lookout for similar jobs around your own university! 

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s some feedback from some of the Student Peer Trainer’s before me!

"In my first year of SDS, I thought of SDS as a job which I thoroughly enjoyed. In my second year, it became an interest that I forgot I got paid for. My advice to you as future peer trainers is to really put everything you can into the role. John and Kelly provide constant support and guidance throughout allowing you to truly improve as trainers and individuals: the more you invest in taking these opportunities, the more you get out of it." 

Imogen 2013-15 

“Just wanted to say a massive thank you for all you’ve done and how much time you’ve invested in us.  This has been one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had and I have learnt so much” 

Sally 2012-13 & 2014-15 

“It's been a pleasure working with you guys, you've taught me so much and I can't really believe how much my confidence has grown since joining the SDS.” 

Ellie 2013-2015 

“Thank you so much for everything that you both do in the SDS. Being a Student-peer trainer has allowed me to build so much confidence and learn so many valuable skills to use in the future. You’ve both always been incredibly helpful and supportive, and the SDS in a major asset to the SU” 

Jess D 2014-15 

“Just want to say thanks for all your hard work over the past 2 years. You’ve really helped me grow as a peer trainer and I’d like to thank you for the opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed it”

Emma 2013-15

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