[Aisha Kasmani | Contributing Writer]
We spoke with Faith Goligher from Hertfordshire Students’ Union Advice and Support Centre about her experiences and the services they provide.
UniVerse: Tell us about you and what you do for the Students’ Union?
Faith Goligher: Well, I have been here for just over two years and I am a student welfare advisor and as a service we provide free and confidential advice and support about basically anything. We like to consider ourselves as the frontline for students. So if they are unsure of anything, if they are worried, if they want to ask any questions OR sit down and have a cup of tea with someone that’s impartial, independent to the university and who would just listen. Just a one stop shop really, for student queries.
UV: Is there a large number of students that come in to use this service? What is the turn-up like?
FG: The numbers have just been increasing and increasing. It has been really good. This may have possibly happened because we have started campaigns and awareness events in the student population. We have lots of people coming in for tons of different things; no day is ever the same, incredibly varied.
UV: When students come by and speak to you about their problems, how do you feel about this?
FG: I just try my best to first of all, listen. Because sometimes people don’t necessarily want guidance, sometimes they just want someone that they can talk to, just someone who will just listen. It’s like “a problem shared is a problem halved”, just getting things off your chest.
UV: have you got anything you could share with us?
FG: If they’re feeling lonely for example, here’s a classic example, at the beginning of the year when students joined, they haven’t necessarily found the friendship they gel with, and we just talk to them about how they can get out there and meet new people. Obviously from the students’ union perspective, there’s lots of things they can get involved in to meet new people.
UV: We have heard about your advice clinics, could you tell us more about this?
FG: We do actually hold advice clinics for three afternoons a week at the de Havilland Campus. It’s 1:30 – 4:00pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. We have started doing campaigns at both College lane and DeHav trying to stretch what we do.
UV: What inspired you to do this?
FG: It’s really cliché, I have just always wanted to help people. It is wonderful meeting different people from around the world and its fantastic to just be there for someone when they need it most. Especially, if they come to you feeling down and they leave your office with a smile on their face, it makes me feel worth being here and making a difference.
UV: So you’re doing what you enjoy?
FG: I do! I love this job!
UV: Did you ever do this before or is this your first job as a Student Advisor?
FG: I did actually do volunteering, pretty much throughout my life, lots of peer mentoring, supporting and guidance.
UV: Did you go to this university?
FG: I did actually! I did psychology, which also kind of ties in to what I do now. You can actually see some of what you learn in action, which is very interesting.
UV: What are some of the major queries that people come with to you?
FG: The most common ones are about education; it could be anything, issues with their course or support and guidance. Educational queries are the most popular. Closely followed by housing queries, a lot of the times this is the first time students have lived away from home and it’s scary. No one teaches you how to understand a tenancy agreement or how to talk to your landlord and deal with disputes. This is the second biggest query.
UV: What would be the best way for students to contact you?
FG: There’s basically a few ways, you can drop in, give us a phone call or drop an email. There’s no best way, whatever is easiest for them. We are happy to advise students over the phone or email that are long distance, because we understand that sometimes if students are on placement, they still need advice and guidance. So we are happy to help them anytime, anywhere. We just want to make it really accessible to everyone.
For student advice and support: