Mr Brett Hooker, General Manager of Westpac Bank Fiji awards Mr Shavnil Singh
A student doing a Graduate Certificate in Education at The University of the South Pacific (USP) was awarded the Westpac Buddy of the Year 2018 on 28 September at the Laucala Campus in Suva.
Mr Shavnil Singh, who is also doing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography, Language & Literature will soon travel to an Australian University in semester 1 2019, to get an international student experience and meet with relevant bodies in the university.
All expenses up to $5,000 are sponsored by Westpac. Last year’s Award recipient went on a learning visit to Macquarie University.
The Buddy Programme, coordinated by the Campus Life First Year Experience office, is a year-long volunteer programme where senior students mentor first year students, and assist them in the non-academic aspect of students’ first year. It is designed to help first year students in their non-academic life so they can adjust to University life, and as a result perform better academically.
An elated Mr Singh said he could not wait to travel abroad saying the experience will certainly broaden his knowledge and enable him to learn and share experiences.
Mr Pratish Raj, USP’s First Year Experience Coordinator said these types of awards boost student’s enthusiasm and motivates them to help other students play an active role in the community as a whole
On how these awards are won, Mr Raj explained that at the start of every year, during Orientation Week, the volunteer Buddies sign up about 15-20 first year students and become their ‘Buddy’ for the year.
These buddies he said, are well trained and have the necessary resources to help these first year students.
“This is particularly important in the Pacific, as we are known for being shy and being quiet, thus, the buddies help create a comforting peer support to these students. Throughout the year the buddies have specific tasks they complete, and provide reports at the end of the year detailing the activities they did with their first year students,” Mr Raj stated.
He added that the programme is quite competitive as there are benefits attached to it even though the buddies are volunteers.
The buddies have their own space on campus, with modern facilities and they also receive free data and talktime, which is sponsored by Vodafone Fiji.
He added that even though the buddies are volunteers, they take their tasks seriously and understand their important roles to help the first year students.
The Buddy Programme helps first year students:
Familiarise themselves with the campus facilities and other facilities off campus;
Indentify available University Support Services, Schools and Faculty offices, and provides information on University policies and procedures;
Demystify academic procedures and other study matters (i.e how to submit assignments; how to borrow books);
Engage in social activities to get to know and meet other students; and
Build their self-confidence in their ability to negotiate a new and challenging environment.
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