A final year Education student, Mr. Niraj Singh of The University of the South Pacific
(USP) was overwhelmed after returning from attending a week long orientation programme at Australia’s Macquarie University last week. He attended the weeklong event after scooping the Westpac Buddy of the Year award in 2019.
The Buddy Programme is an initiative organised by USP aimed at smoothing the transition of first year students by linking them with senior students of the university. This linking process takes place during the University’s orientation week and helps first year students better adjust to the new learning environment.
Mr. Singh said that he was grateful to be given the opportunity to visit an international university and witness how they carried out their orientation week. The trip was even more special for the Rakiraki lad as it was his first time travelling abroad.
The learning visit was fully funded by Westpac Fiji, who has been supporting the programme for the past 3 years. All expenses up to $5,000 are sponsored by Westpac.
“The entire trip was just amazing; to get a tour of Macquarie University and witness their week long orientation programme was an experience I will never forget. I look forward to sharing all the information I learnt from the trip to the rest of the buddies,” said Mr. Singh
While there, Mr. Singh said that the trip enabled him to enhance his knowledge about the University’s programmes which will guide him and his peers for further studies abroad and enhance the learning of students here.
“During my trip I was able to compare the academic and non-academic standards of USP and Macquarie University, and I must say we are progressing well to be on par with them. However, there is always room for improvement”.
He mentioned that the trip has also inspired him to work hard and also encouraged his friends to work hard. He further stated that the trip helped realise the importance of non-academic assistance to first year students.
“Overall the entire trip was a fun filled and a great learning experience for me, I will forever cherish the moments I spent at Macquarie University. I urge current and future buddies to do all you can to make the first year students feel welcome to the university and be creative in the way you showcase the different facilities available in the university,” said Mr. Singh.
He is currently completing his final courses and will be graduating in September with a Bachelor of Science with a Graduate Certificate in Education.
Mr. Singh gratefully acknowledged USP and Westpac for such and amazing opportunity and hoped that he will inspire others to take similar initiatives.
Mr Pratish Raj, First Year Experience Coordinator said these sort 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 talk time, 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 years.
The Buddy Programme helps first year students:
• Familiarise themselves with the campus facilities and other facilities off campus;
• Identify 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.