Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Fostering connections and communities

We talk to Danielle Howarth about student-led Peer Support initiatives in our School.

For many people, going to university means leaving established learning networks and environments, from the home to the school classroom.

To help students adjust, the University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) partner together to provide a range of Peer Support initiatives.

PhD students Miguel Cesar and Angelos Theocharis have recently taken over from Danielle Howarth as School Senior Leader(s) of Peer Support in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), a role which involves co-ordinating volunteers on six supportive initiatives, in partnership with LLC staff.

To mark the end of Danielle’s time as School Senior Leader, we spoke to her about what Peer Support offers students, and what she enjoyed most about her role.

Photo of Danielle Howarth
Danielle Howarth

Forming networks and finding your place

“Peer Support involves both academic and social activities organised by students for other students, with the aim of fostering connections and communities. Because of that, everyone involved can benefit.”

“Attendees of academic sessions are offered insight from higher-year students that have completed the work before, and so are uniquely placed to help lower-year students figure out how to do the work on their own. These academic sessions are also a great place for attendees to interact with other people on their course. More social events can also help those new to university life to form networks and find their place.” 

“In fact, the volunteer Peer Support leaders also benefit in this way, as networks are built up across years, departments, and even Schools. The Students’ Association gives all volunteers training and organises exclusive workshops to bring together the schemes and improve Peer Support leader employability. Volunteering as a Peer Support leader gives students invaluable opportunities to improve their organisational, problem solving, and leadership skills.”

“In my experience, all those that participate in Peer Support in LLC, whether they attend or volunteer (or both!), find it to be an intensely rewarding and enjoyable experience.” 

Enthusiastic and dynamic volunteers

“The best part of my role was definitely the opportunity to interact with the Peer Support volunteer leaders. They are so enthusiastic and dynamic, and I loved being able to get to know them and help them achieve their goals to help others. It was also very rewarding when they got high attendance to their sessions or events, or received some particularly good feedback about them.”

“I am very proud of all six of the schemes in LLC, as all 42 of our volunteer leaders work very hard to help their fellow students. We have a record-breaking number of LitPALS (English Literature Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme) leaders this year, and they have been delivering academic help and advice to English and Scottish Literature first-years throughout the term, with more of a social focus than they have had previously.”

“Japanese Studies Peer Support has had a successful pub quiz, and Chinese Studies Peer Support has also been organising popular social events throughout the term, and have some great ideas for future events.”

“I am also very excited about the three new schemes that I have coordinated this year. French Peer Support, Spanish Peer Support, and Scandinavian Studies Peer Support have been working hard to establish themselves, and have also organised several successful social events to foster communities within their departments and the Department of European Languages and Cultures (DELC) more widely. I am happy that I have been able to evaluate and modify the way Peer Support is delivered in DELC, and I am sure that these schemes, and all the other ones in the LLC, will continue to grow in the future!”

Are you interested in Peer Support at LLC?

We have Peer Support initiatives in Chinese Studies, English Literature, French and Francophone Studies, Japanese Studies, Scandinavian Studies and Spanish. If you would like to volunteer to help with any of these schemes, contact Miguel Cesaror Angelos Theocharis.

Find out more about our six Peer Support initiatives

Related links

Visit the Students' Association Peer Support pages

Nominate in the Students’ Association Impact Awards (closes 28th February 2018)