ECM Faculty Focus
The UniLink program is a new peer support program, run by Student Services, aimed at supporting the transition of all commencing students (undergraduate and postgraduate) who are new to Perth. In many cases these are international students, although they may be regional and rural students or those relocating from interstate.
UniLink is focused on linking students before they arrive in Perth to start their study. The primary mode of communication is via email, although, we are currently developing ways of using existing and emerging technologies to enable linked students to engage with each other in a variety of ways.
Volunteers contact the new students or "friends" to provide general information about what it is like to live in Perth and be a student studying at UWA. Where necessary, the volunteers can refer them to any relevant services at the university for more assistance as required. Our trained student volunteers are unable to provide advice related to course enrolment or academic matters - nor are they able to advise on issues related to immigration, visas or working in Australia.
Students are matched with volunteers primarily by the Faculty they are studying in and we also match students by gender for religious or cultural reasons. One of the aims of UniLink is to help new students adapt culturally to their new environment and part of that adaptation is mixing with others from diverse backgrounds.
Once the new student arrives, where possible and with the agreement of both parties, the volunteer will meet them during the first few weeks and assist them in settling. Support is then layered by referring new students to existing programs such as UniMentor, UniSkills and LACE [Language and Cultural Exchange], strengthening their connection to the UWA community.
Since commencing its pilot this semester, the program has 160 volunteers who have assisted 200 commencing undergraduate and postgraduate students. A brochure for new students which outlines the program and how to register is also available and can be provided upon request.