Buddy up: the Cambridge freshers’ mentor schemes you should sign up to now
Online communities and ‘families’ to make Cambridge a home away from home
On Thursday, thousands of students had their places at Cambridge confirmed and, if you are one of them, the next month and a half is likely to be filled with trips to Ikea, debates with your parents about how many strings of fairy lights you really need and stacks of paperwork from your college on fire procedures, social distancing measures and reading lists.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone is a bit nervous before attending university: will I make friends? How will I cope with the workload? How do you do a load of laundry? Yet for students from marginalised backgrounds, who may never have expected to make it to Cambridge, or whose identities can present unique challenges, worries about fitting in may run deeper. However, regardless of your identity or background, there is plenty of support at Cambridge. Many students in the years above had the same queries and concerns before heading to Cambridge, and are keen to pass on advice to this year’s cohort.
To help with this, a number of buddy schemes have been set up by liberation groups within the University to pair freshers with older students, who will act as mentors. Each scheme varies slightly, but the typical role of the mentor is to act as a source of advice and answer your questions (be it academic, welfare or practical related) before arriving, and maybe meet up once in Cambridge.
The Cambridge Tab have collated a list of a number of these schemes which will be a great source of support for many Cambridge freshers. This is not an exhaustive list, and it’s likely that you will be able to join college-specific schemes too, so be sure to check out any information your College sends to you!
For Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students
Cambridge SU’s BME campaign has set up a mentorship scheme for incoming freshers which you can sign up to here. “In order to help tackle the substantial BME attainment gap at Cambridge University the Cambridge SU BME Campaign is launching an academic mentorship programme for incoming BME freshers next academic year”.
“You will be matched with an incoming BME fresher studying the same subject as you, who can turn to you for academic advice. For example, on recommended reading, notes and essay writing.
“The BME Campaign will set up short informal subject check-in group sessions at least once a term. These small subject sessions will allow for groups of mentees and mentors to meet and discuss their academic worries in more depth”. You can like their Facebook page here for the relevant sign-up information and updates.
In addition to this, the ‘Big Sibling’ scheme has been created for women and non-binary people of colour coming to Cambridge this October “as a source of guidance and support in their first year ” and you can sign up here.
Maya McFarlane, the women’s and non-binary officer of the Cambridge Student Union’s BME Campaign told the Tab: “Cambridge is such a white male-dominated space so I thought it would be a good way to have someone guide you through the social side of uni: e.g. feeling like you don’t fit in, knowing where to get your hair done and generally having an older sister/sibling for support”.
Freshers’ who identify as female or non-binary person of colour can also join FLY, “a space for welfare, solidarity and community”, with the hope that siblings can attend FLY events together – you can find more information on the FLY Facebook page here.
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For LGBT+ Identifying students
The Cambridge SU LGBT+ scheme has set up an LGBT+ family scheme for incoming freshers. The scheme “aims to offer students a friendly and safe environment to meet other members of the LGBT+ community through social events.”
Speaking to the Cambridge Tab, Elia Chitwa, the campaign’s welfare officer, said: “Starting university can be both terrifying and really exciting, especially as an LGBT+ person. Personally, coming to university helped me embrace who I am, partly due to the lovely LGBT+ people I’ve met in Cambridge. The family scheme helps to make starting uni less scary and more exciting by linking you up with people that can help you navigate Cambridge and its LGBT+ community.
“As a parent you will be assigned ‘children’, the idea being that you will accompany them to social events and advise them how to make the most of the LGBT+ scene in Cambridge.”
The scheme is still open for both incoming freshers and current students to sign up here. There is also both a public Facebook group and a private Facebook group (only members can see other members) that you can join. If you’re an LGBT+ person of colour, you can also join the FUSE page here.
If you're coming to Cambridge, the LGBT+ Campaign is here to support you!✨You can sign up as a child in our family…
For students from lower socio-economic backgrounds
Cambridge SU’s Class Act is a liberation campaign representing students who face any socio-economic, cultural or educational disadvantage, including but not limited to identifying as working class, state-comp educated or low-income as well as first generation, homeless, estranged or care-leaver students.
The Class Act president, Amy Bottomley, told the Cambridge Tab: “Cambridge can feel like a super daunting place, especially when you’re not from a “traditional” Cambridge background. Everyone deserves to feel welcome and supported in Cambridge, irrespective of background or personal experience. There is a place for people like us and that place is here. Sign up for a Class Act Buddy and join our Freshers’ group!”
The scheme works so that “you will be matched in groups of four with two current students and two incoming freshers” and there are currently two forms to sign up to: this one for current students and this one for incoming freshers. You can also join the Class Act fresher’s Facebook group here.
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For students with disabilities
The Cambridge SU Disabled Students’ Campaign has set up a buddy scheme for incoming freshers. Each group within the scheme “will consist of 3+ students with a mix of people who are new to Cambridge and who are more experienced so that we can all share knowledge.”
“You don’t need to have been involved in the Disabled students’ campaign before at all and don’t need to be formally diagnosed or ‘registered’ disabled.”
“You will be invited to DSC socials together and are free to decide what kind of commitment you want to make.”
Rensa Gaunt, the full-time Disabled Students’ Officer at Cambridge SU told the Cambridge Tab: “Our buddy scheme is returning for a second year, and we are hoping to get even more signups than last year (100!). It’s a great way for new and existing students to get involved in the Campaign’s social scene and is a low commitment way to meet other students with similar conditions and experiences. We would be glad to have you!”
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For international students
The International Student’s Campaign has a family scheme for incoming freshers. “ISC is building international families to provide additional support to freshers, as well as opportunities for fellow internationals to mingle with their family members! The idea is to create multinational and cross-college families with similar interests and possibly the same courses.”
This is the first year ISC are running a buddy scheme, and told the Tab Cambridge: “Having older students who have experienced the international struggles and have insight to share, is a great way to help the freshers feel welcome” and they “welcome all students who consider themselves international students!”
ISC are already running an international fresher’s summer challenge you can get involved in.”We’re teaming freshers together in groups of four and having them complete mini challenges to get to know each other and Cambridge. More information can be found on their Google form.
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Starting at university can be daunting, especially during a pandemic, but the University and current students hope to make the transition as smooth as possible. These schemes, groups and societies can be a key source of support for your first term and beyond.