With Thrive Week on campus this week, there has been an emphasis on developing self-care habits and learning about the resources available to students. Although there are several counselling services, resources, and seminars available, students may not be aware of them all. In a quest to find out more about one of these services, I reached out to two students from UW’s Mentor Assistance through Education and Support also known as MATES, a one-on-one confidential student support service. I met with Jordann Hunsperger; a 4b Psychology and Biology student, and Sanjay Ryan; a 4b Psychology and Social Development Studies student, who are both coordinators with UW MATES. Lead by University of Waterloo's Federation of students and supervised by clinical psychologists, MATES are trained in assisting students in a number of areas including academic support, mental health challenges, and challenges adjusting to university life or to a new culture.
UW’s MATES are a great support system for students who may need or guidance or who have questions about campus resources. Sanjay went further to explain “A lot of students don’t know where to go or what resource is a good fit for them. By laying out a few options for them on what to do next, you get to see how it does tangibly make a difference in someone’s life.”
When you first come to campus, it may be difficult to navigate through what is available to you and when to request these services. However, taking the time to explore what the campus has made accessible to you can be beneficial if you need one of these services in the future.
Both Jordann and Sanjay recommended that students try to understand what they can do on campus. “During orientation, you’re kind of bombarded with a lot of information and you sort of brush it off,” Sanjay explained. “But taking some time to evaluate what is available to you, so that should things get harder in the term, you will know what look out for.”
Along with getting in touch with the resources on campus, MATES continues to emphasize the importance of self-care. Jordann and Sanjay encouraged students to take the time to unwind from their busy days and have a minute to themselves. Whether it be watching Netflix in bed alone or connecting with friends. “You just need to seek that support or self-care at the first sense that you need it," said Jordann. "Don’t let things pile up if you are really struggling.”
Getting involved on campus and being knowledgeable about these services can also change your perspective. For Jordann, she highlighted how taking the first step to volunteer has changed her student experience. “I was very much uninvolved on campus before I joined," Jordann explained. "I realized I needed more of an enriching experience and I wanted one that would have a long-term impact. From being a peer support volunteer, to an executive in the spring term, to a coordinator now - I’ve really drastically multiplied the connections I’ve had on campus."
Students from any faculty are encouraged to sign up for UW MATES. “I think if you are looking to go into psychology or a social worker field, this would be a great experience,” said Sanjay. “But beyond this, it is a great chance to get to know other people and learn practical skills you can use in your everyday life. Understanding how to be a better listener or more empathetic toward someone are some good life skills to pick up.”
Students who are interested in becoming a MATE should check out the UW MATES Facebook page. Students who are looking for support and guidance can email firstname.lastname@example.org, drop-in to the MATES office at Needles Hall on the second floor of Counselling Services, or visit the UW MATES website and fill out a form to make an appointment.