IntoUniversity Volunteers' Week: Eve's story

"Mentoring has possibly been one of the most enriching aspects of my time at university"

Eve Jaya-Wickrema is a student at the University of Oxford and has been volunteering as a mentor at our Oxford South-East centre since October 2015.
We asked Eve about how she became involved with
IntoUniversity - and what she's gained from her time as a volunteer.  

I really liked that IntoUniversity was a separate institution from the University, to give me a chance to get out of the Oxford ‘bubble’. As a nation-wide charity, I also felt that my volunteering would be structured and reliable as I have previously done ‘casual’ volunteering which is undoubtedly as worthwhile but not as well-organised.

Despite the fact that IntoUniversity is a national charity, during the training session I found the IU staff to be so lovely and welcoming. They were really attuned to what I wanted to get out of the programme and eager to match me with someone I was similar to – they were very very successful in this!

The mentoring programme was also really appealing, as I felt it would give me a chance to really get to know one person and help on more than just an academic front. The ‘social’ and ‘future’ aspects of mentoring are crucial to helping my mentee become a more rounded and secure person, and have indeed been some of our most invaluable and enjoyable sessions.

My mentee is 17 and in her first year of Sixth Form, but when we began our sessions she was in her final year of GCSEs. Every session is either an ‘academic’, ‘future’ or ‘social’ meeting. In ‘academic’ meetings I help her with her schoolwork or with revision. In 'future' sessions, we have focused on her ‘next step’ and how to get there – last year that next step was Sixth Form and this year it has been university. For example, at the moment we are practising the UKCAT tests and looking at ways for her to get medical work experience. 

Social sessions are often our favourite as a chance to chat and escape from our work. In the past, we have played games, baked or done personality tests. If we haven’t seen each other in a while, we will just chat about our lives. The mentoring sessions are all working towards a corresponding ‘academic’, ‘social’ and ‘future’ SMART target, which helps to ensure that we are working towards a longer term aim and that we have some structure. I have found every session to be rewarding, and I usually leave happier than I arrived! 

At times, I have been able to help my mentee with issues she is facing, along with the IntoUniversity staff. Recently, we had an off-site meeting which we both very much enjoyed. 

Mentoring has possibly been one of the most enriching aspects of my time at university and I genuinely look forward to it every week. I will be very sad to leave at the end of this year! 

From a more professional standpoint, volunteering has helped me develop transferable skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, organisation and time management. However, these are not the biggest differences it has made to my life: IntoUniversity has given me a chance to get to know new people, to (hopefully) make a difference to someone’s life and has also provided a welcome escape from my university work. 

I can’t describe exactly how, but I would say that being a mentor has made me a happier, more rounded person and I feel very lucky to have met my mentee.

By Eve Jaya-Wickrema

If you've been inspired by Eve's story and you'd like to find out more about mentoring a young person, visit our website. 

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