When writing any kind of project, report or essay, you’re always going to come across difficulties (and if you say you don’t, you’re lying to yourself). Keeping that in mind, I’d like to start this reflection off by saying that I am fully aware that my difficulties with this research project were mostly self inflicted. Personally, I believe two major factors contributed to my difficulties; I underestimated how difficult it would be to source primary (and secondary for that matter) data as well as the amount of time and effort that would need to be put in to completing this project.
Choosing such a specific topic as the role of Student Leaders in campus accommodation when we already had a limited number of people from whom we could source primary data was in no way a smart move. This choice made it incredibly difficult to get primary data, as I believe a lot of people saw the topic of my survey and research and were either confused by it or assumed it didn’t relate to them, so bypassed my survey. This meant that my primary research data was already very small, and with there not being a lot of primary research completed on my topic, a lot of what I was able to use for my opinion piece came from the personal experiences that I was previously aware of myself and my friends. If I was to do this project again I would NOT choose a topic remotely related to accommodation and instead choose something that most students have an opinion on, such as student wellbeing or services.
The second major factor in my difficulty completing this project was my personal motivation and time management. I am shocking at time management, and every time I approach a task such as this I tell myself I’m going to work on it over time and NOT leave it all to the last minute and every time I do the exact opposite of that. You would think after a year and a half of university I would have learnt my lesson but apparently not. Another factor in this was (ironically enough) my role as a Student Leader. This is the first semester I have been a Student Leader and while it has been incredibly rewarding, it has also been incredibly time consuming and exhausting and has definitely taken time away from university and assessments.
While I believe it is important to acknowledge difficulties and failures, I don’t believe there is any point dwelling on them and I will endeavour to take what I have learnt about research and myself as a researcher with me into the future as both a uni student and in the real world.
When approaching a research task with as broad a topic as ‘the student experience’, it can be easy to be absolutely confused, overwhelmed and a little bit hesitant. But the truth is that having a topic so broad is actually a blessing. As a researcher, it gives you the freedom to choose just about anything you’re interested in (ie. Social media, sport or food) and somehow twist it to fit into the topic of student experience.
Personally, I was definitely feeling confused,
overwhelmed and a LOT hesitant when first met with the task of researching the
student experience. However, after taking the time to think about it for a few
days, I have realised that there are so many aspects of the student experience
that we tend to take for granted or ignore that would make incredible research
topics to better understand the overall university student experience.
My initial ideas all tended to revolve
around the central idea of campus accommodation. As a second-year student who
has continued to live on campus for my second year when many students tend to find
their own place, the reasons behind why people choose to live on campus or not
is something that is not only highly relevant to me but also incredibly interesting.
But the super interesting thing about
researching student experience in relation to campus accommodation is the fact
that there are so many aspects of
student experience that are affected or impacted by the choice to live in campus
accommodation or not.
Academic performance, mental health and general wellbeing and economic stability are all aspects of the student experience that can be affected positively or negatively dependent on the student and their choice to live on campus or off. From experience, I have found that living in an environment surrounded entirely by other university students definitely has its benefits, in that we all (more or less) share a common goal and that is to attend university and (generally) do well. However, there are also disadvantages; being surrounded by 1000 other stressed uni students at exam time can drain your enthusiasm levels very quickly and enhance your procrastination skills, not the ideal mix when you have multiple exams in a very short time frame.
Now I’d like to throw another ingredient into the mixing bowl that is campus accommodation; student leaders. You know, the people you ring at 3am when you’ve locked yourself out of your bedroom or the ones who are (undeservedly) given the title of party pooper when they inevitably have to shut down your rowdy wednesday night pres? Most student leaders in UOW campus accommodation sites study at university full time, work an (almost) full time job as a student leader, most likely work casually to be able to support themselves financially as well as finding time to maintain their own personal wellbeing and social relationships. It’s a lot, there’s no denying that. So what I would like to know is how does taking on the role of student leader positively or negatively affect their overall student experience as a student of UOW, as well as the experience of the residents that they are entrusted to lead.
Finding previously done research on the comparison between experiences of Student leaders and ordinary residents, is incredibly difficult. So I decided to slightly alter my approach. The role of a student leader can be described as many things, however at its core, the role can be seen a mentor position. When focusing on this ‘mentor’ aspect, it becomes significantly easier to find supporting evidence. A study conducted by the Peer Mentoring at University of New South Wales (UNSW), Rita Baterna-Daluz in 2012 outlines the goals of peer mentoring at UNSW in particular, as well as the training process undertaken by the mentors to ensure they are able to adequately fulfil their roles. In defining the idea of ‘student partnership’, the study highlights the fact that “it is not only the university staff who have the sole input for student experience.” I found this point (and study) highly useful in planning the remainder of my research, as it more or less summarises the whole point that Student Leaders have a profound impact on a resident’s experience.
A recent article published in the Port Macquarie News talks about the rise that Charles Sturt University in Port Macquarie has experienced in terms of students choosing to live on campus in 2019. The article largely attributes this jump to the provision of services available, including Student Leaders. In contrast, the article also interviews the head Residence (student) Leader, who acknowledges the challenges that leading and managing so many residents can pose. In terms of my research, this article has shown that Student Leaders are a crucial part of residence life and can make a substantial difference to a student’s experience, while also facing challenges of their own.
I’m excited to really get started with this research, stay tuned!