A Chat with UNE’s Student Support!

A Chat with UNE’s Student Support!

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By Cate McDowall Student Support has a range of services available to students of the University of New England to assist them with study and any non- academic issues that they are concerned about. Cate McDowall caught up with Annette Stevenson to find out more about the services within Student Support.

What is the role of Student Support?

Student Support comprises Counselling as well as Career Development. There is also the Student Support Team which has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and the UNE Insider’s Guide blog within the student portal. The Student Support Team can be the first port of call for students who are not sure about what they need or who can help. We also have the Student Special Needs Office that supports students with any kind of disability, temporary or ongoing, that might impact on their studies. Student Support also includes our Regional Study Centres located in over a dozen locations in NSW, and which provide students access to technology, and a place to study and meet other students.

Students can find out more about Student Support by navigating from the UNE home page to the current students page, then going to Support@UNE.

Who is the Counselling Team at Student Support?

There are two full time counsellors, myself and David Bruce. There is also a half- time counsellor, Catherine Passey, as well as Michael Clarke who is here one day through the week. We also currently have a Masters student, Deb Warren, on placement two days a week. We like to think we have an approachable counselling team. We provide a free, professional and confidential service, staffed by either fully qualified and registered psychologists or social workers.

What is your advice to students who may not be aware of this service available to them?

We always encourage students to engage in appropriate help-seeking for themselves. If in the first instance they can get their questions or concerns answered by their friends or immediate peers or family that’s fantastic. The University web pages, such as AskUNE, or our Student Support webpages, also have a lot of information/answers that they can access (such as our tip sheets, useful links, information on the Insider’s Guide blog), but if they are still at a loss as to what to do or how to resolve an issue, we certainly encourage them to come and speak to a counsellor or contact the Student Support Team. A lot of the students we see in counselling are not necessarily in a crisis. They just need to think out loud and get a different perspective on their situation. Students should not feel that an issue is too small to talk with us about – or too big for that matter. If it is an issue that can be resolved in 10 minutes, that’s fine. If it takes longer than that, that’s okay too. We will see the student as long as possible to address whatever their concern is, or will refer them to other relevant services when required. When I say see a student, we not only provide in person counselling, but also counselling via phone or skype – as most UNE students are off-campus.

What does counselling cover in terms of support for students?

We never really know what students are going to present with. Students will present with academic concerns but also personal concerns or both. We recognise that study doesn’t occur in a vacuum and so a lot of students will bring what is going on in their personal life here to then look at how they can manage that along with their studies. People see us about relationships, situational stresses like finances, moving house and possibly legal matters which we can then refer them elsewhere for. Some may have had past or recent trauma or may be managing depression or anxiety, exam anxiety, procrastination, lack of confidence, self-esteem issues, being away from home for the first time or living independently, getting used to being their own person, and trying to figure out who they are. So the whole transition into being an independent person who isn’t defined necessarily by their family can be challenging. At this time of year we will certainly have students return with some homesickness because they have had that opportunity to catch up with family and friends over the trimester break, so when they come back to uni they have to readjust. For others it’s the pressure of assignments which are generally all due around now, before the next final lot of assignments and then the need to revise for exams. So time management is obviously something that students come see us about. We see students who are either recent school leavers but also students who are managing part time jobs and children, and paying off mortgages. It’s the unique challenges that each student brings and how they can get that balance right in terms of how much time they can devote to study without it effecting family, work, etc.

I, as a counsellor, represent only one of the services within Student Support. As mentioned, we have quite a range of support services. More information about these and how to contact us can be found at http://www.une.edu.au/current-students/support/student-support I would also encourage students to check out the uni4Me webpage at http://www.uni4me.com.au/ plus the range of other student support services that can be found from the current-students UNE webpage. Let the mouse hover over the word “Support”, and a large list of services, such as Academic Skills, Oorala Aboriginal Centre, Chaplains and more will appear. I represent only one of many support services available to students, but we all work together for the same end – to help students thrive in their time at UNE.

Cate is in her final year at UNE studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications and enjoys reporting local new in the community.

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