University isn’t always easy and, sometimes, neither is asking for help. That’s where U:PASS comes in. Nursing graduate Simin Peng and current nursing student Thi Ngoc Minh Nguyen reveal how they discovered the peer-assisted study program and how it helped turn their grades around.
I’m from China and was an international student at UTS until I graduated this year. English is my second language, so in my first year of university I experienced some difficulty in communicating with English.
Although I already had a degree in China, nursing was new to me. Luckily, U:PASS leaders came to my first Pathophysiology and Pharmacology 1 (PP1) lecture – it’s one of the most challenging.
So I went to U:PASS and I found the more I attended, the more I learned and benefitted. My final result in PP1 was not just a pass, but a distinction! From then on I participated in every U:PASS session during my first and second years.
U:PASS not only helped me to just survive university, but to build up my confidence to speak up and make friends. In U:PASS, I felt safe to make mistakes and ask questions. And it’s not just for international students, it’s for any student studying subjects that are difficult or have a high failure rate.
U:PASS subjects are run by students who have already received very high marks in that subject, so it’s a safe environment to establish student interest and to work together as a team to solve problems, answer questions and find solutions. Sometimes in your tutorials or lectures, the teachers are so knowledgeable that they can think a question is very easy, but for me they were very hard.
The U:PASS leaders are very nice and also very smart which inspired me to want to become one a leader as well.
As a U:PASS leader, our role is very different from a teacher or a tutor because we aren’t professionals. We don’t know everything, but what we do know is the experiences that current students are having and what it’s like to study a particular subject. We guide the students, but are not allowed to provide the answers, because solving problems for themselves is the best way to learn. And by doing it alongside a U:PASS leader who has been through the same struggles, they can avoid those ‘rookie errors’ too.
It’s been an amazing experience to see the progress of students, as well as myself, from the first beginnings of worrying about passing the subject, to the end of semester when they’ve gained confidence and great marks! One of the students I worked very closely with is Thi Ngoc Minh Nguyen. During her first U:PASS session, Minh told me the work was so hard and she didn’t feel like she could do it. But she did. And now she’s a wonderful U:PASS leader as well.
Thi Ngoc Minh Nguyen
In my first year, I attended two U:PASS classes a week, and found it really helped to break down the topics we were covering in our lectures and tutorials. It was sort of a basic version of what we did in class. And often I found when I was studying for my exams I would refer to that work first as it’d help me understand the rest.
The classes I attended had about seven people in them, and were pretty informal, which helped me feel comfortable enough to ask questions. Simin was a great U:PASS leader and I could tell she prepped well before coming.
Simin was someone you could tell was very proactive and involved in activities and events at UTS, and she was an international student as well so she was someone I felt I could ask about how to get involved at UTS and socialise. I actually met my best friend at U:PASS in my first year, but she ended up going to New Zealand. Still I did manage to make friends during my time in the classes. The experiences I had there really helped me feel supported at UTS.
And U:PASS definitely helped my marks, too! The classes are run by people who are really serious about study and their degree and I think that’s especially important for a lot of international students.
This is my first year as a U:PASS leader and I have been enjoying my time here. But my first class actually didn’t go well. I felt I did really badly so I reached out to Simin for advice. I messaged her on Facebook about how I was feeling, and she encouraged me to reflect on what I had done. I know it sounds simple but she really did help me a lot to feel more comfortable and become much better at my role.
My approach is slightly different to the classes I experienced myself as a student as I incorporate a lot more group involvement. After all, discussion is where some of the best revision happens.