Meet our Peer Supporters who provide confidential, friendly support for students

The welfare of students is of paramount importance at Green Templeton College and we’re proud to have a strong Peer Supporter system to provide informal and friendly support to anyone who needs assistance.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the college’s team of Peer Supporters – who are all current Green Templeton students – have remained available for impartial, confidential chat, providing an ear to listen for all members of the Green Templeton student community.

What are Peer Supporters?

‘Peer Supporter is a title to signal that we have training in how to listen effectively and how to keep confidentiality, but we are essentially like you – we study and live at Green Templeton,’ says Peer Supporter Ken Deng (DPhil Finance). ‘We are an additional option you have when you want fresh ears to have a chat.’

Peer Supporter Beril Boz (DPhil Law) adds: ‘We receive very intense training and are open-minded, empathetic and friendly people.’

Ken Deng

Ken Deng (DPhil Finance) says: ‘We are an additional option you have when you want fresh ears to have a chat.’

Each Peer Supporter undergoes 30 hours of training with the Oxford University Counselling Service before taking up their post, becoming a crucial part of the welfare resources within the college.

Peer Supporters are available to chat about anything that may be concerning students, whether it’s related to student and college life, or something else. They also draw on their own life experiences to assist in any way they can.

Jordan Gorenberg (DPhil Anthropology) knows how beneficial the support offered can be: he was inspired to become a Peer Supporter himself after reaching out to the team in his own time of need.

He explains: ‘My motivation for becoming a Peer Supporter stems from first-hand experience in receiving support from one. Last year, one of my family members passed away during the pandemic. Given the circumstances, I was unable to return home and the funeral had to be hosted virtually. It was an extremely difficult time for me but being able to open up to a Peer Supporter who would listen to me was helpful. They also referred me to resources to aid me during the grieving process.’

The impact of COVID-19

Jordan Gorenberg

Jordan Gorenberg (DPhil Anthropology) became a Peer Supporter after finding the service helpful during his own time of need.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone over the last year, altering student life and how we live and work. So it’s perhaps not surprising the Peer Supporters have seen more students reaching out for support than before.

‘There has been an increase in students wanting support, which is completely understandable,’ says Jordan.

‘What we’re experiencing is unlike anything before so it’s impossible to act as if things are normal. If anything, I think it’s normal to feel low during this time but it’s important to cultivate resilience and hold onto a sense of hope.’

It was the pandemic that inspired Ken to complete his Peer Supporter training. ‘This is my first year at GTC and I wanted to contribute to the welfare of the community during this unprecedented challenging time. We are both receivers and givers of support in each other’s life.’

Beril agrees: ‘With the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even more essential to have and to offer community support, and I think the Peer Supporter scheme is a brilliant opportunity for offering support.’

National lockdown regulations mean Peer Supporter services have moved primarily online for now. While this meant a reduction in face-to-face meetings, it also allowed the team to stay in contact with students who were not in Oxford, and the Peer Supporters are keen to emphasise that moving to a virtual support system has not impacted on their services.

‘The pandemic has generally rendered support to be offered primarily online,’ says Jordan. ‘I don’t necessarily view this as a bad thing. I volunteer at a local charity in Oxford and for the first six months all support was offered online. I grew to appreciate online support as simply a different way of engaging with others and that it was still possible to provide a sense of comfort and assurance despite it not being in-person.’

How to contact a Peer Supporter

The Peer Supporters can be contacted by emailing peersupport@gtc.ox.ac.uk to set up a meeting or you can get in touch on behalf of friends you are worried about.

‘I understand that it can be intimidating to reach out to a Peer Supporter – I’ve been there too,’ says Jordan. ‘We’re here to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for you to just share your thoughts. We’re a really friendly and personable bunch, always willing to lend a listening ear.’

Beril agrees: ‘If there is anybody unsure about whether to reach out or not, I would tell them to just give it a go! We’re your colleagues and we might even have gone through similar problems. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, fair enough, but I believe it can be a helpful experience. Sometimes even just being heard and acknowledged can make a difference.’

‘I think the most important support I can offer is to be a good and understanding listener and then, of course a guide,’ adds Beril. ‘A guide in the sense of informing people about the opportunities the university and the college offer for wellbeing purposes.’

Peer Supporter training

The Peer Supporter system began at the university in the 1990s after it was recognised that students would reach out to fellow students in times of need. Peer Supporters have training in a wide range of areas including active listening, crisis management and prevention, suicide prevention, and diversity awareness including stereotypes, assumptions, unconscious bias, intersectionality and privilege. They are also trained on signposting and referral pathways, so they can direct students towards additional welfare resources if needed. The training takes place under the guidance of a registered counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist.

Beril Boz

Beril Boz (DPhil Law) says: ‘We receive very intense training and are open-minded, empathetic and friendly people.’

‘The training was very helpful,’ says Beril. ‘It covered various topics especially about communication skills, implicit biases, and what is and what is not expected from Peer Supporters, as well as who we need to contact should we have concerns or hesitations.’

Some Peer Supporters continue on to receive further training in specialist areas. Peers of Colour undergo further training in themes around race, identity, racism, inclusivity, belonging and society. Rainbow Peers, such as Ken, undergo further training in supporting Oxford LGBTQ+ students and discuss themes around sexuality, sexual identity, prejudice, inclusivity, belonging and society.

‘For those considering applying to be a Peer Supporter, I definitely recommend it,’ says Jordan. ‘The training is incredibly useful for not only learning how to actively listen and provide support, but you learn more about yourself and how to more effectively articulate and discern your emotions.’

Ken agrees that Peer Supporter training has been beneficial in many ways. ‘Despite this year’s training being online because of the pandemic, the experiential rewards were not compromised. You get to know other caring people, learn together how to respect boundaries, and reflect on emotional challenges. The acquired skills will be beneficial in your own daily life too.’

About our Peer Supporters

View full list of Peer Supporters at Green Templeton College.

About Ken

“I’m a DPhil student in Finance at the Saïd Business School. I’m from the hometown of pandas and Sichuanese hot pot. Coming with that background is my keen interest in food and cooking. At home, I try decoding various dishes I have eaten when there is spare time.”

About Jordan

“I finished an MPhil in Medical Anthropology and have continued onto the DPhil in Anthropology. My research focuses on the use of online support groups for depression, seeking what motivates people to use them and how it impacts their lives. My primary hobbies are reading and playing the piano. I am the co-director for the GTC Big Band and organize the GTC Jazz Combo. I’ve been playing piano for about 18 years, both classical and jazz. In high school, I attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as part of their pre-college division. I’m excited to help put on musical events following the wake of the pandemic!”

About Beril

“I’m a DPhil in Law candidate and I’m interested in various topics at the intersection of technology and law!”

Find out more

Learn more about how to become a Peer Supporter. Our next round of training for Green Templeton College Peer Supporters will take place in Michaelmas. Information on how to apply will be circulated this summer.

Find out how to contact a Peer Supporter at Green Templeton College.

Created: 4 May 2021

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