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LSE’s initiatives to bridge the gap between students on and off campus

by Dana Louise Satoc

LSE’s Off Campus Support Scheme (OCSS), instituted by the School to provide additional assistance to students living off-campus, is confirmed to be running for another year. 

The scheme’s mentees met their mentors at the beginning of Welcome Week either over Zoom or in-person to answer preliminary questions. There was also a welcome reception on October 7.

The OCSS came as a response from the School in recognition that “students living off-campus experience a different set of challenges to those living in LSE halls of residence”. However, the ability of this scheme to practically meet its objective of supporting off-campus students has been put to question by some of its previous mentees.

According to a previous OCSS mentee, the success of the initiatives put in place to help off-campus students are contingent on the commitment of the individual mentors. This student in particular felt the scheme was unsuccessful in helping her manage the overwhelming feeling of moving to a new city in the midst of a global pandemic.

The student said, “[The scheme] was nothing that I’d expected and didn’t really help to manage the overwhelming feeling of moving to a new city in the middle of a pandemic… I think this is one of those things that depends a lot on who’s running it – I’m sure other students had more positive experiences based on who their mentors were.” The student – now a mentor for this year’s OCSS cohort – went on to say that “this is one of the reasons I decided to become a mentor this year, I wanted to make sure I could help first years living off-campus and regularly check in on them because I know how anxiety-inducing it is”.

Students living off-campus during their studies face the additional barrier of being unable to easily socialise with fellow students as they are unable to make new friends through their accommodation.

One LLB student said, “I don’t feel like I’m missing out, just that I have to put in a little more effort and put myself out there a little more to make friends and interact with others”.

With the school continuing to deliver lectures online, off-campus students may find themselves at an even greater disadvantage to meet and interact with their peers. 

According to another LLB student, “Online lectures are like a double edged sword. On one hand, [pre-recorded lectures] give you more flexibility which allows you to choose when and how you watch lectures. At the same time, that takes away the chance to get coffee with a course mate before or after lectures, or even make friends by sitting next to new people during the lecture. However, you can still make your studies a bit less lonely and more communal – it just requires a lot more intentional action.”

The scheme’s webpage goes on to explain that it is a platform to “connect new first year undergraduate and Study Abroad students who are living off campus with an experienced undergraduate student mentor” to create an effective support system.

One student starting the scheme this year stated, “Although I haven’t been a part of [the scheme] for that long – only 2 weeks – I’ve been in contact with my mentor and I am scheduled to meet other mentees which should help us get to know more people and form friendships.”

*Some quotes have been shortened for the article.

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