My name is Branca Lopes, and I’m a student of Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences of the University of Porto since 2018. I’m also a volunteer at high schools and I work at a football club twice a week. I am about to start my 3rd year at my Faculty and I couldn’t be happier, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared at first.
I didn’t know what was it like being at the University because I was the first one in my family having this experience. When I went to enroll to my University I was alone, and saw everyone in the queue behind me with their families. That made me think that I probably shouldn’t have told my mom the day before “No, mom, I’m a grown up! Do you really think that I still need your company? I can do it by myself!”.
Well but in reality I wasn’t all by myself. I had a mentor that helped me during this process. She was amazing and made me feel comfortable. After that she showed me the places I should be familiar with, in order not to get lost. My mentor also talked about the course which made me feel really excited about starting classes. It also helped me reducing my anxiety and doubts which were pretty normal for someone who isn’t familiarized with this reality.
Nowadays I’m also a mentor and I took part in #IBelong Community Mentoring Programme. It’s really gratifying seeing that we can help the new students with activities and meetings, or just talking to them and checking if they are fine throughout the year. Sometimes we have lunch all together – several mentors with their mentees, and then we (mentors) help students who don’t know each other to engage in conversation. It is so funny!
Being a new student, especially if you are the first generation student, can be hard but #IBelong is a project that helps you so much to feel like belonging to an academia, and not focus only on the studies. I think that we need such opportunity, to help us relax and also to improve some skills such as communication, which is so important for everything in our daily routines. To sum up, I think that all students should have #IBelong type of experience, because it will enrich them as a person and help them feel more comfortable about this new huge experience that is University.