Throughout my time studying for a PhD at the University of Manchester I have worked in the university’s halls of residence as a Residential Pastoral Advisor (or Halls Tutor as we used to be called).
The Pastoral Care teams in the halls are postgraduate students or members of university staff who live in the halls of residence and act as the point of contact for any domestic or personal issues affecting our residents and also take turns on an evening and weekend duty rota to respond to student calls. The payment for the job is free accommodation in the halls of residence, an attractive prospect to many a hard-up postgrad, especially those self-funding their way through self-inflicted masochism a PhD.
Whilst the reimbursement is considerable, the job itself is not an easy one and to succeed in the role you have to really be interested in helping students with a wide array of problems (small and large) and be able to proactively deal with what are often quite unexpected situations. Most importantly you need to like students, especially undergraduate students, which isn’t always easy when you are a good few years down the postgrad road of maturity and intellectual and cultural refinement (not me, obviously, but some postgrads reading this might be).
Most halls tutors will be able to regale you with their favourite stories of colourful cases they have dealt with, whether it be the time you broke up a party in a nearby room at 5am in your pants (because you’d just been woken up – but also to really shock them into silence), the student whose room and contents had been totally encased in silver foil, or the day you walked into the common room to find the floor covered in perfectly-laid turf, complete with rockery and shrubs (highly impressive, but also definitely against the rules).
Saying that, over the years, the people and incidents who really stick with you are the ones where someone was having a difficult time or some issues that were preventing them making the most of their halls life or studies and you are able to make a valuable intervention to sort out a problem, or get into contact with someone who could help and seeing the difference that can make for an individual.
One of my favourite halls days came a couple of weeks ago at the Students’ Union Societies Awards night, when our Residents’ Association at Whitworth Park (the Toblerones next to Big Hands) won the RA of the year award.
A thoroughly well-deserved prize after putting on an astounding number and range of events through the year, from a Christmas Ball to weekly quizzes, Lip Sync Battles and Kareoke Nights, trips across the country, and charity cake sales and fundraising evenings. It’s been a pleasure for me to be able to help out (in a very small way) with such a great bunch of people, each of whom has made really a huge effort to create a social, inclusive, and fun atmosphere this year.
So I’m looking forward to their events arranged for Whitfest after exam time has finished and hopefully not too many colourful calls over the party period!