Find Yourself a Pen Pal

Brought to you by Royal Holloway Volunteering, VP Wellbeing & Diversity Henn Warwick tells you all about the new Pen Pal Scheme and how you can meet and engage with like-minded students.

Going to university can be one of the most exciting times in anybody’s life. You have so much independence, moving away from home, making new friends, discovering a new place, gaining new world perspectives and the freedom of doing as you please sounds like a dream come true. But the reality is, university can be stressful, everything changes and with changes comes feelings of insecurity, vulnerability and loneliness. Throw in a global pandemic, and the student experience gets tipped upside down.

Being a student at Royal Holloway has changed dramatically over the last year. The ongoing Government guidelines placed restrictions on university face-to-face teaching, events and activities. This has meant the usual social interaction through societies or going to a club night at the SU has been seriously impacted, reducing opportunity for students to make friends and form social circles. It is unsurprising that prolonged periods of isolation have left many students feeling out of touch and lonely, in fact a survey conducted by Save the Student highlighted that two-thirds of students said their mental health has suffered due to COVID-19.

Feeling lonely at university is nothing to be ashamed of and I promise you, you are not alone. In an attempt to tackle these feelings of loneliness, I'm here to tell you why you should sign up to the Pen Pal Scheme ran by Student Leaders from the Royal Holloway Volunteering team. 

What is the Pen Pal scheme?

So, the Pen Pal Scheme is a project that aims to provide students with an informal platform to meet and engage with like-minded students. It has been set up in response to Covid-19, but the scheme will hopefully remain available for future students.

A big part of university life is about making and building connections, finding your own path and deciding who you want to join you on that path. This year, the opportunities to make friends and social have been severely impacted by Covid-19, by signing up to the Pen Pal Scheme students can expand their networks and equally their support streams. Finding supportive and caring friends and being a supportive and caring friend during such difficult times is a really great way to combat loneliness, fear or anxiety. Hopefully, this scheme allows for lifelong friends to be made.

What will I gain from signing up?

The Pen Pal Scheme has been set up for one sole purpose, to help students to meet new friends and start building their social networks. The scheme is very flexible, there is no strict amount of time you must spend communicating, it is all decided by you. It gives you the opportunity to be matched with a student with similar interests to you e.g. similar hobbies or music taste that can help drive the conversation along.

The scheme also enables students to develop interpersonal and communication skills. Covid-19 has meant that the only social interaction students have had is on MS Teams chat. Using the Pen Pal Scheme, students would be able to start speaking via message and then develop their communication however they decide. Students could set up video calls or speak over the phone.

Lastly, as this scheme is led by Royal Holloway Volunteering, any activity through the scheme can be used to gain community awards when reaching hour milestones which looks great on your CV!

How to get involved

Getting involved is really easy, students simply need to fill out a quick form that explains a little bit about them, their hobbies and interests! The Volunteering team will then match up like-minded pairs and provide you both with some fun talking points to get the conversation rolling.

I really urge students to sign up if they want a pen pal and the Volunteering team will do their best to let you meet your match! After signing up, it will take a few weeks for the matching process to be completed then students will be able to start chatting and making friends!

Sign up

Students are welcomed to also keep up to date with this project by following the Love Your Community Social Action Project on Instagram and Facebook.

A message from Dan Phillips, Volunteering Project Leader:

"Getting involved in the Pen Pal Scheme is really easy! Students can fill out our enrolment form before midday on Friday 19 March. There are a few questions which help us match you to someone with similar interests, getting to know your hobbies, interests and, in general, a little more about you. We will match you with a like-minded individual and provide you with a conversation starter booklet with some fun games and talking points to get the conversations rolling."

Key Project Leader Contacts

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a Project Leader before signing up please feel free to email the following students:

Dan Phillips - daniel.phillips.2020@live.rhul.ac.uk

Charlotte McCollum - charlotte.mccollum.2018@live.rhul.ac.uk

Alice West - alice.west.2017@live.rhul.ac.uk

Henna Patel - henna.patel.2018@live.rhul.ac.uk

Olivia Migliari - olivia.migliari.2018@live.rhul.ac.uk