Programme helps students feel part of campus life

The Locals Programme co-ordinator Maya Turner is busy preparing activities for 2018’s first-year...
The Locals Programme co-ordinator Maya Turner is busy preparing activities for 2018’s first-year students at the University of Otago. Photo: Gregor Richardson
For nearly a quarter of the University of Otago’s first-year students, it feels like they are watching life on campus rather than participating in it.

Maya Turner, co-ordinator of The Locals Programme, is helping to change that.

She said 20%-25% of first-year students were Dunedin residents who did not live in a college of residence.

Instead, they lived in a student flat, boarded or stayed at home with their parents.Miss Turner (22) said she was one of those students in her first year.

"Life was pretty disjointed. We didn’t really feel like we had a place on campus like those who were staying in colleges.

"It was hard to make friends that weren’t the ones we had known for our whole lives already."

So she joined The Locals Programme in 2013.

"The programme expanded our friend-groups and gave us a sense of belonging and identity at the university," Miss Turner said.

"It stopped us from feeling like we were living out on the fringes of the university community."

She said it was also important because research showed people who felt they belonged to the institution did better with their studies.

Miss Turner has since gone on to become the programme’s co-ordinator and is helping local first-year  students by sharing her understanding of first-year life and getting them more involved in campus life.

The Locals Programme director Dr Stephen Scott said the initiative started in 2011 as part of Orientation Week. It had evolved into a full-year programme run by students that offered academic support, social events and volunteering opportunities to provide a sense of belonging to those who historically had not felt included in the Otago campus life, Dr Scott said.

He said The Locals Programme would begin the year with Campus Watch staff  knocking on flat doors on campus to provide information about the programme to any first-year students.

There would also be a pre-orientation welcome for local students on February 16, he said.

"This will be an opportunity for students to learn about support and opportunities available to them."

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