I’m a huge fan of Northwestern’s peer advising system, which assigns groups of incoming freshman to upperclassmen mentors called Peer Advisers. The Peer Advisers (PA’s for short) lead the incoming freshman throughout all of the activities during our welcome week, but beyond that, they’re buoys that freshman can turn to — for support, advice, good news, anything. The PA’s volunteer for the position so they’re pretty invested in making sure NU freshman have a smooth first year, and they do a great job in taking the time to get to know the kids in their group. PA’s are basically pre-installed support systems students can lean on away from home. My PA played a huge part in my life at NU.
I became super close with one of my PA’s fairly early on my freshman year, partly because we clicked and partly because I wasn’t shy about asking questions. I had a lot to ask, things like which classes to take when and which student groups might be for me; it was nice to have someone right from the get-go who knew me and knew Northwestern. It was like having a personalized guide book. Beyond my Northwestern questions, I gained a close friend, and our relationship kind of aged with us. Instead of classes and student groups, by my junior year we were talking about how to navigate the journalism industry post-graduation, and also complaining about really terrible landlords. My PA helped define my Northwestern experience; she even inspired me to become an adviser myself!
Although not all students become close friends with their PA’s, the relationship has meaning. Whether it means “friend,” “mentor,” or “person who helped me through welcome week that I sometimes see on the street,” the term “my PA” holds the weight of being one of the first relationships you forge as a student here. I gained a lifelong friend and mentor through my PA, and that typifies the kind of community available here at NU. Even if it’s a faculty member or a professor acting as academic advisors, it’s easy to find meaningful support on campus.