Empathy, connection and a community approach to mental health make all the difference to a student’s education, says our Student Wellbeing Manager.
Say Chin Lim’s laughter is heart-warming. There’s a certain energy in her voice, and her sense of empathy and focus point to someone who’s contributed to Trinity College in thousands of visible and invisible ways since joining almost 20 years ago.
Manager of Student Wellbeing for the last six years, Say Chin focuses on making new entrants to the Pathways School feel welcome and supported when they arrive in Melbourne. ‘My goal is to give them guidance in their journey,’ she says.
Say Chin’s personal transition from Malaysia to Australia to study media arts at Deakin is something she remembers well, and now influences her empathetic approach to her job.
As she tried to navigate her way through new systems, suburbs and everyday tasks in Australia, Say Chin says she found support within the international community. One of her older friends became a mentor and was the one who told Say Chin about a job opening at Trinity College. (Needless to say, she applied, and got the job.)
It’s this ethos of connectedness and kindness, born out of shared experiences, that Say Chin seeks to replicate for incoming students. To help facilitate these valuable connections, her team runs a buddy program to link students with alumni. The fact that, each year, around 45 graduates volunteer their time to the Pathways School as part of this program to guide new students shows that a culture of compassion truly resonates within the Trinity community.
Far from home and navigating a new way of learning can be daunting, but Say Chin’s Student Wellbeing team is there to ensure students aren’t alone in their experiences.
‘A new country means freedom, but it also means responsibilities,’ she says. ‘Our purpose is to make sure they stay connected and healthy.’
These student responsibilities are academic and visa-related to start with, then involve getting to class, keeping safe and developing good study habits as the year progresses.
As well as looking out for students, parents are also taken into consideration as part of the wellbeing program. Say Chin encourages mums and dads to attend Orientation at Trinity and says she can instantly see how relieved they are to see their children well looked after. ‘Their shoulders go down and they smile!’ she chuckles.
After Orientation, students have access to a resource called My Wellbeing Planner, which helps them identify what wellbeing means to them, and how they can use it to enhance their time at the school. These are lessons that can be used throughout their life journey, just like their academic learning.
As well as supporting students through extensive resources and programs, Say Chin also emphasises the personal touch offered at Trinity.
‘We know our students by name when they are here, and know them by their stories when they’ve left,’ she says with a smile.
‘We have fifteen students to a class, so we are small. We know students’ preferred names and we check in if we’re worried, or if we notice any changes,’ says Say Chin.
When asked what her main wish for her students is, Say Chin pauses briefly. ‘Enjoy the whole student experience, not just the study. Look around you. Your wellbeing will be enhanced if you pay attention to all areas of the student experience.’
By Fernanda Fain-Binda