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Getting To Know… Sarah Carden, Student Engagement Assistant in the Residential Life Team

Introducing the Residential Life Team

Our Residential Team are in place to assist first year students living in University accommodation. They are trained to help with a variety of situations and are committed to making your experience in University accommodation as positive as possible. They are on hand to answer any questions you may have related to accommodation and work with other departments across the University to try and make the settling in process as smooth as it can be. As they perform such a vital role at the University, we thought we would chat to Sarah Carden, who works as a Student Engagement Assistant in the Residential Life Team to learn more about her role and the wider team.

What is a typical day at work for you?

“Every day can be different, sometimes we are in our offices responding to student emails, sometimes we are in with students who need advice, and at other times we are in University halls giving information to students about the University, issues within the local community or events which the Students’ Union may be running. We get all sorts of questions and queries, things as small as students needing someone to chat to or maintenance issues, right up to someone really struggling within their university accommodation. We’re here for all sorts of student problems and questions, and we usually get something different every day.”

What is your favourite part of your job?

“Honestly, I think I love it all! We get all types of students coming over to see us, the best bit though is usually when they realise it is all going to be okay. You see a sort of ‘click’ in people when they realise the University is here to support them and that there really are people here who are willing to help them! I also love it when they come back and tell you how they’ve been doing or when they’ve taken an interest in things we’ve talked about, like students who have got involved in volunteering or have engaged with the Study Skills team.”

What advice would give to a student moving in to university accommodation for the first time?

“I was actually asked that for a Guardian article last year – I believe my answers were come with an open mind as everyone is different, people may not have had the same upbringing or experiences you’ve had, and it’s good to keep that in mind when meeting new people. Oh and bring a clothes airer – they’re super handy and when you’re in a house with a couple of people. Radiator space can be sparse.”

What are Residential Advisors and Residential Coordinators?

“Our Residential Advisors are experienced students, often in their second or third year. They support our first year students who are living in University accommodation, helping them with sign posting, getting to grips with University life and giving some advice to those who are missing home. Our Residential Coordinators are either experienced staff members, or postgraduate students. They’re often experienced in dealing with student issues, and are there to encourage a positive living environment. The Coordinators are also there to support the Advisors if needed, because we want to make sure everyone in our team is fully supported. Coordinators and Advisors receive training at the beginning of the year which is always fun, and then they’ll be around campus and in halls when all the new first years arrive on ‘move-in Sunday’.”

Choose a movie title for the story of your life.

“The first film which comes to mind is ‘Clueless’ but that doesn’t give off a very good impression, does it? I’d love to say something clever and witty for this answer but all the films I watch are either cheesy 90’s classics or horror films, and I’m not sure my life is either of those things!”

If you could have a superpower, what would you choose?

“With my Psychology background I’d love to be able to read people’s minds – you can kind of guess with people’s body language but you never really know what someone else is thinking. Or something like time manipulation, that would definitely help with managing working while doing my Master's!”

What has been your proudest moment whilst working at the University?

“I’ve actually only been here a year, but in June I found out I’d been nominated for the University’s 1839 awards, I was nominated for the Special Recognition award. I thought that was really sweet that someone had taken the time to nominate me, it really hit home then that I was actually helping students.

Although I must admit, I actually attended my graduation ceremony after I’d become a member of staff, it was such an amazing environment being around the students I’d done my degree with, but also being with my colleagues too – that was a pretty special moment for me!”

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

“We’re doing our Residential Training soon – so all our Residential Coordinators and Advisors come back earlier than the new students and we get a three fun filled days of getting to know them, letting them get to know each other and training them up on everything University of Chester related. We also have a whole host of events and ‘Flat Chats’ planned this year, so we’ll be going into all the halls and getting to know the new students, which is always fun.”

Can you summarise your 'Chester story’?

“It has been super fun – I loved my student experience here at Chester and I don’t think I would have enjoyed university as much anywhere else. I never intended to go to university actually, so it’s kind of crazy that I now work for one! I’ve also applied to start my Master's in September here at Chester so my ‘Chester Story’ won’t be ending just yet...”


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