By Belinda Huang
Few experiences at Berklee foster leadership and create community like becoming a part of the peer advising team. Spearheaded by fearless leaders janicanne shane and Erik Dulick, the PA experience—from pre-semester training to meeting your advisees to supporting them throughout the semester—is nothing short of personal growth, challenging yourself, and having a lot of fun while you’re at it. At its core, the peer advising program is designed to help first semester students transition to Berklee and Boston life through creating community and providing personal resources and guidance.
In my case, I had done peer advising my third semester but did not have the time to do it again until now, my eighth semester. While I had a blast peer advising my sophomore year, the whole experience is so different for me now in my senior year. A lot has changed, and I have learned so much through the various trials and difficulties life presented me in the two-year gap between now and then. Making the decision to become a peer advisor again came from the realization that I do have a lot to give, especially now that I have paid my dues at Berklee the last three years. I wanted to offer anything that I had learned through both my mistakes and successes, and I wanted to create relationships that were meaningful.
That being said, I was ready to seize the challenge and give my all during my last year at Berklee. On August 24, a few days before move-in day and orientation week started for the incoming students, training began. We were trained intensely for three days straight from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. so we would have the necessary tools to be able to support our group of advisees. All the peer advisors woke up bright and early to arrive at David Friend Recital Hall promptly at 8:00 a.m. We were greeted with breakfast catered from Panera, and shortly after settling into our seats, we were off to the races.
An overarching goal of the trainings was learning how to create safe spaces and inclusive environments for our advisees. This was especially informative and challenging for me. I was provoked to reflect on my own beliefs and values when they came in contrast to some ideas presented at the trainings. It forced me to navigate reconciling my values with Berklee’s values while maintaining my moral integrity, and this was one of the main takeaways for me.
A big highlight of the training days included a trip to Thompson Island, which was just off the coast of Boston Harbor. We were split into smaller groups based on our senior peer advisors, and we spent the whole day on the island engaging in outdoor activities that developed teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills. Throughout the day, I learned about the different types of leadership—those who are vocal leaders, those who lead by being good listeners, those who lead by example, amongst other types of leadership. Through this, I realized that I’m not a very vocal leader, but I’m a great listener and leader by example. I also realized that I engage with others far better in one-on-one or small group settings, so I was challenged to learn to engage better in larger group settings.
By the end of the three days, we had become one big family, and that in and of itself was worth all the long days we spent together. That was only the beginning of the peer advising journey, and now the trainings are paying off as I lead group events and have one-on-one meetings with my advisees. I would highly recommend considering peer advising to current students because you are given so much more than you give away. You will be challenged and you will grow, but you will also make memories and have an amazing time along the way.
Belinda Huang is a Taiwanese-American singer/songwriter, music producer, and audio engineer from Los Angeles. Her vision is to create and release a fresh and authentic sound that brings about healing, personal freedom and hope through its messages of life and truth. She is currently in her last year at Berklee College of Music, majoring in Music Production & Engineering.