Night shifts are something which I remember being highly apprehensive about when I first did Welcome Team; the idea of standing outside nightclubs in the evening and deal with drunken incidents did not scream out to me. But night shifts have been my favourite shifts I have done during my 3 years with Welcome Team. If you watch the video on the Welcome Team 2019 page on the Guild website, you’ll see plenty of other former volunteers explaining how night shifts surprised them. This year we saw volunteers sign up for night shift after night shift having given one a go and enjoyed it so much they wanted to come back and do it again. Many of these volunteers won awards for their effort out in the evenings and this shows just how infectious they can be.
Night shifts are so much more than standing out in the streets in the evenings and watching people being ill; it is the chance to make a genuine difference to new students who are at their most vulnerable in Exeter. Some of the best experiences come from doing ‘walk homes’, where we walk back with students to their accommodation if they are unsure as to how to get back. Some of the stories we have been told on those walks are truly phenomenal, from someone describing their cat pictures to someone revealing their family ran a cheese factory. Between walk backs, we do occasionally have to help the odd student who has had a tad too much to drink. One that stays in my mind was the student outside a club who bent over and expelled his dinner over the pavement. In a staggering moment of clarity, he looked up at me and said “that curry took me ages to make” before continuing to expel his dinner further. There are so many little anecdotes and stories that we always end up laughing about together when we look back and remember the shifts.
The nights may also seem long but the support we get from the community makes it so worth it; free pizza and hot drinks, support from council employees, and even the police know who we are. Being out there is a great chance to help students out in the city. We’ve all needed a hand on a night out, and being out in Fresher’s week is essential to help new students.