Eirn Boparai is well-versed in the the art of being a good listener.
As Vice-President Public Relations for McGill Students’ Nightline, Boparai helps spread the word about the various situations that volunteers at the phone line are trained to assist with—whether that’s helping a first-year student understand Minerva, recommending a restaurant, or dealing with a mental health emergency.
Nightline is a student-run initiative that provides confidential listening services from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day of the week.
“[Volunteers] have been taught how to talk to students who may have depression, any sort of mental health issues—even students who just want someone to talk to, de-stress, and get everything off their shoulders,” he said.
Boparai launched Nightline’s promotional team last semester and currently acts as the liaison between the promotional team and the operational branch. Members of the promotional team advertise the service on campus, but do not know the identity of Nightline’s anonymous volunteers who take calls.
Although Boparai has given up taking calls in his current role, he was initially drawn to Nightline in second year because of the skills it allowed him to develop as a confidential listener.
“I thought it would be the best way for me to change as a person and learn to adapt to different situations; if you pick up that call, you don’t know what you’re getting so you have to be ready,” he said. “I felt that it was a service that I can give a lot to, and I can get a lot back as well, because the skills I’ve learned from Nightline have really made my life easier in terms of how I interact with others.”
Nightline volunteers approach their telephone interactions through a technique called “active listening,” which Boparai described as listening to a person’s situation “without really saying anything.”
“When you’re talking to your friend, you might feel judged,” he said. “But our volunteers don’t know the person on the other end of the line, so it gives them the opportunity to talk about something freely [.…] The goal of active listening is to avoid judging, to not give advice, and not to tell callers what to do, but to just listen and help callers come to conclusions on their own.”
These listening skills also translate to Boparai’s work as a floor fellow at New Residence Hall.
“I’m there as an upper year to guide [first year students]—kind of like a big brother—to give them different strategies that I’ve used, and just generally [to] be someone who’s there to listen to them and to help them any way that I can,” Boparai said. “It’s tough making that transition from high school to university. It’s nice having someone there who’s an upper year who can help make that transition easier.”
While Boparai said his skillset from Nightline prepared him well for the position, he said New Residence provides him with new challenges every day.
“There are so many people, so many names to remember,” he said. You’re constantly meeting new people because with 750 people there are a lot of people to meet. I enjoy it though [….] It is a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.”
If you could be one kind of food what would you be?
Chicken wings. They’re spicy, hot, and delicious.
Which fictional character would you meet if you could?
Spiderman—he’s my hero! He’s a geek and a nerd and a loser, but when he puts on that mask, he becomes the coolest guy ever.
What was the last book you read for fun?
A Thousand Splendid Suns.
If you could be involved in another club or service on campus, which one would you pick?
TV McGill. Me and my friend in second year used to make really funny skits and YouTube videos [….] I think I would like more of McGill to know about how silly and ridiculous I can be [.…] Sometimes their videos are really funny, so being part of that would be really cool!
Contact the McGill Students’ Nightline at (514) 398-6246.
6 p.m. – 3 a.m.