Increasing emphasis in recent years has been placed on how faculty, staff and students in higher education can be drawn into more collaborative learning relationships through partnership working. The significant challenges in terms of negotiating shifting roles and responsibilities have been well documented. Less attention has been paid to the affective challenges, and particularly the emotional labour involved. This paper focuses on the adoption of a partnership approach to first year peer mentoring and orientation in a large Social Science programme. Peer mentors played a critical role as designers of the programme, as partners delivering the programme, and as co-researchers, offering a unique understanding and insight into aspects of the peer mentor experience that often remain hidden. Our findings draw attention to the need to consider and manage more carefully the impact of students on each other in mentoring relationships but also suggest an opportunity to harness the mentoring experience to embed a partnership culture more fully.