Mentors Prepare to Welcome New International Students
In preparation for welcoming new international students at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) this autumn, the RSU International Department (ID) has initiated online mentor training. During the training, mentors learn what new students expect from them and how mentors can help the new international students.
The training specifically focused on the need for support in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘For many young people, starting their studies abroad is a new experience involving a number of unknowns. The current situation heightens the need for mentor support. Mentors will have to help the new students feel at home in their study environment at a time when at least part of the studies will take place online. The new students will also need someone friendly to support them so that they don’t feel lonely in Riga and can successfully cope with everyday issues,’ says Baiba Pētersone, Director of the RSU ID.
The training was conducted by Agnija Birule, International Relations Officer at the RSU ID, Laura Tutāne, an RSU student, and Roshika Fernando, a recent RSU graduate.
‘I have been a mentor for international students since 2015. To make the mentoring process successful, I made sure to be open-minded. There was always open communication between me and the students I was mentoring. The biggest challenge I had to overcome was to find common ground between all my mentees. The mentoring programme helped me to improve my leadership skills and become more flexible. I got a lot of knowledge about world cultures by working with students from different backgrounds. If you would like to become a mentor, you should be open-minded, friendly, empathetic, respectful, helpful and easily approachable. Introducing yourself to your mentees and offering to help is a good way to start a friendly conversation. Always remember that you have been in their shoes,’ said Roshika who participated in the mentoring programme from 2015 until graduating from RSU in February this year.
Irina Mariotti, Vice-President of the RSU International Student Association (ISA), introduced mentors to the support that the ISA and the various international student organisations at RSU can provide.
‘Being part of the mentoring program is a very thought-provoking and challenging task. You help newly enrolled students adapt to a new reality. As you know, there are a great variety of cultures and students from all backgrounds at RSU. By mentoring you need to take all of this into consideration. Be ready to answer all types of questions and take everyone's needs into consideration. This year, COVID-19 has challenged all aspects of our lives, including the mentor program. Find the most suitable way to communicate with your mentees and help them cope with online studies. Motivation and mental health are very important things to take into consideration. I suggest that you talk to your mentees about the many academic and national societies at RSU to show them the diversity of student life at RSU. Being a mentor will take you back in time and sharing your experience with your mentees will make them feel welcome in a new country and reality,’ explains Irina.
140 senior students have applied to the mentoring programme for the autumn semester. They will help the new international students get acquainted with the university and with life in Latvia.
‘I am pleased that the mentoring programme is becoming more and more popular among senior students. Both local and international students are actively involved. This year I noticed a new trend of new people who have not been mentors before are applying for the programme,’ says Agnija Birule.