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The master's mentorship: a practical point of contact and fun online coffee hours

For first-year bachelor’s students, it is a well-known phenomenon: student mentors. These older students help newcomers on their way in small groups. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year the choice was made to set up a mentor programme for new master's students as well. We talked to three student mentors about their experiences so far.

A student mentor guides a group of new master's students together with a fellow student. Every so often, they organise an online meeting with their group. ‘We are there for students who have questions about practical matters,’ student mentor Geertje Hoogenboom of the master’s programme Literary Studies explains. Student mentors explain, for example, how to borrow books or how to register for courses. But more serious topics are also discussed: what can you do if you are not doing well? Besides practical matters, the mentors also organise social gatherings. ‘We have a weekly coffee hour people can join. That way, they have some social contact and they can talk to someone if they feel like it.’

Fun online meetings

Whereas the students normally get to know each other in real life, all activities now take place online. ‘At the very beginning of the academic year, we were allowed to meet in person. We went for drinks a few times to get to know each other better,’ student mentor Tjadina Herbert of the Russian and Eurasian Studies master's programme says. In October, everything had to take place online again, including the social gatherings. Nevertheless, student mentor Madalé Jooste of the Philosophy master's programme considers the online meetings to be valuable. ‘In these times, students especially like to chat with like-minded people once in a while,’ she says. ‘Fun online meetings where people get to chat with each other and have a drink are appreciated.’

Positive feedback

The three student mentors feel that the mentor groups have a positive effect on the students. ‘I get positive feedback. People are happy that it exists,' Tjadina says. Geertje agrees. ‘Normally, when you can just go to the university, you often go and chat with people,' she notes. ‘That is more difficult online. I hope this will straighten it out a bit.' Student mentor Madalé thinks it has: 'Covid is difficult for new students. However, the students seem enthusiastic and motivated to start something new and they try to overcome the social barriers. I think it is important that students feel connected to each other.' Tjadina adds: 'I am glad that I was able to contribute to this as a mentor.’

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