Mentors support new students

Johs. Simonsen og Katerina Solcova are happy that the dropout rate has been significantly reduced.
Many international students have challenges associated with moving to another country.

One hundred mentors have been trained as part of VIA's vocational educational programmes to help new students get their student lives off to a good start. The goal is to help them thrive.

For several years now, there has been focus on reducing the drop-out rate among students of VIA’s business educational programmes. And as early as 2012 a pilot project was established with the aim of training mentors to help students get started with their student lives – especially the international students.

Thirteen mentors were trained during the first year. Since then, mentors, trainees and the new students have evaluated the role played by the mentors and they have come up with proposals for what can be improved and what is expected of the mentors.

Therefore, the mentors attend a two-day course where they learn a number of mentorship tools, which they can then enjoy in cooperation with the mentees for which they are each responsible. It is about how they can ask each other about themselves, how they can help others set a direction, and it is also about fine tuning the mindset of the mentors so they become aware of where and how they can make a difference.

Special focus on international students

Johs. Simonsen from the construction technology educational programme in Horsens is the coordinator of the project to train mentors. As well as a coordinator, there is a mentor coordinator on each training course, who helps choosing those mentors who will attend the training course:

”It's important for us that both the mentors and the new students get something out of the arrangement: the mentors in the form of mentorship tools, which they can then utilise; the new students in the form of the feeling that they are well taken care of and that they can get help from their mentor,” says Johs. Simonsen and continues:

”We have many international students and we know from experience that there are many challenges associated with moving to another country. Not only do the new students have to get used to being a student, they are also coming to a completely different culture, so in the beginning it can seem quite overwhelming."

Mentoring is not homework help

Johs. Simonsen emphasises that mentors are not homework helpers and do not function as such. But each mentor has to meet up with his/hers group of new students twice in the first half of the first semester. In the second half of the semester the mentor meets the students individually two times as well:

”We can see that the dropout rate has been significantly reduced on those educational programmes, which have a successful mentoring arrangement. But we can’t document directly that this is solely due to the mentoring. We can only say that since starting the arrangement, the dropout rate of educational programmes has decreased while well-being has increased. It is a success, and I believe that mentorship has been a major contributing factor,” says Johs. Simonsen and explains further:

”We've had some talented and hard-working mentors who have really made a big effort and it has been a great pleasure to work with them. I also feel that the mentors who have an international background are very proud to have worked as a mentor, and they then use that pride in a positive way in their work."

Making a difference

Katerina Solcova is from the Czech Republic, she is 26-years-old and she is studying on the third term of VIA's English-language construction technology educational programme. She is one of the 100 new mentors who are now busily welcoming the new students:

”It's important for me to provide a good service to the new students. And I can use many of my own experiences from the time I started on the programme. For instance, I get asked a lot of questions, not so much about studying, but about the city of Horsens, the culture and so on,” explains Katerina Solcova and concludes:

”When you come to another country and another culture everything is new. So it’s important to have someone you can ask; someone who has been in the same situation and who knows something about what may seem overwhelming or illogical. I can help to make a difference in that situation – I really like that."


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