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Meet the tutors preparing to welcome new students

New student — We met up with six tutors from across the university’s faculties for a chat about how tutors prepare for the incoming class of students.

If you’re enrolling at University of Copenhagen this coming fall prepare to be greeted by a group of highly motivated tutors who are planning to give you the very best introduction to your new life as a student. Few people are aware of how much time and effort tutors put into arranging the best possible start for new students. But what exactly does the job as a tutor entail, and what can incoming freshmen expect from the intro week at the university?

University Post sat down with a handful of tutors from different faculties at University of Copenhagen who have agreed to shed some light on what it means to be a tutor and how the intro week events are planned.

Political Science and Social Sciences

The Department of Political Science covers both Political Science as well as Social Sciences, and the new students in both programs will be spending their intro week together. And Political Science and Social Sciences takes the cake in terms of numbers: no less than 120 tutors (!) will be welcoming approximately 350 new students by the end of August.

The enormous staff of tutors held their first planning meeting in February and in March they spent a weekend in Gørløse getting acquainted with each other. Part of the process of preparing involved each individual tutor reflecting on his or her own intro week as part of the ‘tutor workshop’ held by the student counselling office.

It was kind of like a radio talk show. We sat down and discussed the various issues and dilemmas you encounter as a tutor.

Ida Holm Sørensen, tutor

»We had to reflect on our own experiences, the good as well as the stressful ones, and how we as tutors can take that into consideration when trying to give the new students the best possible start. It was kind of like a radio talk show. We sat down and discussed the various issues and dilemmas you encounter as a tutor. We are well prepared to take on the role as tutors and do a great job,« says Ida Holm Sørensen who is gearing up for her second year as a tutor.

Intro week and the tasks of the tutors differ from one department to another. At the Department of Political Science, a small group within the tutor body coordinate the intro week, and they already started planning in December 2018. They met with the head of the department to determine the structure of the intro week events.

What is the workload like?

»Incoming students are divided into eight core teams, and each core team is attached to a group of usually about 15 tutors. The tutors are responsible for decorating the classrooms where the students will have their base during intro week, and they also prepare a roster of fun activities for the new students,« says Ida Holm Sørensen who helps coordinate the intro week events.

Party - Ida (left) and her fellow tutors at Political Sciences and Social Sciences get together prior to the intro week to get to know each other.
image: Privat
Gala - Ida (left) at a gala party with her fellow tutors.
image: Privat

In addition, every tutor is a part of two to three subcommittees that plan most of the events. There’s a food committee that organizes lunch during the intro week, and there’s a committee in charge of the traditional Political Game which the new students will be competing in during intro week.

Ida Holm Sørensen won’t go into too much detail in terms of what incoming students will experience during intro week – many of the traditional events are kept secret so they are more fun for the students.

»I can, however, reveal that we have songs that we love to sing, we have legendary stories about program alumni, as well as mysteries and secrets about Centre for Health and Society (CSS in Danish),« says Ida Holm Sørensen.

Why is the best thing about being a tutor?

»Getting to know other students from other core teams and other classes is awesome. And it’s a really cool experience to be a part of getting this whole project off the ground. It’s very time consuming and you have to put a lot of energy into it, but when everything works out and the intro week is an amazing experience for the new students, it’s totally worth it.«

Prehistoric Archaeology

Amanda Blankensteiner just wrapped up the fourth semester of her bachelor’s degree and this fall if you’re enrolling in Linguistics, Prehistoric or Classical Archeology – the three programs organize a joint intro week and intro camp experience – you are guaranteed to meet her. Amanda will be working as a tutor for the second time and together with the rest of the team of tutors at Prehistoric Archeology, she has been working hard sin early May to plan the intro week events.

How do you prepare for the arrival of the new students?

»We held a series of meetings in June, where we tried to plan as much as possible in advance. That way we can take the month of July off and then we’re back at it in early August. We will be getting everything ready, stocking up on materials, and hashing out the details of the events as well as the intro camp. Finally, there are certain mandatory aspects like a first aid course and tutor training day,« says Amanda Blankensteiner.

They will be getting dirt on their hands when we visit a real excavation site.

Amanda Blankensteiner, tutor

At Prehistoric Archeology the tutors are typically issued a set of practical tasks. For instance, Amanda Blankensteiner is responsible for scheduling a bus for the intro camp (someone has to do it, and the quicker the better!), reserving a cafeteria at Campus South as well as Café Mødestedet for the intro week events, as well as ordering alcoholic beverages for the intro camp.

Can you reveal what the new students can expect during the intro week?

»They will be getting acquainted with some of the most beautiful museums in Copenhagen, they will be getting dirt on their hands when we visit a real excavation site, they will get a look behind the scenes at Arkæologisk Værksted, meet their professors and fellow students, and finally they will participate in a real adventure of an intro camp which we guarantee will be a historic experience.«

History

Another program under the SAXO Institute and one of the major fields in the Faculty of Humanities is History. Here 16 tutors are ready to welcome the new students (three so-called SAXO tutors and 13 program tutors). This year one of them is Maria Greibe.

Why did you decide to become a tutor?

»As a tutor, you have an opportunity to make a difference and influence new students’ desire and motivation to stay in their program – and I think tutors do a great job of handling that responsibility,« says Maria Greibe.

If we do our best to prepare well ahead of time, we can spend more time and energy on the new students when the semester kicks off which is our most important task
Maria Greibe, tutor at History

For the History tutors planning started in April: »So many things have to come together. If we do our best to prepare well ahead of time, we can spend more time and energy on the new students when the semester kicks off which is our most important task.«

At History they have a very special tradition which new students will experience during the intro camp: Kildeskattejagten (in English “the treasure hunt for reliable sources”), a light introduction to academic methodology in the field of history which students will be taking on their first semester.

»Kildeskattejagten is an academic activity where tutors dress up in costumes an act as living witnesses to history. The new students then have to use these sources in order to solve academic riddles pertaining to the theme of the intro camp,« says Maria Greibe.

Theatre and performance studies

From history and archaeology to performance theory. At the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, the tutors from Theatre and Performance Studies are gearing up to welcoming the new students. Here the team of tutors consists of four head tutors who are in charge of all the practicalities – from administration to accounting – and seven supplementary tutors who help during the intro week and intro camp. One of them is first-time tutor Amanda Højbjerg Jacobsen who is on her third semester of her bachelor’s degree.

Just like the other tutors at the Faculty of Humanities, the theatre tutors have been planning intro week since spring. In May they planned visits from professors and former students who will be addressing the new students during intro week.

»We have strived to get as many of the practical tasks as possible out of the way in May and June. That includes renting a lodge for the intro camp (…) we’ve also compiled a freshmen folder with important information for the new students which is available at kunet.ku.dk,« says Amanda Højbjerg Jacobsen.

Are there any traditions in your program that you will be exposing the new students to?

»Traditionally the new students are in charge of planning the annual Christmas cabaret which consists of performances and parodies based on people in the program and certain situations that have arisen over the course of the semester. It’s always a lot of fun because we’re a small program and everyone knows everyone, so most people will get the jokes and references,« says Amanda Højbjerg Jacobsen.

However, there are also certain traditions at the Theatre and Performance Studies program that only students are privy to.

Theology

The Faculty of Theology is home to one program which is – surprise! – Theology. If you’re enrolling in Theology after the summer break you will be greeted by 20 tutors who are ready to create a unique intro week for you. One of them is Carina Meier who is a first-time tutor this year. She enrolled at the faculty last year herself, and she vividly recalls the experience of being a new student.

»Starting as a new student can be a nerve-racking experience. Last year, I witnessed first hand how wonderful it is to be greeted by a group of nice people and a well-organized intro week plan to combat the nerves. My greatest wish is to ensure that the new students have a great intro week, just like the one I had,« says Carina Meier.

Just like their South Campus neighbours from History, the tutors at Theology have been planning since April. Most of the work was completed before the summer break, and the finishing touches to the schedule will be made in the final weeks of the break, when all the tutors meet up for a tutor weekend.

This is a feature common to all tutor groups across the university faculties. They all gather for a weekend trip prior to the intro week, so they can get to know each other before they start their work.

»It’s important to foster a sense of community within the tutor group, so we participate in various social activities during these preliminary meetings. It’s also a great way to get to know your fellow students who are ahead or behind you in your studies,« says Carina Meier.

Law

At the Faculty of Law, 54 tutors and three coordinators are gearing up to greet the new students this year. As is the case with Political Science and Social Sciences, coordinators at Law have been planning since late last fall. At the Faculty of Law tutoring work is divided into a spring and a fall session. And apropos fostering a sense of community, the spring session typically involves subjecting the tutors to the same schedule of social activities that the incoming students are presented with in August.

Our philosophy is that a strong sense of community is beneficial to academic competence, and it also provides the new students with motivation to work with law.

Louise Heidtmann, coordinator

»During the spring we host three evening courses where tutors are instructed in how to perform their duties. They also learn what it’s like to be a new student at the university by building social relations in teams,« says Louise Heidtmann, who is coordinating this year’s intro week at the faculty. She has served as a tutor twice in the past.

The month of August is typically a busy time for tutors when everything they have learned over the course of the spring is applied in reality when planning the intro week.

At Law, the tutors believe that social bonds strengthen academic competency among students, so the tutors are very invested in fostering a sense of community among the new students from the beginning. The friendships and bonds between the tutors themselves serve as inspiration for the new students.

»The best thing about being a tutor is providing new students with a good understanding of what it’s like to be a student here and at the same time dispel with some of the preconceived notions about the faculty and law students. Our philosophy is that a strong sense of community is beneficial to academic competence, and it also provides the new students with motivation to work with law. It is our job to make sure that the new students are adequately prepared in this regard,« says Louise Heidtmann.

Games - During the spring a small group of tutors had to test out a social game, they plan to introduce new students to. The rules are anybody’s guess…
image: Instagramkonto Juratutor
Meeting - On March 6, the 54 tutors at the Faculty of Law held their first meeting and were divided into teams.

Are there any traditions that tutors make sure to honour when greeting the new students?

»Traditionally there’s an intro song written by the tutors, but many of the traditions are revised and improvement upon following intro week,« says Louise Heidtmann.

Picking out just one is hard task, but Louise Heidtmann is also quick to point out that the tutors at Law have a good relationship to various student body organizations. And all 54 tutors are excited to greet the incoming class.

»We can’t wait till August!«

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