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For some internationals, the mentor thing doesn’t quite work out. For others, it can lead to lasting friendship
Coming to Copenhagen, students are warned that Danes are reserved, and that it takes time and energy to develop friendships.
Still, most want to give it a try, and one way to go about this is to ask for a mentor. But the results range from the excellent to the ridiculous.
A mentor is a Danish student that introduces the international student, the mentee, to the practicalities of living in Denmark. A good mentor-mentee relationship depends on social skills, how much new students are willing to invest themselves in making it work, and just plain luck.
Margot Karlikow, a French student of biochemistry, looked forward to meeting her mentor, who she had e-mail correspondence with before coming to Copenhagen.
But then all of a sudden, contact with her mentor became elusive. It was impossible to set up a meeting.
As she later found out when they coincidentally met at a party, the girl could not have been much help to Margot anyway.
»She was from Lithuania, couldn’t speak Danish, and she didn’t know Copenhagen. My friend and I asked her whether she had any recommendations where we could go out. She said. ‘OK, let me see, Tuesday night is Erasmus night’. It was Wednesday«.
Incredibly, a French friend of Margot was assigned another Lithuanian student as mentor, also with limited success.
There are as many stories as there are mentors and mentees. While some mentor-mentee ties are successful, mentees that the University Post talked to had experiences that ranged from the excellent to the disastrous.
Trying to settle in to a new country is a difficult thing, but it gets even more complicated when you realize that you don’t get the help you expected.
»She was supposed to pick me up at the airport but she didn’t show up«, recalls Laura Morelli, a student of sociology.
As Alex Anderson, a full-degree student of media studies who introduced the programme to new students puts it:
»Most, as in more than half, seem to never meet or have little contact with their mentors.«
He only met his mentor once, for thirty minutes, and never saw her again.
»It usually seems a mix between students realizing they don’t need a mentor, and the Danish students realizing they can’t be bothered doing it,« he says.
Still, some international students find it useful to have a mentor and enjoy taking part in the different activities organized by them, like for example a recent Ghost Tour of Copenhagen organized by mentors, and a trip to art museum Louisiana.
»I have a great mentor. And she is very friendly and helpful,« says Freia Vergauwen, an exchange student from Belgium.
She reckons that with a bit of luck, internationals will have a long-lasting friendship with their Danish mentor counterpart, and a lot to talk about when you get back home.