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Non-Danes kicked out of mentor group

International mentors for incoming students have been expelled from the Faculty of Humanities mentor group. Non-Danes don’t understand the Danish system, say organisers

For three semesters now, international students have, together with Danes, been mentors of exchange students in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Copenhagen.

International mentors proved to be good mentors as they already had experienced the same coming-to-Denmark situation.

But now, the Faculty of Humanities has got rid of all non-Danish mentors. Danes are more appropriate for the task due to their knowledge of Denmark and, therefore, they can integrate better the newcomers, the Faculty argues.

Danes know Denmark

In an e-mail from the Study and Career Guidance Centre at the Faculty of Humanities, international mentors are rebuffed with an ambiguous underhand compliment to their hard work.

»…Being an international mentor has proven to be a lot harder than being a Danish mentor, and the time and effort the international students have put in to planning activities has been great considering that this is volunteer work,« they write.

However, »Danish mentors typically have a better idea of how the Danish system works (both within the University and the city/country), and this knowledge is important when planning events for the mentees«.

International loneliness

Helle Rod Søgaard, international coordinator at the Faculty of Humanities, elaborates in an e-mail exchange with the University Post that international mentors have ‘great value’. But international students need something else, she says.

»The main purpose of the mentor programme is to help international students to function in Danish society and culture and at university in particular. International students themselves have requested more contact with Danish students in order to integrate better into student life at The Faculty of Humanities.«

The Faculty points to new research showing that international students are at risk of feeling lonely and leaving before they initially intended.

Faculty: Foreign students expect Danish mentors

The mentor programme should prevent this loneliness.

»We have had to act on this and set up our mentor programme accordingly,« says Helle Rod Søgaard.

»Our experience shows that international students expect that their assigned mentor is Danish and has thorough knowledge about Denmark, Danish culture and the Danish educational system«, she adds.

International student initiative to be mentors

It was originally international students’ themselves that suggested back in 2010 to let international full degree students be mentors of newcomer international students.

International mentors considered themselves to be good for the mentor group, as they added an international perspective.

Internationals consider themselves more to what the new students have to go through when they come to Denmark. They have already experienced what is like to be a new student at the University of Copenhagen, so they know exactly which are the main needs and questions when the new students arrive to the city.

Job is to integrate with Danes

Mauro Castaño is one of the mentors who has been kicked off the team. He says that international mentors have more empathy. Since they have been in the same situation once, they really want to help others adapt easier: »They know things that newcomers should be interested to know, as well as sharing the feeling and experience of being new in a different country and culture«, says Mauro.

But Mauro’s arguments are not being heard. Helle from the Faculty doesn’t buy them.

»We are very aware that international mentors can offer new international students something else that Danish mentors can’t. But our consideration with the mentor programme is to facilitate integration with Danish students as well as Danish society«.

Read an article in which Colombian student Mauro argues against the decision here.

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