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Meet the student mentors of Archaeology: ‘I like this opportunity to meet new people’

All first-year bachelor’s and master’s students at the Faculty of Archaeology have been assigned a student as a mentor to help them find their way around their new city and degree programme. These mentor groups, with ten to fifteen students, will also give students the chance to get to know one another. We had a chat with the mentors who are helping out our new students.

Merrel Thönissen: 'Seize opportunities and meet your class mates. That gives you something to hold on to during your studies.'

An important link

As a mentor, your role lies between that of a teacher and a fellow student. Bachelor mentor Vi Fratta (BA2) gives us a summary: ‘The mentor forms an important link between the first year student and the faculty, while they are starting their university life.’ ‘We try to introduce them to the city and the student life as well,’ bachelor mentor Merrel Thönissen (BA3) adds. The third bachelor mentor, Nina Schoon (BA3), reflects on the first two weeks of the mentorship. ‘It’s really fun to see the new students develop during these weeks. Already they have become much more talkative.’

While there are three bachelor mentors, there is only one for the master. Second year research master student Sara Brenøe has some 75 master’s students under her wing. ‘I started with holding an online meeting and asking the students how they wanted to use this time. In order to get to know each other, they are now presenting on their bachelor’s theses and excavation projects they were involved in.’

Nina Schoon: 'Don’t stress too much. It’s all going to be alright.'

Questions and answers

The mentors are confronted with all kinds of questions. ‘We get many practical questions,’ Merrel notes, ‘like how uSis or Brightspace work, but also about time management and study skills.’ The practicalities of studying aside, the students also yearn for the start of their student life. Vi: ‘I have recommended my groups some places and things to do in Leiden. Under normal non-covid circumstances there is a lot of interaction between the first and second year students. I try to be a substitute for that relationship.’

For new international students, cultural questions also play a role. ‘I get questions about social and cultural differences,’ Sara explains, ‘like on how to write a polite e-mail in a professional context.’ Nina, on the other hand, has been helping out the international students under her wing with practicalities: ‘Most of the questions I get are from the international group of students who are currently not in Holland, especially on how to find housing in Leiden.’

On the topic ‘why become a mentor?’ all four are unanimous in their opinion. ‘It looked like fun to help people out,’ Nina states, echoing the others. ‘I like this opportunity to meet new people.’

Sara Brenøe: 'Try and get in contact with each other and make use of the WhatsApp groups.'

‘Always ask questions’

The mentors immediately show their worth when asked to give a piece of advice to the new students.

Merrel: ‘Seize opportunities and meet your class mates. That gives you something to hold on to during your studies. That is very important with all the online activities. And when you are at the Faculty, make use of that opportunity to talk with people.’

Nina: ‘Don’t stress too much. It’s all going to be alright. Don’t stress about not finding your way. Do something that feels right, and you will be fine. Stressing is bad.’

Vi Fratta: ‘Connect with your peers as much as possible and help each other out with study and life matters.'

Sara: ‘Try and get in contact with each other. Make use of the WhatsApp groups. Set up meetings and get to know each other outside the Faculty. And always ask questions.’

Vi: ‘Connect with your peers as much as possible. Help each other out with study and life matters. Use the community of students to your advantage. Even with online classes try to connect with each other. In the end that is something that can be very enriching.’

About the mentorship programme

The aim of the new and improved mentor and tutor system is to give first years a warm welcome, in-person and online, and help them get off to a flying start in their studies. In September, thousands of new students have started a degree programme at Leiden University, and this year will be different from other years.

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