For many undergraduates, starting university for the first time will be the biggest challenge they have faced so far. Often they will be experiencing for the first time, not only a new country, city and culture, but the fact that they now have to manage their time without structure or close supervision.
LSE's student mentoring scheme, open to all first year undergraduates, aims to support new students who are all assigned a student mentor when they first arrive at the School. The scheme is the focus of the latest Stories from LSE film, narrated by economics student Jerusha, who has been both a mentor and mentee.
LSE assigns a student mentor to every new undergraduate when they arrive at LSE, and each year, around 200 second and third year undergraduates volunteer to mentor the newest year. In this ten minute film, Jerusha explains why she became a student mentor and examines what it takes to become a mentor, and how both mentors and mentees can benefit from the scheme.
'Coming to LSE and London in general meant a completely different city new culture, new life, new people, and it is much bigger than what I am used to' she says. 'Having a mentor really helped me settle down. And having been mentored for my first year and seeing how useful it was for me I decided to become a mentor in my second year as a way of giving something back.'
In the film, Sarah Bailey, student mentoring coordinator at LSE, explains why the scheme is so important for the School. 'We have a lot of students that come from overseas. They're coming to a big city that they know nothing about, so students need additional support apart from their departmental support. Why not do it through their own peers?'
Student mentors attend a series of training sessions by the School and learn the dos and don't of mentoring. 'The important thing is to empower our new undergraduates, not to foster their dependency' says Sarah Bailey in one training session, before asking the trainee mentors to outline what would make both an ideal mentor and the mentor from hell. 'Encourage them to make their own way and also reassure them by your own example.'
Mentor/mentee relationship don't have to end with university as the School encourages long-term relationships with its global alumni mentoring scheme. Interviews with Muzaffar Khan, principal and director of Space Energy AG, and Jan Sramek, who is now an emerging markets trader at Goldman Sachs, attest to the longevity that the mentoring system can provide.
'It helps to talk to someone about the emotional challenges of suddenly being in charge of your life' says Muzaffar, 'because for most people school is a time when everything is done for you and a mentor can act as an amazing intermediary bridge from that completely regimented and structured life to a life of complete freedom. '
'Even someone who is just a year ahead of you can tell you so much about what you are currently going through and what you are trying to achieve, and you can mentor people who are just a year younger than you and make a tremendous difference in their lives' agrees Jan, who developed such a close relationship with his mentor that they have combined their experiences as mentor and mentee into a newly published book, Racing Towards Excellence.
Karina Robinson, chair of the Alumni Professional Mentoring Network, agrees: 'Part of what's great about the LSE is that we have alumni all over the world and this alumni is incredibly keen on forming communities within their countries where they can share some of their experiences,' Karina states. 'It doesn't matter where you get to in life, however high up, you always need somebody you can talk to and just share your experiences and learn something from.'
For more about LSE's student mentoring scheme, see the latest Stories from LSE film.