Students helping students - I'm sure all members of our network already know this phrase by heart, since we tend to spend our free time on activities international students will benefit from in some way. Why do we do that? What do those students really mean to us?
Mentoring is so much more than just picking up students from the airport, since they will be your responsibility for the next semester. You accept them with open arms and patiently wait for whatever is in store for you because there is a chance that life will turn 180 degrees. No amount of training could prepare you for every type of person that will choose your city as their home for the next few months, but that is what makes it all even more exciting.
I've been helping new exchange students for a few semesters now since taking care of them feels natural to me at this point, but as it turns out there is more to this than just that. We often don't think so much about the exchange cycle of our Erasmus students and we take them for granted. The next thing you know, they are packing their bags and preparing to fly back to their countries. However, you usually don't get a lot of time to be sad about that, as new students are already on their way. So, taking all of this into account, what do those students mean to us?
A cluster of random letters and number
I usually don't mind helping out my university with documents, so I have a chance to "meet" new students before they even arrive. I say "meet" because I can see someone's name, birthday and country, but that doesn't say anything about the person at all. It's just a bunch of information that can’t tell me if that person will become my new best friend.
Everything seems so bizarre. You are holding a piece of paper, but it already feels intense, because you know that this specific person will be in your life soon. That's when you start thinking about what kind of events you will have for the new students and what kind of tips you should give them to make sure their lives run smoothly for the next few months. That student is not here yet, but you are already preparing everything for them. I guess that excitement is what makes it so special. It becomes more than just a simple motto about helping others.
A confused younger sibling
This is when the work starts. You're trying to remember all the hacks for making life more interesting in your city and the different ways of reaching the most important places with some help of the public transport. You know the student will have that surprised and wide-eyed expression for at least a few weeks after their arrival, and you feel like it's your responsibility to take care of them. Moreover, you don't even think about the end of the semester, since there is still so much time left to enjoy everything and the possibilities are quite endless.
More important than you could've imagined
The end of the semester is finally here. Maybe you usually don't get to see the students a lot during this time, since they're almost locals at this point and they are too busy enjoying their life to the fullest. However, you see them in the middle of the street and exchange the sweetest smiles because you've been through a lot together and now you are proud that they're enjoying their last days in your city which now belongs to them too. They might even be carrying their bags and leaving, but you know that it's not the end and you'll see them again soon. Maybe they'll guide you in their country one day.
The steps repeat every semester, and they don’t change much. Only people do. You accept the responsibility and take care of students without asking for anything in return. They don’t stay with you for long, but each of them can teach you valuable lessons about values, love, and life in general. These students will have such a strong impact that you will find yourself smiling and thinking about them even after they’re back in their countries because you know that your city will stay in their hearts forever. This is what makes this whole experience phenomenal.
Are you ready to meet your new students?