All new students have to make adjustments to be successful in their studies. At EDU, peer student mentors provide support and a student’s unique perspective of EDU’s Medicine Programme and student life by sharing their experiences, challenges and insights.
Starting one’s medical studies most often comes as a challenge. Paired with experiencing a new environment for the very first time, new students may find themselves struggling with navigating resources, understanding best practices and experiences for approaching new learning methods. Hence, as EDU focuses on providing a fully student-centred experience, it is vital to be able to offer enough 1-on-1 support and peer contact points.
The Peer Mentorship Programme matches first-year students with student mentors from the years above them; specifically, students in their second or third year at EDU.
How do the students benefit from the programme concretely?
Brian Webber, EDU Tutor/Cohort Mentor and Coordinator of the Peer Mentorship Programme, knows that the programme “provides immense value because the peer mentors have been through the same experiences as the new students. They have unique insights from the student perspective, such as how to balance work and study, how to manage studies when you have children to look after, or how to deal with the High-Stakes Exams.”
The Peer Mentorship Programme creates a space for first-year students–the mentees–to comfortably ask questions of personal, professional and academic nature. It also provides social and emotional support, increases their preparedness for the academic and clinical workload, and encourages both self-directed and collaborative learning strategies. As a result, year 1 students better understand how to transition their content knowledge to the clinical environment and thus gain confidence in a clinical setting. At the same time, through the act of mentoring, year 2 and 3 students acquire leadership skills, as well as deepen their own understanding of clinical skills and content knowledge and transfer.
Participating students have shared their thoughts and feedback on the initiative. EDU student Lauren explains how being a peer mentor gives her the opportunity to transfer knowledge, as well as review previously learnt content to help her mentees: “It’s helpful for me, in that, when my mentees are in exam-prep, we often go through some topics together, or do video calls to help them better understand a topic (or its relevance). […] I realize that reviewing the material from previous modules is sooo helpful, and this is the best way to do it. Additionally, it’s helpful hearing my mentee’s problems and problem-solving skills (in case different from my own) because these are often problems we will constantly encounter in working life later, so it’s good to learn how to cope with them.”
EDU student Veronika finds that “working as a peer mentor has given me a great sense of responsibility and therefore allowed me to grow professionally by building on my mentoring skills, which is of great importance in medicine. Apart from that, helping and guiding someone is an extremely rewarding experience and it is great to watch your mentees grow confidence and to be part of their journey.”
From new student and mentee Linda’s perspective: “The online model (at EDU) may feel fairly unfamiliar, utterly new, and even overwhelming in the beginning. Being able to connect with another student who was facing and managing the exact same situation before is a tremendously valuable source of support. Especially in regards to clinical rotations and exams, resorting to another students’ experience and advice is certainly a beneficial resource.”
Another mentee – EDU student Kyra – shared how she was very nervous before her first clinical rotation and how her peer mentor helped her through this: “I felt that I am not prepared enough and might not be good enough to work in such a demanding environment. My peer mentor took my worries away and shared her experiences. She also told me how to prepare, where to get cheap accommodation and lots of practical things.“
Aside from academic and study-related topics, the Peer Mentorship Programme at EDU also offers a safe space for students to discuss more personal topics, which stem from similar experiences and are met with advice, support and compassion. As one student points out, she and her peer mentor have thoroughly discussed topics such as work-life balance, since “she is also a mother of two and working in her own clinical practice”, and how to navigate being the older students in their cohorts.
How does it work?
During the onboarding phase of each new EDU cohort, students are introduced to the Peer Mentorship Programme and are matched with their peer mentor on the last day of their onboarding. After this, peer mentors contact their mentees in the weeks to follow (week 1 and 2 of the first module) and properly introduce themselves. Mentorship is not required, however, it is suggested that each mentee meet with their peer mentor twice during each module, especially during the first module when it will be most beneficial to their adjustment and acclimation into EDU. Thus, mentorship meetings happen typically once in week 4 and once right before the clinical rotations.
“This is why I appreciate the standard assignment of peer mentors to new students in particular. The peer mentor is the one reaching out and thereby encouraging the communication. This way, it is substantially easier for newbies to touch upon questions and issues whilst promoting the community spirit of the student body,” remarks Linda (mentee).
The Peer Mentorship Programme at EDU runs mostly independently. As Brian (EDU Tutor/Cohort Mentor), who initially coordinated efforts, explains:
“Over the last year the Student Leaders (the original peer mentors) have become more independent in organising the programme. They’ve carried out training of the newer peer mentors and organised regular meetings to prepare for new cohorts. They have also been able to balance the number of new peer mentors with the sizes of the new cohorts, making sure the peer mentors don’t get more mentees than they can handle. All peer mentors have so far stayed in the programme (even the ones who will graduate in September and continue with their master’s), and there is also a waiting list of new peer mentors – so there’s a lot of interest in the programme.”
The scheme runs in a very flexible manner–peer mentors and mentees are open to choose whichever communication channel they prefer. This can be the designated mentorship room in Newrow (EDU’s own videocall platform) at the suggested times (week 4 and just before the clinical rotations), or they may prefer to have regular calls or message each other on the EDU platform chat or via WhatsApp. This flexibility allows for the programme to run very organically and ensures that all new students have easy access and engage with their peer mentor.
As for what topics are often covered in peer meetings, Angelina, a Student Leader and one of the peer mentors ensuring the initiative runs smoothly, comments that “common questions that get asked are study-related: how do we recommend studying? What are our tips? How do we manage all the stuff in one module? When to start studying for the exam? How to write notes?”
Furthermore, another topic that often receives attention is the clinical rotations. “These are often further away from home and require you to organize accommodation. Sometimes, we also have tips on how to do that. Additionally, the first clinical rotation might be something exciting, but for others also worrisome. We try to help by explaining what a day at the Clinical Rotation looks like and what to do and what not to do. Usually, just talking about the problem already helps,” explains Angelina.
How is this the Peer Mentorship Programme different from EDU’s Cohort Mentors support system?
The official Cohort Mentoring system at EDU aims to guide the personal and professional development of students, and to coach them through the day-to-day challenges of academic life. It also helps create a motivating learning environment and increase the effectiveness of EDU’s learning didactics. It accompanies students as they become efficient and successful learners by facilitating official group work, programme communication and community engagement.
While EDU’s Cohort Mentoring provides guidance from EDU staff experts and is formally based on various curriculum points, the student peer mentorship offers a different mentoring angle – one that derives directly from student experience and student life. The creation of the peer mentorship programme allows for a dialogue of “in my experience as a student, this has worked”. Student peer mentors can offer a unique perspective: they know and have gone through exactly what new students are facing. They understand the problems and challenges, especially over topics such as high-stakes exams and clinical rotations.
Mentee Kyra mentions that “a peer mentor is ‘one of us’ – he or she is a student that is maybe one or two years ahead of my own curriculum. He or she knows what difficulties we are facing, for instance, in the clinical rotations, problems within the cohort or adapting to this new way of studying (‘flipped classroom’). Therefore, a peer mentor is a great addition to the Cohort Mentor.”
Furthermore, peer mentor Lauren clarifies: “The peer mentor programme is different from cohort mentors in that it’s student-to-student. We have experienced the exact same problems and challenges (e.g., struggles working in a team of people with different timeliness, motivation and quality of work, getting a group grade even if the work wasn’t divided equally, weekly presentations, high stakes prep, etc). Getting advice from or even talking to people that have gone through the same struggles (instead of watching from the outside) is a much deeper, more intimate experience. It often also helps the mentees to blow off steam.”
Overall, EDU students assert that the peer mentorship programme complements the student-centred vision of EDU and encourages a sense of community. Peer mentor Veronika remarks it is “a great addition and complements the cohort mentors, as it provides student mentors with the opportunity to share their valuable experiences and help their younger peers. It’s also a chance to have direct student-to-student contact and increases the networking across different cohorts.”
Interested in finding out more about EDU’s support system and student life? Register for our next Virtual Open Day.