University is a great adventure but it can also be daunting, particularly for those who don’t have the support of nearby family or friends. Peer mentors can help new students navigate their way through the first few weeks and months of university life, and steer a course to success.

“The UNSW campus is like a small country and it is great to have a guide,” says peer mentor Zeina Tebbo.

Zeina says coming from a small, close-knit school, she felt a little “lost and lonely” when she first started university. Joining the Faculty of Engineering’s peer mentoring program was a great help, she says, because she was able to make friends with students studying the same degree program.

“Having a mentor helps you establish networks and connections, find your way around and discover short-cuts,” Zeina says.

The 22-year-old is now in her 5th year of a Chemical/Biomedical Engineering degree and is a mentor to new students.

“Students under-estimate all the services that are available, from help with essay writing, to how to effectively use the library and online services. I have even been able to help students with things like bus routes, helping them find an easier way to get to UNSW,” says Zeina.

Peer mentors also provide tips on life outside the classroom, including how to get involved in clubs and societies, sports, volunteering and international exchange programs.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences peer mentor Jawoon Kim says she found out about the program at Info Day, however details are also available on the UNSW website.

“I joined a group with other International Studies students, it was a great way to get to know my classmates,” Jawoon says.

International students can face even greater hurdles, including the need to find accommodation and overcome language barriers. UNSW provides a cultural mentoring program to help overseas students settle in.

Indian student Steffi Dourado says she was very grateful to have a cultural mentor she could email, even before she came to Australia.

“My mentor was a local student from a Greek background and we communicated via email while I was still in India,” she says.

“It was very reassuring to have someone to talk to who had local knowledge, to help me settle in and adjust to the Australian way of life,” Steffi says.

She says the mentoring program has benefits not just for mentees but also for those who volunteer as a mentor, including opportunities for cultural exchange.

“I have met and helped people from more than 20 countries,” she says.

Find out more at the peer mentoring program website.

Media contact: Leilah Schubert, UNSW Media Office, 02 9385 8107.

Zeina portrait 0

Engineering peer mentor Zeina Tebbo