Peer mentors offer first-year students a helping hand

What is peer mentoring? It’s a way for first year and transfer students to hear tips, and get insider advice for success at RIT Croatia from the people who really know best – older students.

"The peer program is about facilitating social integration for new students, providing resources to promote students' academic success and overall to help foster a positive, welcoming environment,” explained Professor Ana Maria Šimundić, who directs the program.

Peer mentors are successful sophomore, junior or senior students who volunteer their time to encourage, guide, and help first-year students in their first semester get adjusted to life at RIT Croatia. They participate in an initial training session where they are provided with a clear understanding of their role. The total number of mentors at both campuses has grown from 42 last year, to 57 this year. As a part of the YearOne orientation course, first-year students are assigned mentors, with an average 1 to 4 ratio. The initial session is where the ice is broken and the bonds between mentors and mentees start to form. Through this social contact, mentees get an insider view of what it takes to be a successful student at RIT Croatia and immediately start to feel a real sense of community. These are voluntary relationships, built on trust and confidentiality, which both sides are responsible for maintaining.

Of course, professors and staff are always available and happy to help, but many students, especially in their first semester, feel more comfortable talking to their more experienced peers than approaching a professor. Peer mentors can help with anything from studying tips, to information about getting settled in Dubrovnik or Zagreb for students from other towns, to recommendations for enjoying student life and activities.

"From my first moment at RIT Croatia I felt at home, and one thing that definitely helped was peer mentor program. I really appreciated the help I got from my peer mentor when I was a freshman, so of course, I was looking forward to becoming a peer mentor myself in my second year,” said Dubrovnik student Lovro Kolanović. "While talking with new students I learned something new too. Getting to know new people from different parts of the world and hearing their stories was interesting. New students learn about our college system, get to know older generation of students and other mentees in their group. As a mentor I get to know new people and help them in transition to RIT. It helps both sides by getting to know each other and different culture and it helps keep the family feeling this college can be proud of. "

"I love being a peer mentor,” said student Josipa Buble. "Our job is to help freshmen in new college experience especially in first month because they are all confused with a lot of information. Through peer mentoring I gained new friendships and learned a lot about different cultures of my mentees. The most important thing is that students will be more comfortable to ask other students (instead of professors) about college life and how everything works around here."

"The greatest benefit is that first-year students are not isolated at the start of their studies, which is a critical period during which they are building the foundation for their college careers. This program works in our unique college environment in which students truly care and take a vested interest in cultivating a spirit of respect and regard for each other,” said Professor Šimundić.

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