On Friday, 7 December, National Volunteer Day, UAF turned the spotlight on the five hundredth refugees@campus mentor-student pair. They are two 23-year-old students at Erasmus University in Rotterdam: Shabnam Akbari, a refugee who fled Afghanistan, and Senem Oylum. The project is bearing fruit for both students and mentors: many refugee students learn to speak Dutch more quickly, feel more at home at their educational institution, and start their degree programme with more self-confidence. For their part, the mentors learn a great deal about mentoring. A work of light projection art by Blauwe Uur was part of the spectacular grand finale at the Tinbergen Building this afternoon.
Five hundredth pair
The five hundredth pair is made up of two 23-year-old students at Erasmus University in Rotterdam: Shabnam Akbari, a refugee who fled Afghanistan, and Senem Oylum. Since September, Shabnam has been enrolled in the preparatory year to gain admission to an academic degree programme, and Senem is studying business administration. Shabnam’s ambition is to study business administration as she pursues her dream of running her own business. Shabnam, now in the Netherlands for two years, explains: ‘I studied Business Administration in Pakistan for two years, so I know what it’s like to study at a university. But I really need other people to help me when it comes to how the rules work in the Netherlands. Sometimes I have difficulties with pronouncing words in Dutch, but Senem helps me with this.’
Learning from each other
Rector Magnificus Prof Rutger Engels (EUR): ‘We also need to avail ourselves of the talent international students offer us. This enhances both the university and society and makes them more diverse. Together with UAF we established a preparatory year for refugee students where participants work on things such as the language and study skills you need here. This group has produced the 500th match and that’s something we’re very proud of.’
Project manager Remko de Kok: ‘We were aware that in the beginning, many refugee students need a buddy to practice language skills and learn their way around an educational institution. But it came as a welcome surprise that so many Dutch students were willing to help out a refugee student. They turned out to be very motivated to contribute something and demonstrate great social commitment.’