Thirteenth season crossed the finish line

The Closing Event of the Group mentoring programme offered groups the opportunity to gather once more. During the evening, participants were encouraged to crystallize their most important learnings and insights from the six-month journey.

Inspirational, exciting, educational, encouraging. These four words stood out prominently in the large word cloud when actors and mentors described their experiences at the Group mentoring programme’s closing evening in May.

Groups that were greeting each other cautiously in November, now chose a table for themselves in the lecture hall casually and without hesitation. Strangers had become more familiar to each other, and some perhaps even friends.

Yleiskuva luentosalista ja osallistujista seuraamassa puheenvuoroa.
The relaxed yet festive Closing Event is an important part of the programme and the groups’ shared journey. During the evening, everyone also received a diploma for their participation.

Changes in everyday student life surprised the mentor

In the early part of the English-speaking event, experiences were shared by mentor Akseli Huhtanen, who participated in the program for the first time. After eight years in the working life, his primary motivation for becoming a mentor was to reconnect with the university community.

Huhtanen summarizes that mentoring was an educational experience. The biggest surprise was how astonishingly much student life had changed since his own student days. Many of the changes discussed in the group were related to the upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic really hit hard on current students’ studies and student life: it changed the operations of student organizations, other student activities, and of course, teaching with the introduction of remote teaching. The differences to the past are so significant that I sometimes found it a bit difficult to relate to the actors’ experiences – and they to mine. Yet, all of this was very interesting,” he explained.

From his mentoring experience, Huhtanen takes away above all the realization of how valuable it is to create connections with people in different life situations and with different backgrounds.

“Our group was diverse in backgrounds, as nearly all actors are studying in different faculties. This enriched our discussions and also created space for reflection and thought-provoking moments that I had not anticipated.”

Individual photo of mentor Aleksi Huhtanen
Akseli Huhtanen, an alumni of the Faculty of Social Sciences, had the opportunity to share his work life experiences as a mentor. Working with the student group also provided him with new perspectives.

Valuable peer support and lifelike conversations

After the joint part of the event, a satisfied-looking trio of students sat with Huhtanen. At the beginning of the season, the group chose themes such as the concreteness of expert work, ways to find a personal direction, articulating one’s skills, and the fears and hopes related to working. These were delved into in monthly face-to-face meetings.

“The best parts have been peer support, sharing thoughts, and meeting other students, because I have studied a lot by myself during the remote period,” Sonja Nyblin explains.

Henrik Hynninen completed a traineeship included in his degree during the programme.

“That and the mentoring process strengthened my feeling of my own skills and that I am doing the right things,” Hynninen states.

The group’s discussions were given a new twist when Huhtanen’s work contract ended unexpectedly in the spring. As usual, the group discussed this very openly, as part of life.

“If something similar happens to us, then we know that, hey: Akseli also got through it,” Nyblin says warmly.

Clear directions, or maybe not

Mentor Anne Rahikka‘s group also met face-to-face throughout the mentoring season. According to them, the exercises in the Workbook for Mentoring (pdf) provided a good basis for joint discussions, which focused on topics such as well-being and stress management, as well as skills and job search issues.

For Ellinoora Ekman, who is working on her doctoral thesis, the mentoring brought clarity about direction.

“Mentoring strengthened the idea that research work could be what I would like to do in the future,” she sums up.

Saara Hannula, who transitioned from working life to master’s studies, expected that her seemingly clear plans would become even clearer. Instead, the opposite happened.

“This actually broadened my options, and that’s very good. My thoughts have expanded, and I got a peaceful feeling that I do not need a super clear plan,” she explains.

Like Hannula, Vilma Turunen, who is studying for her master’s degree, describes mentoring as an interesting journey and a great opportunity to address important themes.

“It was also important to realize that others are grappling with the same uncertainties. That I am not alone.”

Anne Rahikka, Saara Hannula, Vilma Turunen, and Ellinoora Ekman sitting on the stairs of the lecture hall.
Saara Hannula (on the left), Vilma Turunen, Anne Rahikka, and Ellinoora Ekman, satisfied with their shared journey, emphasize the importance of managing expectations. “Don’t expect to get ready-made answers from mentoring. No one can make decisions for someone else,” they remind.

Both groups also included a fourth student actor who was not present at the time of the interview.

A big thank you to all the mentors and actors who participated in the programme this season. The programme will continue in the 2024–2025 academic year with a revised schedule. More information will be available at the beginning of autumn, so stay tuned for updates!

Text and photos: Johanna Ruhanen