International students make Sussex a home from home for others

Laura Hilger

International students Laura Hilger and Annika Scharbert lost no time fitting into life at the University of Sussex.

In fact, they adapted so well, they became student mentors and were able to help many other students adapt to life in a new country and get on with their studies.

Their selfless efforts have now been rewarded, as the two International Relations students graduate today (Weds 21 July, 2.30pm) not only with first-class degrees, but with the good wishes of staff and fellow students ringing in their ears.

Laura, who was born and raised in Minnesota, USA, worked with Annika to offer essay advice and exam and dissertation workshops for their fellow students, while completing their own studies. Laura was also selected for the University's Learning to Lead programme, which offers promising students opportunities to learn skills for responsible roles in life.

Laura says: "I loved my three years at Sussex. I learned a lot  about myself and my skills, and met some truly special peers. Mentoring students younger than ourselves was very rewarding, too.  I think there are some things that only other students can accurately explain. Having learned  skills such as essay researching and writing, and having adapted quite quickly to Sussex's style and requirements, I felt it was important to help younger students along the way."

Laura is now going on to study for an MSc in Social Research Methods at the London School of Economics.

Fellow student mentor Annika Scharbert was able to offer the benefit of her globe-trotting experience to help international students settle in and thrive at Sussex.

Born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany she has also lived in the USA and in Barcelona. She says: "We held workshops on writing essays and giving presentations, offered an essay proofreading service and were able to refer students to the right people to sort out personal problems.

"Coming to your peers first, who might have experienced a similar problem, is often easier. Many of the students I met through the mentoring scheme really appreciated it. And I got to meet a lot of great people -  fellow students, tutors and professors."

Annika is currently doing a TEFL course in Brighton before going to the University of St Andrews in Scotland to study Sustainable Development and Art History.

Last updated: Wednesday, 21 July 2010