Maja Charlotte Fleck-Baustian and Inam Abdualkareem Albadawi are student mentors for UiA Rector Sunniva Whittaker this spring.
How can UiA become more inclusive and better at welcoming all students into our learning community - and how does the university serve minority language students and help ease their transition into higher education?
These are two of the challenges the student mentors are taking a closer look at this spring. Albadawi had this role in the autumn of 2020, while Fleck-Baustian is new as student mentor. Both are employed in 20 percent positions this semester.
Inam Abdualkareem Albadawi came to Norway as a refugee from Syria in 2015. There she worked in the directorate of health in the city of Daraa for several years. In 2018, she started her bachelor’s degree in political science after obtaining the general university and college admission certification in Kristiansand the same year.
“As rector’s student mentor, I can contribute by sharing my experience as a minority background student”, says Albadawi.
As a minority language speaker, she faced many challenges when starting university. First, to find out what she was going to study, and then how to navigate through the application process.
“When I started my studies, academic writing was a challenge, and I didn’t know any reading techniques. I knew it was impossible to read everything on the syllabus, but I didn’t know how to keep up with my courses during the first semester at UiA.”
“It was difficult to get to know other students on the programme, even though I was extroverted and initiated conversations with people. I really wanted to get to know someone so we could read together and discuss points that I didn’t fully understand”, says Albadawi.
Business student Maja Charlotte Fleck-Baustian was born in Norway, her father is Norwegian/German and her mother Hungarian. She is almost 20 years old, speaks five languages and lived in four different countries growing up. She went to primary school in Lillesand, completed Year 7 to 10 in China, and went to high school in the US before her family returned to Norway in 2018. Alongside her studies she runs the organisation Youth for Diversity Agder (YDA), which she established in order to break down misunderstandings and stereotypes.
“I experienced this myself, and I saw other young people desperately trying to find out where and how they fit in. This is happening right in front of our eyes, and the next generation needs good role models and mentors to help them build skills and self-confidence to be able to cope with the unpredictable future we all face”, says Fleck-Baustian.
While attending upper secondary school in Kristiansand, she started a youth club.
“I believe in social entrepreneurship as a resource. Through my international experience, I have built communication skills that help in the role as student mentor”, says Fleck-Baustian.
The two mentors have regular meetings with rector. The rest of their time they collect and process useful information. Albadawi spent the first part of the mentoring period talking to other minority background students to identify their common challenges.
“Discussing and hearing directly from those who experience problems with their studies or need help is essential to finding solutions that work for this group”, she says.
“It is very valuable for me as rector to get direct input from the student perspective, in addition to the relationship I maintain with the various student organisations and associations. My two mentors, each with a unique background, help me see a broader picture”, says Rector Sunniva Whittaker.