The last two years have been challenging for all, although we know that for some of our Cheveners what helped them greatly was taking part in national or international mentoring programmes. We asked some of the implementers of such programmes WHY and HOW should others approach such an initiative.

In this interview we hear from Arta Istrefi, on behalf of the Kosovo Chevening Alumni Association, Kester Osahenye from CAAN, Chevening Alumni Association Nigeria and the Chevening Officers in Tunisia and Vietnam(on behalf of the Chevening Alumni Vietnam)


Why did you start a mentoring project in your country?

KOSOVO: Chevening scholarship was a dream opportunity for me to study abroad. Thus, I always felt I should give back to our community. Together with Majlinda Aliu, Chevening Alumna, we agreed to work on the Shapers of Tomorrow, initiated by Bulgaria Chevening Association

CHEVENING ALUMNI VIETNAM: Coming back after their courses in the UK, the Vietnamese Chevening alumni network continues to take an important role in their industries and has been running a number of community projects. Aiming at supporting the new generation of young Vietnamese and observing the lack of proper career orientation in the country, the Chevening Vietnam alumni started the career mentoring programme in late 2016. 

NIGERIA: Chevening Alumni Association of Nigeria, CAAN to give the younger Chevener opportunity to flourish and grow in the careers, we identified professionals in Media, Tech, Medicines, Banking, CEOs of Banks etc who have robust pedigree, untainted professional achievements and attached Cheveners – Mentees to each Mentor, the Mentoring Cycle is Ten months, their meetings and interfaces are determine by the Mentor / Mentee. We want each Mentee to harness opportunities opened to the Mentor, thereby growing their careers and businesses.


What was the most challenging part that you had to overcome in the running of your mentoring programme?

TUNISIA: The C-19 health context meant that we had to shift our activities online. While the initial plan was to organise a series of in-person events to bring together the mentors and the mentees, most of the programme activities had to be conducted remotely. Participants fed back in the end of the programme that they would have loved to have more opportunities to connect in-person.


What was the initial aim of the programme and was this achieved?

CHEVENING ALUMNI VIETNAM: The programme aims at providing career orientation and mentoring for young people in Vietnam (senior students or fresh graduates). During the past 5 years, the programme has been regarded as a career springboard for as many as 120 gifted Vietnamese university students and has increased the number of sectors to 10 (law, marketing, journalism, diplomacy, communication, human resources, economic research, banking and finance, project management and business development).


In your opinion, what does it take to launch and run a successful mentoring programme?

TUNISIA: I think it is important to set clear objectives for the programme; communicate clearly about what is to be expected from the mentors and the mentees; develop a tentative structure for the mentoring sessions so that participants in the programme have some guidance on what they should do and how to make the most of the programme.


What was the most challenging part of this project?

NIGERIA: The fact that some Mentees wanted two Mentors for different disciplines, one Chevener – Mentee wanted someone with experience in Artificial Intelligence and Medicines, since we do not have such pool of Mentors in the Chevening Alumni Association of Nigeria, we had to widen our reach.


Did the programme bring value to your community? If yes, how?

CHEVENING ALUMNI VIETNAM: Yes, it has supported over 120 mentees in career development in 10 sectors. They all have very positive feedback on the programme and have advanced their careers. We also share many tips and advice to the wider community such as CV writing, interview tips and sharing updates and insights of different sectors/ industries.

KOSOVO: Throughout the program, we met many talented and hard-working alumni. Two cases are real success stories for me. The first was my mentee Kat Mallins from the Philippines with whom we talked about many topics from navigating to her dissertation to encouraging her to lead a similar mentoring program in the Philippines once she is back. The second case is Borebardha Mazreku who was mentored by Agon Dula. She started a business in a small town where businesses are rarely owned by women. More importantly, she hired over 20 family members most of whom never worked before. Getting really inspired by her, I have interviewed her for my research study as part of the PhD. I also lead Women Entrepreneurs Kosovo, a community of successful women entrepreneurs where I included Bardha. Just recently, she has started a 12-weeks support from Swiss Expert to help scale her business. the whole journey shows a real impact from informal meetings we have had during the process of mentoring


What advice would you give to another Chevener or another Chevening association that is currently considering launching a mentoring scheme?

CHEVENING ALUMNI VIETNAM: If you want to run it, just do it. It is challenging to start but will be a worthwhile programme. We are willing to share experience 

TUNISIA: Mentoring programmes are excellent; you can achieve several objectives through one single scheme. In our case, it helped us engage alumni and help deliver on embassy objectives on education and youth.

It is a very rewarding experience for the programme implementers as well, especially when we received feedback from young mentees (most of them are undergraduate students) who described how the programme made such a difference for them and how they benefitted from interacting with the Chevening alumni.

Setting the programme can be quite time-consuming at the first iteration, but it is totally worth it.


What would you say is the unique element of your programme?

CHEVENING ALUMNI VIETNAM: Not only coaching mentees on career development, we also empower mentees to be an active part of the programme. Mentees who finished in previous years then join in running the programme and pay it forward to their next generation.