Shahla and Renée

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Photo: Suste Bonnén

Shahla from Iran and Danish Renée share the experience of living in a foreign country, as well as similar hopes and dreams.

“Rene was totally open-minded and friendly when we met the first time”, explains Shahla. “I had not expected a mentor to be like that! From that first meeting I knew I could trust her.”

Shahla was born in Iran and came to Denmark in January 2002. Starting soon after she arrived, she went to language school for 3 years. In 2006, she became a full time student at the Pedagogical Seminarium.

Shahla has made a good life in Denmark, but when she found out about KVINFO´s Mentor Network she saw the possibility of having a mentor who could help her navigate in her new society, to learn more about Danish culture and last, but certainly not least, Shahla wanted further assistance with the Danish language.

She was matched with Renée. As a public figure in Denmark, Renée had been present at a Danish Integration Award Ceremony – an award won by KVINFO´s mentor programme in 2004 - and when Renée heard about the network, she thought it was a golden opportunity to be helpful. She is convinced that sometimes it only takes very little assistance to give another woman an easier and perhaps more positive approach to Danish society.

Renée had lived with her family for a year in a tiny Spanish mountain village when she was younger, so she knew it is not easy to feel at home in a foreign place without knowing the culture or the language. She also had experience of working in foreign countries from her time as an international top model from ages 17 to 24, living first in New York and then Paris.

When first meeting Shahla, Renée remembers thinking: “She is like me in so many ways. We are the same age and we share very similar hopes and dreams.” They both also recognized each other’s professionalism and held a mutual respect for one another’s intellect.

These days, Renée wears many hats and always keeps herself extremely busy. In addition to a Psychology degree she received in 2002, Renée is the author of several children's books and a regular columnist in several magazines. Shahla is doing her internship at the Pedagogical Seminarium in the city of Herning and is only six months away from graduation. With many other responsibilities coming first, they cannot meet as often as they would like. However, their mentoring relationship remains intact, feels good and has been productive.

“Our relationship as mentor-mentee is nice because it is taking its time,” says Renée. “It is nothing like when you are a teenager and you find someone that you want to be friends, and you become her friend very fast. We are getting to know each other slowly but better and better.”

For both women, that is what really matters.

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