First-year students and their mentors' experiences of social intergation in a peer mentor programme
English: This research study aimed to explore and describe the experiences of social integration in a peer mentor programme. A significant amount of existing evidence suggests that students need to be provided with the required support to persist at higher education institutions. One of these support structures is peer mentoring. Peer mentoring relationships at higher education institutions have a significant effect on first-year students’ academic performance, sense of belonging, and commitment towards their studies. Feuerstein states that in his theory of mediated learning experience, intentional interactions between mentors and mentees can assist to shape the mentees’ cognitive growth, control of behaviour, goal achieving behaviour, and optimistic attitude towards challenges and problems. In a peer mentor programme at the University of the Free State, senior undergraduate students are assigned to small groups of firstyear students in their campus residences and present a structured peer mentor programme to them during a year. A qualitative study was conducted to explore the experiences of these students. A purposive sampling method was employed to select students who were mentors and mentees in the peer mentor programme to participate in the research study. Focus group discussions that were semi-structured in nature were held with these participants, and the recordings of the discussions were transcribed for analysis. The transcriptions of the data were analysed by making use of thematic analysis. From this analysis, four main themes were identified from the data, namely (1) focus of the mentor-mentee relationship, (2) type of mentor roles, (3) factors influencing the mentor-mentee relationship, and (4) value of the mentormentee relationship. These themes were discussed in depth for both the mentors and the mentees. These findings indicate how the intervention of a peer mentor programme can increase the amount of belonging students experience towards their campus community. Recommendations for amendments to the peer mentor programme and suggestions for future studies are also discussed.