In honor of 10 years of PREMIUM, we look back on what a decade of PREMIUM has meant for our alumni, coaches, mentors, clients, and trainers.
Sat across from me is Adina Petre, a passionate and dedicated coach in the PREMIUM programme. Next to being a coach for students in the PREMIUM programme, Adina also provides mental health support, training and coaching for students, expats, young entrepreneurs and start-ups – in her psychotherapy and coaching business, Insights. And there is more; ‘I do the coaching parallel to running my own practice which is also a psychotherapy practice. Here I deal with psychological trauma’. It is something that Adina has always been passionate about; how to put psychological knowledge to good use to help people and enable change for them. ‘Psychological trauma is something that people are usually looking at in a negative way but, what is important is the outcome, the healing process, and that is always positive.’
When she saw the UM news announcement that PREMIUM was looking for coaches, it directly seemed like a good fit for her. ‘I was really interested in coaching highly motivated students since my coaching business is about high-performance coaching. It is an important component for my work to be successful: the intrinsic motivation and that determination for change have to be there, otherwise I cannot do anything for a client. They have to want the change.’
Ever since that first time coaching in PREMIUM, which was in 2016 already, Adina is still part of the programme and coaches PREMIUM students. Her work is well appreciated, and that is reason enough to dive into her PREMIUM experiences!
You must have seen a lot of students and young professionals during your work as a coach. What makes the coaching sessions with PREMIUM students so special and/or unique?
‘It is a combination of factors. First of all, it is the determination and ambition of the students. All of the students that are doing the PREMIUM programme are very motivated and ambitious students with strong personalities. In a way, it is a humbling experience for me actually; to be in the presence of such well-rounded future professionals. They are so interested and devoted to their self-improvement, to becoming the absolute best version of themselves, it is truly inspiring. It is an absolute pleasure to work with them during our PREMIUM coaching sessions. These students are one day going to be the professionals running this world and I feel very safe in their hands.
Also, PREMIUM is the most spectacular experience of seeing the birth of a new person. When they start, everybody is “just” a student – a bit insecure, with performance anxiety e.g. and when you see them at the end of the programme, it is fantastic to see how they have transformed. Things that they used to see as obstacles are no longer a problem and now they have gained experience in this. They are adulting fast, becoming young professionals, experts in their fields. I am happy that I can be there for them through coaching, but they are the ones who are doing the hard work. They are putting their heart and soul on the table and there is great strength in showing that vulnerability.’
When is a coaching session with a PREMIUM student successful?
‘In my opinion, a coaching session is successful when we have that ‘aha-moment’. At first, when people come to a session it is informal and we have a chat to get to know each other. Next, we get started and talk about the problem/issue/change that that person wants to focus on. This is when you see a frown on their face; they are struggling to put things in perspective and make sense of it. Then all of the sudden, when I ask a question, there is this ‘aha-moment’! That is when you realize that you can figure it out yourself and that you are on the right track.
My personal coaching style is non-directive. I like to encourage students to find their own solutions because in my experience those are the most sustainable solutions. I respect their autonomy as well and respect their freedom to make their own choices and to consider those. I am not an expert on their lives – they are the experts! They know themselves better than anyone else could know them, sometimes they just do not know this yet. I help them with getting there. ‘
What is the biggest challenge in your coaching sessions with PREMIUM students?
‘At the moment, it is really the Covid-19 situation. It is difficult at times to bring some sort of positivity towards it. It is so negative, for so long and that is a challenge. Another challenge is the fact that every person has a life outside of PREMIUM and sometimes life happens, and there are events that are beyond your control which have a huge impact on somebody’s experience whilst in PREMIUM. When this happens, we work on this in our coaching sessions, and when I feel that there is more support needed, I guide the students to getting adequate support – like the UM psychologists, for example. When we start PREMIUM we begin with a certain mindset and expectations and these things can change a whole person’s plan. It is part of the process though, and we need flexibility in our work.
Another thing I see at times, is when a student begins the process with goals he/she wants to work towards and then after one session they discover a different underlying thing that is actually the issue. So we have to switch gears a little bit. In the long run, this is more beneficial and sustainable for them.’
Are time restrictions sometimes a challenge for coaching sessions?
‘Not as much. In this regard, I am a little bit of a rebel! I create my own structure in PREMIUM. For example, the first meeting is never 1 hour, I always make it for 1,5 hours. I think it is important to have some time to connect and drink some coffee together at first. I really like a personal approach to this, and I think it makes for a better coaching experience. It gives me a bit of time to understand them as a person; who they are, where they come from, and where they want to go. This way I can also better help them get there. I like to do a good job and I give everything that I can for that.’
In what way and to what extent has the current working from home situation influenced your work as a coach? You already stated before that keeping positivity in the coaching sessions was hard.
‘To be honest, it also brought some positive aspects towards it. Forcing us to move work online, I could see that I can address more people at the same time in different areas of the world. This was something that was only done under special circumstances and now it became the norm.
I also notice that for students sometimes it is a bit more relaxing if they can just be at home, and we can make the joke ‘I wear pyjama bottoms, but a nice shirt for this meeting’, it makes for less formality and rigidness.
When a session is online, I also try to keep that personal touch in my work and make people feel at home. I use the same kind of openness and show them around the office, making them aware of my environment and joke ‘this is the chair where you were supposed to be sitting, now you get the far away couch because of Covid-19’. I encourage them as well; to get comfortable, get a cup of tea or coffee, to be at ease. I try to keep it very natural, I would say.’
How do you ensure, in your coaching, that students remain motivated and engaged during a lockdown?
‘I really investigate a student’s intrinsic motivation when I first meet them. I ask questions such as; why did you feel attracted to PREMIUM in the first place? Why do you think that you are a good fit for the project that you have chosen? Why are you doing the things that you generally do in life? What motivates you?
That is really important. Whenever students are a bit trailing off, I just remind them of this information that I have gathered. Motivation and willpower are not infinite resources and they are highly contextual. If e.g. my motivation wanders off because I have been distracted or I lost my faith in whatever cause I am fighting for, it helps to be reconnecting with that original motivation that can spark the flame again and can help people get back on track.‘
What is your best PREMIUM memory so far?
‘I have a memory that is very dear to me. I think it was the second time when I was doing PREMIUM. At the Closing Event, I received a thank you card from my team. It was beautiful because the project was related to a sunflower project, and this thank you card also had sunflowers, which are my favourite flowers. Each team member wrote a very sweet thank you message and mentioned one little thing that I have helped them with throughout our work together. It was really something nice to hold on to, as a validation of the work we did together. It is still in my practice actually! I always keep the thank you cards I receive from my clients, the birthday cards and the Christmas cards they send me from all over the world. It is a beautiful token of having had those relationships, and a way to keep in touch, after our work has ended. Because in coaching as well as in therapy it is really all about the relationship and the quality of the relationship – it is a human exchange going on there. ‘
If you want to know more about Adina’s work, you can reach her via her website www.myinsights.eu.