April 16, 2020

Mentorship goes both ways

How mentoring new international students contributed to my own personal growth and development
Students on an ISS trip to Drumheller
As a mentor, you can join in on fun ISS programming, like this trip to Drumheller. Goundo Diarra

I've been a mentor with the International Mentorship program for two years now. I decided to join during my second year of university because I wanted to meet new people and share my wisdom and experience as an international student with a new incoming student. Arriving in a new city where you don't know anyone can be really overwhelming. Seeing a familiar face in the halls or having someone to talk to can really change that experience for the better — and I wanted to be that familiar person to someone else. The mentorship program is a low-commitment volunteer program, and as a busy student who still wants to help others, I knew it would be a good fit for me. 

In my view, mentorship is two-directional learning. My mentee can learn from my experiences as a student, and I can learn about their home country, culture, language and hobbies. So far, I've mentored five students and broadened my cultural understanding, and gained new perspectives and ways of thinking as a result. Since my mentees have been new exchange or international students, I'm able to view the university experience through their lens. Their fresh perspectives enable me to reflect on my time at UCalgary and to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone.

With my mentees, I've explored activities and events that I otherwise wouldn't have done on my own. Being a mentor has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for me because I'm able to have a positive influence on my mentee and their time here. As a mentor, I act as a leader and a role model for all my current and previous mentees, and I enjoy seeing them succeed during their time here. The mentorship program is also about building community and creating friendships. I'm always available for my mentees to talk to — for them, I'm a friend that they can approach when they need transitional support, such as help registering for classes and getting involved with campus clubs. I'm here to help my mentees have a comfortable and happy UCalgary experience.

As an international relations and anthropology student, the mentorship program has also been a pleasant addition to my degree. For some of my mentees, English was not their first language. As a peer mentor, I learned how to actively listen to their concerns to understand what kind of help they needed. An added benefit of my volunteer experience has been improving my language, communication and interpersonal skills. The Internationa Peer Mentorship program has broadened my appreciation for diversity and has encouraged me to seek out other on-campus opportunities that promote different backgrounds. I strongly encourage anyone interested in becoming a peer mentor to apply for the program because it provides an enriching experience!

The International Student Mentorship program is open to all UCalgary students. Applications are currently open, until May 31, 2020.