April 1, 2021
Becoming a mentor in the Atlantic Study & Stay NL program has given me unexpected rewards. After two years of saying no, I agreed to join the mentorship program for International students studying in Newfoundland and Labrador. The program encourages students to stay primarily in NL or Atlantic Canada once they have completed their studies.
When first asked, I was hesitant as a small business owner. I was not sure I could commit the time. I also truly wondered, What could I offer an International student? My business is not large enough to offer an internship, or a job. I have not been in business a long time so I really did not think I was a match for this program. I agreed to become a mentor when asked again as I saw it as a way to give back to my community; something which is important to me.
My mentee is a graduate student studying at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, in Corner Brook, NL. I immediately asked my daughter who is also a graduate student at this campus, if she knew my mentee. She did not.
At our first virtual meeting, we discovered that my mentee was a student in the Environmental Assessment course I attended as a guest lecturer a couple of years ago discussing project management and team-building. That helped make a connection and seemed to put him at ease. We chatted about his journey to Grenfell and his hopes and aspirations. I suggested a few things to work on and we agreed to meet again in a month’s time.
At our last meeting, something unexpected happened. I found myself caring about him as an individual, not just a monthly commitment. His lack of a social network, the impact of isolation due to COVID-19, and the weariness he is experiencing as he tries to complete his thesis is concerning to me. I felt like I was talking to my daughter who is also in the last stages of her thesis writing and is finding it tiring. I feel like I shifted in to “mom” mode rather than “mentor” mode. We talked about self-care, expanding his social network, and finding that motivational spark he needs to complete his degree.
Becoming a mentor has touched me in ways that I did not expect. I have discovered that it is not a “role” I have to play; it is simply being myself. Sharing my experience, providing a new perspective has allowed me to discover unexpected gifts within myself. Connecting with a young man who made a journey from his country to ours, looking to make a difference, has been heartwarming. I am looking forward to our next call in a couple of weeks. ~ Carole