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Mentoring the mentors

Program easing transition of international students to Memorial

Student Life

By Jennifer Batten

Since its establishment seven years ago, MUN Mentors has experienced significant growth, demonstrating the important relationship between early support in the university environment and student success.

The peer mentorship program aims to ease the transition process for new international students while giving current Memorial students the chance to participate in a unique intercultural volunteer initiative.

Front row from left are mentors Ella Chirinos, Satria Kusuma, Marina Schmidt, Jenna Robertson and Jackie Barry. Back row from left are Cody Diamond, Kieran Lacey and Alex Norman.
Front row from left are mentors Ella Chirinos, Satria Kusuma, Marina Schmidt, Jenna Robertson and Jackie Barry. Back row from left are Cody Diamond, Kieran Lacey and Alex Norman.
Photo: Chris Hammond

Student match up

MUN Mentors was created to help new students from around the world as they navigate life at Memorial and settle into St. John’s.

Current students are matched with new students as they begin their first semester at Memorial, helping them succeed in their early days at the university, both inside and outside the classroom.

The program has evolved to include a Senior Mentor Panel, a group of experienced mentors who work closely with Ying Zhang, program co-ordinator and staff member at the Internationalization Office, in providing advice, support and best practice skills to guide new mentors as they prepare to work with new students.

“The senior students are the go-to, knowledgeable mentors for more junior mentors; they are there to answer questions about the mentorship process, drawing on their own mentoring experiences and knowledge,” said Ms. Zhang.

“The senior mentors also plan events and activities, lead monthly mentor/mentee group meetings, promote the development of leadership skills among mentors and mentees, increase engagement with the program, and help recruit new mentors.”

“Invaluable” experience

There are currently 10 senior mentors helping build upon the program’s excellence in supporting new international students.

Jackie Barry, a second-year student working towards a master’s degree with a focus in immunology, has been involved with MUN Mentors for more than three years.

“Being involved as a senior mentor has allowed me to develop some very useful skills.” — Jackie Barry

She says her experience with the program has given her a platform to learn about different cultures, and also about herself.

“I became a senior mentor when the idea was conceived three years ago, and although I am no longer connected one-on-one with a mentee, the experiences I have had are invaluable,” said Ms. Barry.

“Being involved as a senior mentor has allowed me to develop some very useful skills. Event planning is my focus, and I absolutely love the creativity and organization required to pull off some of the events we have hosted for new students.”

Cultural exchange

Mentors are able to share their knowledge of living and studying at Memorial with mentees, and through their experiences, develop strong leadership skills themselves.

The MUN Mentors program also matches mentees and mentors across cultures, allowing participants to learn about a culture other than their own and also work to develop effective intercultural communication skills.

Satria Kusuma, a student studying business administration at Memorial, has been involved with MUN Mentors as a senior mentor for the past several years.

“The program provides the space and time for intercultural exchange.” — Satria Kusuma

He says the experience has helped him become a great team player and group facilitator, and has helped him hone his active listening skills.

“The program provides an amazing platform for networking,” said Mr. Kusuma.

“We have students in the program studying at all levels, from undergraduate to PhD, and coming from all parts of the world. The program provides the space and time for intercultural exchange. I believe that is what makes it special.”

Negotiating student life

Marina Schmidt was one of the first students to join the Senior Mentor Panel.

As an international student herself, she noted the importance of guiding new students through the potential perils and pitfalls of new student life.

I enjoy helping other newcomers get settled at Memorial and in St. John’s,” said Ms. Schmidt.

“Coming to a new place and leaving family behind is incredibly stressful and causes a lot of anxiety and I am glad that I could help others relieve that stress and anxiety.”

Other members of the Senior Mentor Panel for winter 2017 include Meshari Alwashmi, Baban Deep, Alex Norman, Kieran Lacey, Ella Chirinos, Jenna Robertson and Cody Diamond.

To get involved and to learn more about the MUN Mentors program, visit here.

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