On Mentoring

United-GlobeWhat does it mean to be a mentor? Especially when you are serving in this role in a formally designated capacity?

This summer, I signed up to serve as a mentor for a student in DC doing an internship through a non-profit. I was nervous when I attended our first meeting, arranged through the sponsoring organization–what were we going to talk about? How “distant” should I appear? I was delighted to find that my assigned mentee was mature, outgoing, and incredibly easy to talk to.

She was also an international student from the Netherlands, and her global awareness put me to shame. Like me, she was an American political junkee–eager to talk politics and American history. I was utterly in awe of her political knowledge. I can’t imagine a US college student that fluent in Dutch (or even French or German) politics–although I’m sure there are some. Americans are lucky to be able to (often) ignore the goings-on in the rest of the world, but of course many people don’t have that luxury for a variety of reasons–a war-torn country, a small population.

It was a useful reminder for me as a teacher that we can work to build more global awareness through our choices of examples and readings in the classroom. I vow to take at least a few small steps in that direction in my Organizational Communication class in the fall.

Coffee, conversation, and culture. That’s what my time in this mentor program meant this summer. I enjoyed serving as a familiar face and open ear to my student who was navigating an at times frustrating internship. And we spent a great deal of time swapping movie and music recommendations. I have her to thank for introducing me to Hamilton.

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