What it’s Like Being a First-Year Mentor: Isabel Miller ‘22

HerCampus: Hey Isabel! All of us students here at DePauw did the first year experience program. You were a part of that again this year as a first year mentor. When did you train and what was this training like?

Isabel: We came to DePauw a week early— it was 6 full days, 8 am to 6pm. We did a lot of group activities (color groups they call it) and we actually participated in all of the group activities that the first years do in their mentor group. After the activities we would analyze what it entailed, what you learn from it, what kind of skills it builds etc. We also had many group speakers that talked about the resources that they provided on campus. That included public safety, counseling services, gold commitment, and others. 


HC: I am curious what you feel was the best part of working with the freshman?

Isabel: I think the best part was being able to relive my freshman year in a way by getting to see it from a different point of view and guiding the new incoming first years. I enjoyed helping them with the big things and even the little things like questions about where the buildings are and such. I like giving back because someone did this for me, so I enjoy being able to do it for them.


HC: It is nice that the freshman, off the bat, have someone to turn to because freshman year is not easy for most. What do you feel was difficult about being a mentor and was it particularly hard seeing the tumultuous side of freshman year through their perspective.

Isabel: Well these past two weeks we had one on ones. Those were the most difficult because a lot of things come up during that time and it’s hard having to come up with something to say on the spot that is good advice. In a lot of the meetings with them, the issues that were brought up I went through as well so I can use my experiences to help them. But some of the things I did not experience, like having a difficult roommate and things like that, so it is hard to give an answer for those questions. Also I am their age, so they see me more as a peer than an authority figure. This is challenging at times when I am trying to schedule meetings and such because I don’t get as many responses as I would like. It is a hard balance between being a peer they can talk and open up to, verses an authority figure that they listen to.


HC: Having said that it is a difficult time for some freshman, is there something in particular that you learned from being on this side of things? As in, is there any particular issues you saw freshman having and advice you would give? 

Isabel: A lot of my mentees expressed having difficulties in their academics. Looking back I wish I had more frequently used academic resource help, like going to the academic resource center, because it is always there and free. It helps me out a lot, and I think it is particularly nice because having the type of academic help DePauw provides is not on all campuses. As a freshman, it is really hard to ask for help though, for a lot of things. When my mentees come to me with academic issues, I always ask if they’ve asked for help. This goes for all issues though, including personal, emotional, living situation, etc. Just understanding that there are things out there that can really help in all of those categories is important and I try to encourage freshman, and really everyone, that asking for help is okay. 


HC: That is really good advice that I think would have helped me freshman year and would be helpful for a lot of people now. Thank you so much for meeting with me and sharing all of your wise words Isabel! Isabel: Of course thank you!