*No names are disclosed for confidentiality purposes*
Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, I attended a local elementary and secondary public school in the small town my family resided in. I grew up with individuals who were also raised in the same familiar patterns of traveling in yellow school buses and participating in after school extracurriculars. I would say I had a pretty ordinary school life experience as a child. It was not until I started attending university that I truly had an experience with meeting people from many different walks of life such as international students from around the world.
This past fall term I had the great opportunity to mentor an international student from China. My role as the student’s mentor was to teach him about Canadian culture and student life of Canadian students. This included talking about Canadian celebrations, pop culture, and involvement addressing school life such as student-professor interaction, teaching assistants, school clubs and sports teams.
Initially, when I applied to become a student mentor, I believed I would be explaining to my mentee about the campus and fun things to get involved in and that would be the gist of it. Before this experience, I always had an underdeveloped understanding of a mentor-mentee relationship. I did not think twice about what I, the mentor, would be learning and taking away from him, the mentee. However, over the term I have noticed how much more culturally aware I have become of Chinese traditions. During my very first meeting with my mentee, I learned about the origins of dragon boating – something I would have most likely never looked into on my own. As I taught him more about Canada, he taught me more about China. Each and every meeting led me to learning something new. This gave me a completely different outlook on my role as a mentor.
As time progressed, I truly believe we dropped the mentor and mentee roles and have become friends. Although where we were raised and the way we were raised are very different from one another, we were able to find much in common. Conversations would easily go on for hours. I felt relieved to know that my attempts to provide him with a comfortable environment for him to learn without judgement, to improve his conversation skills, and to learn about Canadian university student life were coming to great use for him. With each meeting, I noticed a great difference in his overall confidence and his attitude towards living alone in a foreign country. I was thrilled to notice such changes.
This experience has truly opened up my eyes to the many different perspectives of university students. Taking part in such a role has expanded my understanding of several different cultures. I am more sympathetic towards the hardships international students must endure when moving to a new country for their education. Being a mentor for an international student from China has genuinely been an extraordinary and unforgettable experience.