We have all been newbies at some point or another. Fresh-faced and naive in comparison to The Wise Ones, a.k.a. the students experienced in the subject or activity. For most of us first-years, we are the literal definition of newbies in the face of the mysterious and ever-intimidating UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO.
Back in September, I was surfing Facebook when I came upon the English Students’ Union’s post advertising their Peer Mentorship program. It caught my interest, but I hesitated to apply for it because I wasn’t sure what the benefits of having an English mentor were. However, after getting a positive, “Take whatever help you can get,” from my English course TA, I decided to go for it.
I think it’s safe to say that many of us get a little more than intimidated at the prospect of asking help from professors, the ultimate Wise Ones. However, mentors are students who are a couple of years or so older, so they’re generally less intimidating to chat with, and they’re also able to relate to our our melodramatic cannot-compute-assignment-what-is-writing breakdowns. When I first met my mentor, I was, admittedly, a bit nervous because she carried the status of a Wise One, but she was so incredibly friendly that I found myself comfortable around her within the first few minutes of meeting her.
Having met with her for a while now, I can say with certainty that I’m glad I decided to participate in the mentorship program as a mentee. Here are just some of the many benefits having a mentor has provided me:
Back in high school, I mostly wrote general essays for English class. However, when I came to university, most of my assignments ended up focusing on in-depth analyses of passages. Having very little experience with this type of assignment, I struggled a lot with how to proceed in completing them, such as what I should be noticing and what I should be writing about. Luckily, since my mentor had taken this course before, she’d done this type of assignment numerous times, and so she demonstrated her method and general guidelines regarding how she tackles the assignments, which ended up being invaluable knowledge for me.
Course and Program Advice
Something that never crossed my mind when I applied for the mentorship program was that my mentor would be able to offer advice on how to pursue my intended academic program. She offered me advice on how to balance my courses, such as not taking a whole bunch of novel courses in the same year, but instead taking a variety of genres, such as poetry, drama, and prose, to avoid overloading myself with too much reading. Basically, since she’s gone through the program, she knows the dos and don’ts of choosing courses and was able to give me a heads-up!
I’ve found that I am able to confide my concerns and worries with my mentor, since I’ve gotten to know and trust her, partially due to our similar experiences as both U of T and English students. For example, I told her about how I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of reading in my English course, and she offered me advice on how she personally coped with it, such as squeezing reading time in between classes and on the subway home.
It’s important to note that mentors aren’t a replacement for your college’s Registrar’s assistants or your faculty’s academic advisors. Both are Wise Ones, so both will have invaluable advice and perspectives—but they’ll differ from one another, and that’s good. It means you’ll be able to make better informed decisions while considering the two Wise Ones’ opinions.
So, if you ever get the opportunity to be mentored, take it! Not only will mentors provide you with the merits above, but it also doesn’t hurt to see a third- or fourth-year student who’s doing the same program as you and is surviving (because I’m sure some of us have doubts as to whether or not we will come out alive by the end of it).
Have you had a mentor before? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below or through @lifeatuoft on Twitter!