Earlier in October, I had a great candid conversation with Josefina, who is one of this year’s Mentor Navigators with Student Life. As a part of the Access & Inclusion Peer Programs, essentially a Mentor Navigator provides mentorship and support for African Black Caribbean, Latin American, Southeast Asian and First Generation students (whose parents/guardians did not complete post-secondary education in Canada). We began the conversation about the chilly weather and how it’s hard to be stylish during fall and during the cold. Following that, we spoke about what is was like being immigrant, dealing with culture shock even after (in my case) years of being in Canada!
B: Tell me a little bit about yourself
J: My name is Josefina (ho-se-feena). My pronouns are she/her and I am 3rd year studying a Specialist in Anthropology and Minoring in Material Culture and Semiotics (the science of symbols). I was born in Peru and I have been a mentor since mid-July.
B: I noticed you mentioned two last names, which isn’t super common, what’s that about?
J: Yeah, so I do have two last names, one from my mom’s side and the other is from my dads side. This is a very common custom in many Spanish speaking countries.
B: That’s SO cool! Thanks for sharing. Can you briefly explain what the Mentor Navigator Program is about?
J: We have Mentor Navigators to meet the needs of students. We have mentor navigators for African Black Caribbean students, Latin American students, Southeast Asian students and First Generation students. I am one of the Latin American Mentor Navigators. The Mentor Navigators offer supports like one-one appointments. Students can choose this very last minute and you can choose which mentor navigator you get to speak with so it’s catered to you. We also ask that you have to provide a blurb of what your questions are so we can be prepared to answer your questions. There are drop-ins available and you do not have to register in advance for this and it’s more of a group setting.
B: Can you walk me through how you arrived at the decision to join the mentor navigator team?
J: I am Latin American and I have a lighter skinned and understand the privilege that comes with that. On the other hand, coming to Canada was a huge transition and I found that people can be closed off. I know that many international students go through this and I think it’s important that we provide students with the support to to build your own and be a part of community that they can identify with. I wanted to help ensure that students don’t feel like an outsider.
B: What are some things students can expect if they join the program?
J: We provide one-on-one programs which are very casual, like chatting with a friend. You can speak about things that you find challenging, academics, making friends, finding internship opportunities, research. These can be in-person or virtual. The drop-in are also casual, the only difference being that it’s with a group of students. We discuss, everything and anything. We want people to feel comfortable and have a space to destress.
B: What is your favourite aspect of your role?
J: Ohh this is a tough one… but I would say getting to meet many people and the mentees. I love getting to interact with other students that are part of student life and provide support for students.
B: How do you see the program changing and are some of the future goals for the program?
J: Right now, we’re working on outreach to increaes the amount of student that are part of the program and we want students to know the program exists and there’s help if they need it.
Rapid fire question
B: Favourite movie of all time?
J: Howl’s Moving Castle
B: Favourite hype / mood booster song?
J: Persiana Americana by soda stereo
B: Essential song or artist in your study playlist?
J: All too well by Taylor Swift
B: Favourite spot to study on campus?
J: Robarts Commons
B: Most memorable course you’ve taken at UofT?
B: What’s one advice you’d give to your first year self?
J: Go see an academic advisor, they will help you plan everything to the day you graduate!!
B: Favourite way to de-stress and take care of your mental health?
J: I love to cook, doing something with my hands, I also like to draw.
B: Any last words or comments to any readers?
J: Please book an appointment!! We’d love to meet with you and to chat with you! If you have any questions you can also reach out to me at this email: firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information about the program you can visit our website: https://studentlife.utoronto.ca/program/access-and-inclusion-peer-programs/