In accordance with the expansion of its offices, the Study Abroad Office has decided to increase the resources it offers students who have studied abroad or are interested in doing so in a new initiative called the Study Abroad Mentor Program.
It was introduced this semester and Geneseo students who have studied abroad through any State University of New York program can now become mentors to interested students. They can discuss their experiences and give advice about the study abroad process, according to Study Abroad Advisor Emily Froome.
She said the department found that often students want to hear about the programs from other students. This mentorship program has been in the works for a few years with these students’ needs in mind.
“I will say we couldn’t have done it without our new space up here. I know that sounds really silly in a way, but when we were down in the Dean’s Office we didn’t have anywhere the mentors could hold office hours,” Froome said. “We didn’t even have space to seat our student workers at their own desk. I think that was kind of the catalyst, moving upstairs.”
Emails were sent to students who studied abroad during the fall 2012 and spring and summer 2013 semesters offering the chance to be a mentor. The department expected 20 applicants and planned to hire 10 mentors. To their surprise, 40 students applied, so they increased their allotment for mentors to 16.
Junior Adel Davletgaraeva said that, once she received the email, she chose to apply because she found the mentor program to be a really great idea.
“Sharing my experience with other people who really want to go and still doubt it, I want to be able to encourage them to go,” she said.
Senior Bethany Hyland explained that in addition to mandatory office hours, mentors do class visits and help with promoting the program by hanging posters and giving presentations in the residence halls.
“Before the mentor program existed, conversations on campus I had with underclassmen would involve them asking me about studying abroad because they already had questions about it. Having the mentor program gives a forum to the process that was already happening on campus,” Hyland said.
Depending on the current mentors’ performances, they will likely be offered the chance to return next year, according to Froome. Because it is known that some mentors won’t be able to return next year, she is expecting about 10 spots to be available. These will be extended to people who studied abroad during the fall 2013 and spring and summer 2014 semesters.
Mentors receive a 50 stipend for the semester.
Froome described the program as being valuable to both parties involved: The mentors are able to share their experiences after their friends and loved ones no longer want to hear their stories, while the prospective study abroad students receive a firsthand take on the programs.
“This is a way they can connect their experience back to the Geneseo community and makes them feel like people do care about the experience they had and do want to hear what they went through,” Froome said.