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Academy of Lifelong Learning

Mentor Guidelines

What is the Role of the Mentor?

The role of the Mentor is different in each Mentor/Student relationship and should be discussed and worked out on an individual basis between each Student and Mentor.  It is important to remember that the Mentor is not a parent, a teacher or a tutor.  And the Mentor is not an authority figure although the Mentor may provide guidance to the Student on appropriate occasions.  Rather, the Mentor brings a non-familial and non-supervisory perspective to working with the Student because their relationship is purely voluntary.  Many Mentor/ Student partnerships include at least some of the following:

  • Help the Student to understand the language, culture and customs of the United States
  • Enable the Student to experience “home life” by visiting the Mentor’s home, perhaps playing with pets and meeting the family, or join in other events, such as birthday parties and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and Easter.
  • Help the Student improve his/her spoken English through conversation in informal settings
  • Sometimes act as a guide to typical local events, such as the Kent County Fair, and to visit historical sights in order to experience life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland
  • May take the Student shopping and help them settle in to their life in America
  • Take the Student out for a meal or coffee
  • Share elements of the Student’s life when invited
  • Help the student to overcome transition problems such as homesickness, adjusting to a different culture and the challenges of independence 
  • Help the Student build confidence through non-threatening conversation and cultural discussions
  • The Mentor is not expected to be a tutor.   If the Student is having trouble with written English or other academic subjects, the Mentor should encourage the Student to take full advantage of the academic resources at Washington College.  For example, the WC writing center and the math center.  The Washington College Global Education  Office [ http://www.washcoll.edu/wc/offices/global-education/ ] has an excellent directory of resources offered by the college
  • Mentors can, and have, joined together to organize activities with their Students, for example, parties, cook-outs, softball games, cooking traditional foods in Mentors’ homes, etc.

What is the Profile of a Good Mentor?

Many different types of people have been successful Mentors whose support has enriched the lives of international students at Washington College.  However, good mentors generally share the following characteristics:

  • Is a friendly American who welcomes an international student to the United States
  • Is willing to help to familiarize the international student with American cultural norms through a wide variety of activities, depending on the interests and time of the Student and the Mentor
  • Has lifetime experiences, professional and personal, to draw on when working with young people
  • Has a joy of life and enthusiasm, an inquiring mind, a sense of fun, and a broad range of interests
  • Has the support of their family to make a successful Mentor/Student relationship
  • Has the energy and the commitment to devote time to the Student

Can a Single Person serve as a Mentor?

The typical Mentor is an adult, who is living in a family in Kent County most often with a spouse and some may have children.  These would enable the Student “Mentee” to experience typical family life in the United States.  However, single persons have also been successful Mentors and the program encourages all members of the community to participate.   It is usually most successful if a Mentor who is a single person supports a student of the same gender.

Are there Age Requirements for Mentors?

No, although the typical Mentor is an adult, age 40+/-.   Some Mentors are younger with children and are working while others may be older and retired.   However, the Mentor’s standing in the community and their connections to different aspects of life on the Eastern Shore are more important than age.  The best Mentor adds value to the Student’s life by being active and outgoing and participating in a wide range of activities that s/he can share with the Student.

How Many Students may a Mentor Support?

Mentors usually support one student at a time but some Mentors have assisted two students in a year with some overlap - usually beginning with one in the Fall and another in the Spring.  Occasionally, some Mentors have also have had more than one student at a time who were from the same country or who were roommates.   These circumstances are considered as they arise in consultation between the prospective Mentor and the WC-ALL International Student Mentoring Programs coordinators.

Does the Mentor Represent Washington College?

No, the Mentor is a volunteer who is recruited through, and working with, The Academy of Lifelong Learning at Washington College (WC-ALL).  WC-ALL is a peer-led, self-supported autonomous department of the College.  It places the experience and expertise of community members at the service of international Washington College students, in close collaboration with other College academic resources.

The Mentors and managers of the WC-ALL are all adult volunteers from the local community in Kent County Maryland, the home of Washington College.  They do not represent Washington College in any legal sense.  However, the Mentors do informally reflect the values and culture of the community and the United States to the international students at Washington College.  And the Mentors should remember that they will often provide the first, and sometimes the only personal contact that the international students will have in the community, off-campus in an informal setting.