Our blog post asks us to “Describe a time when I met with a professional in my field or an NIU Alumni… How did they help you?” Sure, I could talk about the people I have talked to or how they have helped me. However, I feel like it would be better to talk about the times I have helped others. Is that not what we should really be doing? Trying to make other people’s lives better instead of focusing on ourselves?
If we stick with purely academic/professional help that I have provided at NIU, there are countless instances I can recall. As a Residential Assistant (RA) on campus, I have helped students plan their lives. I have helped some pick classes for upcoming semesters, given them advice on what to do when they have a problem in a class or studying, and helped some apply for internships and study abroad experiences. For those poor souls who have chosen to enter the world of Computer Science, such as myself, I am able to provide input for them on what they can do to better prepare themselves outside of the classroom. I have helped them understand some of the more difficult topics in their classes, as well as providing them additional resources to learn more than they could in a classroom. This is part of what a mentor should be. Someone who is willing to help their students through the rough patches, but still push them to challenge themselves and aid their never-ending adventure in academia.
On the other-hand, there is also emotional and mental support that a mentor can provide. Yes, it can be comforting to have someone ease some anxieties we have in academics by answering our questions, but true mentors can be friends we confide in. Some of my residents will confide their deepest and darkest thoughts in me. Some of them may be seeking comfort, others seeking advice on how they can help themselves, and others just wanting a listening ear. If the mentor cannot support their students, they should still be able to help their students find the support they need.
Thank you to those of you who are this to me.