Being a Peer Mentor for the Honors Program

JUST DO IT.

This year was my first time as a Peer Mentor, through SASHP, for a first-year student, who I was paired up with based on similar academic studies and interests. We first met each other at the Peer Mentor/Mentee Summer Kick-Off event last June, which was really just the very beginning of our adventure together. As a Peer Mentor, I received the opportunity to guide my mentee through her first year here at Rutgers, helping her adjust to the transition from high school to a large university and to the many changes. We met at least once a month, and soon enough, we were friends! Here are my top three moments with my mentee, who we’ll call Melodia for this post:

3. The Awkward First Meeting

It’s always super awkward when you meet someone for the first time, isn’t it? Same case for when I had my first, official meeting of the year with Melodia! We met at Busch Campus Center, and even our initial greeting was awkward:

“Hiii!”

“Hiii!”

We walked to some couches in silence and then marched towards Moe’s to get Melodia some food. After we overcame the initial awkwardness, we proceeded to Phase 2: More Awkwardness. Most of this phase consisted of silence…awkward silence, during which we smiled at each other while carefully chewing on food. Phase 3: Some Conversation, began when we both realized that “people usually talk”; therefore, we…TALKED. We conversed about the first week of classes, our already busy schedules, the different classes we were registered for, and how we were liking them and our professors. It was clear that Melodia was sharp, excellent at time management, and adjusting well to the Rutgers environment. Our meeting ended with, “See you soon!” Overall, it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be–not too much blood, sweat, or tears at all! Folks, here’s a lesson I learned from this first meeting: AWKWARD is NORMAL.

2. Session of Connection

For probably our second or third meeting, we decided to talk with each other at the new Starbucks at the Yard across from Scott Hall. This, my friends, was when we truly CONNECTED. By this time, the awkwardness had vanished, and we were already talking to each other with ease. That day, we were discussing how Melodia’s classes were coming along and any challenges she was facing. Somehow, we switched to the wonderful world of art and passionately lectured each other on literature, films, and creativity. Interesting lectures from both sides, I must say. Melodia exclaimed, “We have so much in common!” To that, I responded, “Can you believe that a whole hour has passed by?!” After some more chatting, I finished sipping my cappuccino (with three sugars) and we said, “See you soon!” I made my way to the train station, thinking to myself how awesome the day turned out to be. 

1. Never Say Goodbye

All stories come to an end. All things have an end. But still, “Never Say Goodbye,” as a Hayley Westenra (one of my most favorite singers in this world) song title indicates. Although that song describes a romantic relationship, I can say that it applies to friendships as well. Just last week, I had my last, official meeting with Melodia, this time in three places–we were moving around a lot–including the Livingston Student Center, the Livingston Starbucks, and Sixteen Handles. I congratulated her on finishing an entire year at Rutgers. Freshman year: done. In this meeting, we talked about how Melodia had grown and changed for the better. I told her how I was proud of her for beginning to overcome her fear of sharing her work with others, specifically in a Creative Writing class workshop, during which she bravely listened to her classmates’ critiques and constructive feedback. I also congratulated her on something else…

SHE GOT ACCEPTED TO BE A PEER MENTOR FOR THE HONORS PROGRAM FOR NEXT YEAR!

I was thrilled and so very proud that she chose to apply. It warmed my heart when she said she gave it a shot because I was an inspiration for her, and that she also wanted to help an incoming first-year just as I had helped her. After about an hour, before I hurried off to Tillett to tutor and Melodia crossed the street to the Plaza bus stop, we, of course, agreed to definitely meet up throughout next year, because the end of my official role as a mentor for Melodia didn’t mean the end of my friendship with her. We told each other, “See you soon!”

So folks, if you’re looking for a rewarding experience, choosing to be an Honors Peer Mentor is absolutely the way to go!

Motivation GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

–The Doctor

 

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Four Books to Check Out this Valentine’s Day

Credit: flickr user Axisworks

Credit: flickr user Axisworks

Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching. Drugstore aisles are lined with boxed chocolates, teddy bears, and roses. The card section is bright pink and red, and dinner reservations for February 14th have been all booked up.

Now, I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but I do find it odd that Valentine’s Day focuses so heavily on romantic love when there are so many other types of love to experience in the world. We love our friends, siblings, parents, extended family, the family we make for ourselves, and even our pets (…definitely our pets). Sometimes, we even love the people we least expect to find ourselves drawn to.

Here are four books I’d like to recommend for this February, so you can appreciate different kinds of love, regardless of your other plans or current relationship status. So grab one of these books and get comfy with some drugstore chocolate in your favorite campus spot.

1. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

annie on my mind

This book is an old favorite that I pick up about once a year, and I can’t resist recommending it here. Annie on My Mind was first published in 1982 and is renowned as the first young adult novel about lesbians with a positive ending.  This is a story of unexpected, forbidden love between two young girls in New York City. First loves are always intense, but they are especially complicated for young people who are also coming to terms with their own identities in the process. One of my personal favorite parts of this book comes when Annie and Liza realize that a couple of older women who they admire and respect are in a relationship with one another, emphasizing the importance of role models and visibility for the LGBTQ community.

2. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

aj fikry

When I picked this book up, I knew nothing about it beforehand, but I loved Gabrielle Zevin’s young adult fiction when I was in high school, so I decided to give it a shot without even reading the back. I wound up reading the entire book in one sitting because I loved it so much. This book tells the story of A. J., a widowed bookstore owner whose prized possession, a wildly valuable Poe collection, gets stolen. This one event sparks a series of others, which show grumpy A. J. that he is in fact capable of love — love for literature, a new partner, and even an unexpected new family member. Although this story does contain a romantic plot line, I personally found that familial love was the most powerful in this novel.

3. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

brooklyn

This novel is so compelling, not because of any catastrophic events or shocking twists, but because of how the intricacies of daily life and internal conflicts are so artfully relayed. Eilis, a young girl from a small town in Ireland, has been offered passage to Brooklyn, New York in the early 1950s. Again, this story does contain a romantic plot line, but that seemingly perfect romantic relationship is complicated by Eilis’s love for her siblings, especially her older sister Rose, her mother, and her home country of Ireland. When your heart is torn in so many directions on either side of the Atlantic, where is your true home?  How can you measure which loves are more important than others?

4. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

garden spells

This book contains some magical realism, which is typically not my taste at all, but I absolutely loved this book. Sydney and her daughter Bay have just escaped from Sydney’s abusive husband and head back to Sydney’s hometown for safety. This book is, above all, the story of two sisters, Claire and Sydney, who rediscover their love for one another after many years apart. I love the strong familial bonds and the bonds between women in all of Sarah Addison Allen’s novels, especially Garden Spells. Be sure to check out the sequel, First Frost, set several years later, for Bay’s coming-of-age story and to see what happens to Claire and Sydney.