Article by Kim Raines | July 12, 2021
The mentorship program provided through the English Language Institute’s Cohort class equips students with the necessary skills for successful matriculation. Cohort is a course for degree-seeking students who are studying academic English alongside their university courses. While taught by an ELI instructor, Cohort is unique because it also utilizes peer mentors–undergraduate students who strive to build UD’s international community.
As peer mentors, we value the importance of a fulfilled college experience which extends beyond simply going to classes. Mentors schedule two or three activities each week with a social, cultural or academic focus.
We distribute weekly newsletters to advertise the activities and students choose which activity to attend. Mentors accompany students to the events, and encourage active engagement and to speak in English.
By offering students a vast variety of options for campus engagement and ensuring continuous effort by attending at least one activity per week, we can provide a smooth transition into the American university culture.
Through these events, ELI students grow ties with their classmates, their mentors, and other American students. Regular attendance at different campus events has helped me stay active within the UD community as well. Consistent immersion in events for niche groups at UD has provided me with a greater appreciation for all that UD has to offer.
Mentors also serve as student resources inside and outside of the classroom. We attend all Cohort classes and serve as a teacher’s assistant by facilitating breakout rooms, sharing our own experiences, and leading the class for the day.
In addition to the activities that take place outside of class, we also conduct individual meetings with students.
- The first individual meeting takes place at the beginning of the semester. This meeting is the time for students to set individual goals, and to notify their mentors of what they are both nervous and excited about what the session may hold.
- A second individual meeting takes place at the halfway point of the session to evaluate student academic and personal progression as well as to create new goals.
To add another level of support, we create a GroupMe group so that mentors and students can chat throughout the week. Students can reach out to their mentors privately on this platform for advice or guidance. Students often utilize this feature as some questions are more easily answered by mentors because we are also students who have experienced the same challenges.
Although students cannot currently enjoy pre-pandemic, in-person activities, such as a yoga class, rock climbing at the UD gym, and making dumplings together, the transition to online learning has opened up a world of virtual activities. As lockdown went into effect, peer mentors quickly collaborated to create a new agenda of explorative and engaging activities.
A fan favorite consists of choosing an American holiday of interest, conducting research on the history and traditions associated with the holiday, and presenting the newfound knowledge with the rest of the Cohort. I have found this activity to build confidence among students to speak in English in a group setting.
A few other activity front-runners include creating a photo collage, themed trivia games, and Pictionary.
Although we were initially unsure if these activities would be as effective with COVID restrictions, I have found that Zoom sessions have created a cozy atmosphere (literally, as we are always sporting our favorite pajamas) that facilitates in-depth conversations and chatter about spontaneous subjects that we may not have had otherwise.
Students are comfortable sharing what’s on their minds, cracking some jokes, and partaking in some friendly competition during our trivia games.
The opportunity to work one on one with the international students at the English Language Institute has been a privilege. As some may think that students from China, Saudi Arabia and the United States are more different than alike, I am constantly reminded how remarkably similar we are. We listen to music by the same artists, enjoy similar foods, and have a reciprocal sense of humor. During a pandemic when travel is limited and interpersonal connections are sometimes restrained, I have found a strong sense of international community with the ELI students.
Upon completion of Cohort class, mentors are confident that students possess the knowledge and resources to continue their campus involvement and have an enriching college experience.
The mentorship program does not end with the academic session. Mentors are invested in their students’ long-term goals and success, and provide continuous support and a point of contact for students throughout their college careers.
As I aspire to ensure that cohort mentorship is an impactful experience for my students, I know that serving as a mentor for the English Language Institute and working one-on-one with international students has been the most pivotal experience of my college career.