Navigating the different facets of university life can be tough and daunting at the best of times.
So having your own caped crusader – otherwise known as a mentor – can make all the difference when it comes to feeling supported and focused during study. Miss FQ spoke to three University of Auckland students on different paths, and their mentors.
Joanne Elfybase, 18, student, with her mentor Adrianne Mendes-Underwood, 21, UniBound mentor
ADRIANNE: Having the ability to influence and help a younger generation coming through university is a very big positive for me as a person. I like to help out, especially when it comes to helping Mˉaori and Pacific students getting through tertiary education. I was actually mentored during my first year of university in UniBound, and they asked me to come back as a mentor. I get what it’s like, when I first came to university I was really shy. But UniBound had people like me and people with the same cultural practices which helped me feel more confident and not feel like such a minority. With Joanne, we have two to three check-ups throughout a semester.
I keep track of how she’s going, if she needs any help with anything, and we talk about if anything is troubling her with uni or accessing programmes. She’s pretty onto it and doesn’t need as much help. She’s really focused and that’s one of the big things that really help this relationship work. Because your mentee has to want to be helped to get the most out of the support.
JOANNE: I didn’t get into university the first time I applied and that’s when the University UniBound team contacted me about doing a foundation programme. I was interested right away because I saw it was mainly aimed at Mˉaori and Pacific students, so I thought it was a good opportunity to get to know people before the semester started. It’s really helped my confidence grow. Having Adrianne as a mentor is pretty helpful because she helps me when I need it, and she’s even there to help when I don’t ask for it. Having that relationship makes me feel confident about my studies, knowing I can come to her. And it’s not just the advice, but she also offers me resources and places to go for help. After I graduate I’m hoping to get into engineering next year.
Matthew Canham, 23, student and CEO of Velocity, with his mentor Geoff Whitcher, founder of Velocity (formerly known as Spark) and founding director and advisor at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
MATTHEW: Going into the role of CEO can be quite daunting given that there are 35 people relying on your guidance and direction and your leadership to pull off the year and make everything happen smoothly. So when I was first appointed a few people told me Geoff would be a fantastic person to meet with. We meet every second week and we talk about Velocity, but it’s more than that. He keeps me in check with my university grades and makes sure I’m happy and healthy as well.
I often come into the sessions with a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of things that I can’t really talk about or consult with the rest of my team, so Geoff will be the only person I can bounce these off. And I walk away from these meetings having much more clarity about where we’re going, what we need to do and that we’re on the right path. I’ve also started mentoring high school students in their young enterprise programme. A lot of it has been driven by the relationship Geoff and I have had, for me to be able to say actually I could help some high school students are going through something I went through five years ago.
GEOFF: We didn’t have mentors when I was growing up but I think it’s one of the greatest inventions we’ve seen. The area I mentor in is based on experience and I think that’s one thing a mentor brings – wisdom. You can bring a perspective from experience which is important. You help to develop the person or alert them to avoid mistakes of the past, giving guidance to work around a problem.
I’ve mentored many students like Matthew since 2003, and I get a real joy out of helping students realise that business has a soul and a purpose, and enabling them to be the best they can be, while getting the best out of the organisation. It’s helpful for Matthew to be able to download his problems knowing it’s in a confidential space.
It’s important to let them know they’re not alone, that others might have grappled with the same sort of problems.
It’s important to let them know they’re not alone, that others might have grappled with the same sort of problems. It’s a two-way street though, as Matthew is teaching me about the youth outlook on the world, which is very interesting and valuable. I’ve stayed connected to a lot of these people who’ve gone on to do some really interesting things and so I’ve been rewarded by them taking me along in their journey.
Jared Rabie, 18, student, and his mentor Megan Leuty, 19, Resident Advisor (RA) at Huia Residence, one of the Halls of Residence for students to live close by while studying.
MEGAN: During my first year here at Huia, I was really inspired by the Resident Advisor I had, and I really wanted an opportunity to grow in my leadership. For me, being an RA provides an area where I can exhibit my empathy and other similar characteristics. Because I know that a lot of the students have stress on them and a lot of work they need to do. I’d liken it to being a mother figure to them, providing that unconditional empathetic and mental support. And it’s definitely not a nine-to-five role. You’re always on duty even if you’re not rostered on.
I know that a lot of the students have stress on them and a lot of work they need to do
You don’t look past things, if you see an issue that pops up, you address it there and then. So it’s definitely a challenge having to do university work while being an RA at the same time, but I find it helps me to grow. I’m mentored myself as the RA’s have a manager. They are always making sure we are doing alright too. Because you do have to set boundaries for yourself. You ask yourself what can I give of myself to make sure I’m equally supporting each student while taking care of myself at the same time?
JARED: Well it’s definitely good having all the RA’s there because they’ve already lived in halls, and they’ve had their first year of university so you can always ask them for advice. Many of us have only just moved out of home and aren’t used to being away from parents. So having someone there who’s already been through that is really nice. My family is still in Auckland so I’m pretty supported across the board, but for those who live far from home in other New Zealand cities, they go to the RA’s for a chat if they’re having a bad day. So we all really appreciate them. I find it’s so important to have a mentor and it really makes a difference. If we didn’t have the RA’s here, it would just be a bunch of people who would have no idea what they were doing, just trying to struggle through together, and you can’t really help each other when you don’t know what you’re doing. Having an RA at Huia is really great for determining your direction, and not having to find out things the hard way.
Words: Ciara Pratt
Photos: Rebekah Robinson
This article was brought to you by the University of Auckland.