It’s International Mentoring Day, today, a special date on the calendar of events for January, which is National Mentoring Month. We’re glad to have the opportunity to talk about the crucial role the international mentor plays in the lives of students abroad in post-high school study programs such as those subsidized by Kars4Kids. It’s also a chance to say thank you for all that these mentors do for our youth.
A good international mentor can offer support and guidance to exchange students and other students abroad. The international mentor also serves as a friend to students abroad, who may not know anyone in this new situation, so far away from home. Paris or Rome, for instance, may be wonderful cities. But if you’re a young person away from home for the first time, the charms of the host city may be overshadowed by a sense of supreme loneliness. This is especially so for young people used to being at the center of their social circles, back at home.
International mentors do more than offer friendship. They are there to step in and bolster spirits when the mentee feels out of place and everything feels strange. The international mentor is also there to offer tea and sympathy during illness or bouts of homesickness; be a support for a student’s academic work; offer advice, and tender important information on basic necessities like where to buy textbooks, the best pizza, and how to exchange dollars for local currency. The mentor, moreover, is the address for emergencies both large and small in the lives of students abroad, no matter what form such emergencies may take.
A year abroad is a wonderful opportunity for a young person. But being in a foreign country away from family and friends, away from everything you’ve ever known, can be a lonely, even painful experience. A mentor, in such a situation, can mean the difference between having a successful year abroad, or the student being miserably homesick, and counting the minutes and seconds until he or she can at last return home.
What a waste, to spend the year wishing it were over!
That’s not how it should be. And that’s why mentoring is so important to the day-to-day lives of our dear students abroad.
It’s hard when you’re in a place where no one speaks your language. But the language of the mentor is absolutely international.
Because it’s the language of helping.