So, you’re back in the middle of your HSC (and bear with me here if these memories twinge a little). On top of all the study and stress, you’re also trying to decide which uni to go to, what degree to do and how on earth you negotiate the application process.
Now you’re approaching your final exams, you’ve chosen where you want to go and what course you want to do, but where are you going to live? With your parents, on campus or in a share house? How will you make new friends? What’s it going to be like once you get there?
If you were lucky, you may have had a brother, sister or family friend who had recently ‘been there done that’ to help you through the process. But if you didn’t and put yourself back in your old shoes for a moment – just imagine how great it would have been to have had a mentor, just a few years older than yourself, to quiz about the great transition you were facing.
This was Charlie Johnston’s impetus for joining MentorMe as a mentor as soon as he heard about it as a first year UNSW Electrical Engineering/Commerce student.
“I can clearly remember feeling lost and overwhelmed when I was at high school. Trying to balance my final year of study with sport, extra-curricular activities and socialising as well as trying to decide what I wanted out of life was a difficult juggling act,” explains Charlie, who is now in his third year.
Established in 2015 and led by another UNSW student, Ashton Zhuang, MentorMe Australia is gearing up to be the go-to group that helps high school students transition easily to university. In addition to his role as a mentor, when Charlie heard MentorMe was looking to establish its first university chapter at UNSW he decided to throw his hat in the ring for a leadership position. In 2017 he was offered the role of Co-President and the UNSW MentorMe Chapter was born.
“Our first year as a society has been a huge learning curve as we have tried to grow our reputation and presence on campus,” he explains. “It has been a challenge, but a fulfilling one, and today we have over 350 members. Most recently we have helped our parent organisation undertake a rebranding and looking to the future, we want to grow our high school outreach while maintaining an active and growing presence on campus.”
I'd advise anyone to sign up for the MentorMe program. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Clarence Harre, first year Electrical Engineering student.
Yaminn Aung is the Marketing Director at MentorMe UNSW, and the Director of Marketing and Communications at MentorMe Australia. As the first member of her family to study an undergraduate degree in Australia, Yaminn also found the transition from high school to university a difficult one to negotiate.
“When I heard about MentorMe I was overjoyed to hear there was a society who offered students the kind of mentorship I would have found so useful,” says Yaminn, who is studying Software Engineering/Biomedical Engineering. “I knew I had to join.”
Yaminn has been an instrumental force in guiding the organisation through their rebranding effort. “A successful brand is not only memorable but also shows the goals and mission of the organisation. We are hoping our new branding better reflects the friendly and conversational element we'd like to be in all students' lives,” she says.
Volunteer mentors need no more experience to join MentorMe than having successfully negotiated their way from high school to university and the benefits of joining include improving their communication skills and, better still, experiencing the deep satisfaction of helping others. But what are the impacts on those being mentored?
Clarence Harre was half way through his HSC when he jumped on the UNSW website to investigate his future. “MentorMe jumped out at me because it was open to high school students,” he says.
As a future electrical engineering undergrad, Clarence’s allocated mentor was Charlie. (They were matched because Charlie was studying Clarence’s chosen degree at his chosen university). They started communicating via email because Clarence was living in Coffs Harbour.
“There are a variety of structured topics we could discuss like networking, leadership and transitioning from high school to university but in the end, I found the most useful advice I got from Charlie took the form of a simple Q&A,” explains Clarence, who is now in his first year Electrical Engineering degree at UNSW.
“We covered everything, from what uni life is like, to how to balance study and work, to nailing the HSC, to applying for scholarships and residential colleges,” he continues.
Clarence says the mentoring relationship helped him maintain his focus during the HSC and provided him with an additional edge when he was applying. “I think this is reflected in my winning a scholarship and getting a place in an academic residential college,” he says.
“I'd advise anyone to sign up for the MentorMe program. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Charlie and Yaminn are incredibly proud of what they have achieved so far and hope the new society will become self-sustaining in the future. “We are looking for new mentors, volunteers for our school outreach programs as well as people to join our executive organising committee. If you are interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you,” says Charlie.
July – Mentoring Applications Open
Early Semester 2 – Outreach Volunteer Recruitment
Early Semester 2 – Mentoring Program Begins
Written by: Penny Jones