Adjusting to university life is hard enough. Being in a foreign country can make it even harder.
Sooner Jump Start (SJS), the OU Extended Campus international pathway program, is helping to ease the transition for some students through a new mentorship program.
After a successful pilot program over the summer, SJS fully launched their Mentorship Program during the Fall 2017 semester, pairing OU students with new SJS students. Mentors are matched with SJS students based on hobbies, school major and other interests.
The goal of the program is to welcome new Sooner Jump Start students to OU and assist with their transition to the university and the city of Norman. Mentors not only get volunteer experience, but they also gain exposure to a new culture and forge lifelong friendships.
“Mentors provide a support network for students, guidance and encouragement related to all facets of university and American life,” said Elle Shroyer, SJS director. “They also act on a personal level with students and attend social, cultural, sporting and other events.”
Mentorship requirements include communicating with mentees at least once a week, meeting for activities twice a month, attending one SJS activity together each month and completing an end-of-semester survey.
“College can be overwhelming. Having someone there to help makes it easier.”
Shroyer said the program has sparked the interest of both American and international students, as well as students of varying program levels.
“In the fall, we had 135 mentor applicants, ranging from freshmen to grad students to law students,” Shroyer said. “We were blown away by the diversity of the mentors.”
During a social last week, mentors and mentees ate pizza and visited with one another in hopes of finding the perfect match for the spring semester. Participants formed a concentric circle where mentors visited briefly with potential mentees before they shuffled, visiting with a new set of students, much like a speed dating session.
Yousuf Al Siyabi, an SJS student from Oman, shared his favorite places in Oklahoma, favorite movies and other interests with potential mentors in hopes of finding a friend to help him navigate life in the United States.
“I want to get to know people and learn the language and culture,” he said.
Others were hoping to find someone to mentor.
Julia Tong, a sophomore botany major from Tulsa, learned about the program from a friend. She said she’s looking forward to being matched with a mentee and hopefully making a new friend.
“I was a mentor for Sooner Promise, and I thought this would be fun,” Tong said. “College can be overwhelming. Having someone there to help makes it easier.”
Miguel Vazquez, a sophomore majoring in international security and Arabic, is a returning mentor. He said the experience last semester was so rewarding, he wants to do it again.
“I texted and talked to my mentee almost every single day last semester, and we are still friends today,” Vazquez said. “We went shopping and to festivals, and I showed him where his classes were. It’s a good program and really fun.”
Shroyer said OU students interested in helping SJS students practice their English and providing them with assistance, support and friendship are encouraged to apply to be mentors. Mentorships are for one semester. Mentors who want to continue with the program can stay with the same mentee the following the semester, or be paired with a new mentee.
If you’re interested in helping a Sooner Jump Start student adjust to OU, and make a friend along the way, go to sjs.ou.edu/mentor to find out more.
Photos from the Spring 2018 Mentor Social