Hi. My name is Abi and I’m a final year Speech and Language Therapy student at the University of Manchester. For the past 4 years I have studied communication and eating and drinking impairments! Throughout my course I have also had clinical placements, working in hospitals, schools, clinics and patient’s homes.
I am also a student ambassador which means I represent the university on campus tours, school visits, and open days. I’ve loved my time at the University of Manchester and want to tell you about something that has massively helped me during my studies – mentoring.
What is my experience of mentoring?
Mentoring is a relationship whereby one person shares their knowledge, skills and experience to help someone else to progress in their life, study, career and so on. A mentor could be a friend, family member, leader in your community, academic staff etc. Whilst at university I have both been the mentor and the mentee!
I have mentored younger students by sharing my experience of university life. For example, I started a society to inspire students to pursue social justice and later handed the leadership on to a girl called Amy. Mentoring Amy looked like going for coffee a couple of times per term and being at the end of the phone if she needed advice.
I have also been mentored myself, both personally and academically. Through my faith community I have received regular mentoring from inspirational leaders. They have helped me to think through decision making processes, like what career opportunities to pursue and how to spend my time whilst in Manchester. During my first year it was also great to be mentored by a peer on my course, they lent me textbooks and answered any questions I had about the course. Being mentored has made me more confident. I have learnt so much about myself and the world around me by listening to wise mentors!
How can you make the most of a mentor at university?
Hopefully those brief examples have shown you how helpful and game-changing mentoring can be. Mentoring can be informal or more formal, it’s really what you want it to be. University can feel like a big step up, both academically and personally. I want to reassure you that there are ways to reach out for help and surround yourself with amazing, supportive people.
I’m now going to share a few handy mentoring tips:
- Ask someone – it sounds obvious but ask someone to be your mentor! This can be someone at home who you’ll call or meet up with a few times a term, or it could be a person you meet whilst at university. They may say no (this has happened to me!) but that is ok, another person will be delighted that you’ve asked them! Do you have an older sibling, club leader, family friend you admire and want to learn from?
- Create an agreement – Mentoring takes commitment, so it’s a good idea to make a plan with your mentor. When will you meet/call? What do you want to get out of mentoring? Pinning down the details should leave more time to discuss what matters during your meetings.
- Share stories – If you’re stuck for how to start your first mentoring session why not share your story. For instance, what drew you to studying your course? Why did you pick your university? What are some important moments for you from the past year? Even if your mentor already knows you pretty well it’s powerful to tell your story. This sounds deep, but you will get so much more from mentoring if you can bring your whole self to sessions. Maybe your mentor will also share their story with you too!
- Ask questions and hang out – Hopefully your mentor will be ready with some probing questions, but you can also ask more about their experiences. I was once mentored by someone who had similar passions to me, and I loved asking her questions! For example, who has been most influential in your life? How did you balance work and play? I agree with the experts who say that most of mentoring is ‘caught not taught’. Spending time with a mentor can make a lasting imprint on you. So, hang out with your mentor, observe how they live their life, and be inquisitive!
- Bright Knowledge is a great website with loads of blogs and resources aimed at university students: https://brightknowledge.org
- The Prince’s Trust have created some helpful mentoring worksheets: https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/support-our-work/volunteer/volunteer-tools-tips/mentoring-worksheets
- If you’re also interested in becoming a mentor, why not take a look at Reach Out. They work with young people in disadvantaged communities: https://www.reachoutuk.org