ACES Capstone Project: First-Semester Explore Columbus

My mentee (Christina Smith) and I chose to go to Kafe Kerouac for our autumn Explore Columbus assignment! One of the first things that she told me when we met was how much she liked coffee, so I thought it would be a good idea to show her a coffee place near campus that she had never tried before. In fact, I learned about Kafe Kerouac through my Explore Columbus activity with my ACES mentor last year, and I really wanted to share it with my mentee this year. She didn’t know much about it but thought it would be a good place to meet up again. I was excited to provide her with a cozy, cool study space that allows her to support a local business. After a few unsuccessful attempts at scheduling, we found a day that worked for both of us and I was so excited to go with her!

We walked along High Street to get there and talked about small things, like how our days were going and what we had going on in the coming weeks. The walk was only about ten minutes from the corner of Lane and High and the weather was nice (even though it was a little chilly). Because there are three entrances, she was a little confused at first, but we laughed about it and found the right entrance. Once we were inside, we had to wait a little while to order because there was only one person behind the counter, and they were both the cashier and the barista. We didn’t mind, though, because it was warmer inside than it was outside, and it was fun looking around and watching her absorb a new environment. We were surrounded by people diligently working, talking quietly, playing board games, reading books, and drinking craft beers (which is really interesting for a coffee shop to offer, but they appear to get a lot of business in that regard). Our favorite things about the coffee shop were the coloring nook, which had lots of printed coloring sheets and colored pencils for guests to use, the reusable cups that were different shapes and sizes, and the names of the drinks on the menu. All of them are named after famous authors, which is great for a couple of English nerds. When we finally got to order, I got a hot chai latte with soy milk, and she got an iced…something. I didn’t hear what she ordered because, when I was handed my drink, it was fuller than it appeared and spilled on my hand and the floor! My hand was a little bit burned, but I still had most of my drink and my spirits stayed high. Next time, I’ll be more careful about how eager I am to have my drink in hand.

Once we got our drinks, we continued to marvel at how cute the place was before we got down to business with the first-semester interview assignment. I asked her the various questions I was supposed to while we sipped at our drinks. When that was done, we talked for a while longer about some of the questions I asked. It served as a good icebreaker, and I felt much closer to her at the end. I most enjoyed talking with her about the crazy roommate stories we’ve heard, and I got to see her personality shine through when we were interacting in this informal, comfortable setting.

Although spending time on campus takes up a lot of time, going off-campus with my mentee allowed me to see her outside of a school setting, which is important in my understanding of how to mentor her as a whole person (rather than just her academic side). About Columbus, I learned that there are so many small businesses that I haven’t been to but want to support and getting back to Kafe Kerouac reminded me that I need to keep venturing off-campus to do this. Learning about a new city can be scary, but when you have someone familiar to do it with, it becomes much less daunting of a task. To whoever is endeavoring to visit Kafe Kerouac, I have a few pieces of advice. Firstly, don’t grab your drink too fast! Secondly, wear layers because it’s really toasty inside and I would’ve been miserable if I couldn’t have removed my jackets. Finally, go with somebody who’s interested in comics, records, and old books! You may find a new passion when the other person pushes you to explore those items in the store.

ACES Capstone Project: First-Semester Interview with my Mentee

I conducted my first-semester interview with mentee Christina Smith in the middle of October, which allowed for her to have a better grasp on the questions I asked her. Rather than asking her one question from each category, we ended up discussing the whole list. I found that it helped to break down barriers between us because I could listen when she needed me to or share my personal experiences when she needed it. However, I chose to summarize six of the answers that sparked the most conversation between us.

The first question that I asked, under the ‘Academics’ category, was: “How do you like to study? Have you found a good place for studying on campus?”. She shared that her current favorite study spots are either her dorm room, Thompson Library, or the basement of her dorm building. We talked about the environment that is best conducive to studying for her: not dead silent, but with background noise that isn’t begging for her attention. She tends to just review her notes when studying for an exam. I liked talking about this with her because she’s an English major and I’m an English Education major, and we both want to be high school English teachers, so studying together would be a fun activity to do together in the future. The other question that I asked her from the ‘Academics’ category was: “What has been your most challenging class so far and why?”. This question resonated with her and allowed her to vent because her most challenging class was microeconomics and she had a midterm coming up! I took microeconomics in high school and told her that although I’m no good at memorizing the formulas either, I’m always able to attempt to help her if she’s stuck.

Under the ‘Involvement’ category, I chose to ask: “What kind of involvement are you interested in on campus?”. Her answer to this tied into the question, “What do you think will be some challenging aspects of the ACES program?”, and I found that it was something I could provide guidance for. She’s currently interested in doing service activities through the Newman Center and ACES, and she’s also interested in participating in OSEA, which I’ve been meaning to participate in. She was worried about fulfilling the necessary service hours for each semester, and I told her that, moving forward, it might be a good idea to get involved in a more consistent service activity. I gave her some examples and asked if the Newman Center had opportunities for this (it does), and it seemed to make her feel more at ease. I’m still lacking in my service hours for this semester, so maybe I can invite her to the activities that I’m planning to participate in.

Under the ‘Careers’ category, we discussed what her dream job is and why. Just like me, her dream job is to teach English in high school, and she came to it in a similar way that I did. She remembers her high school English teachers creating such calm classroom environments in which they helped her figure out the life lessons embedded in books. She’s looking to create that same atmosphere, and we bonded a lot in our conversation about it. I can definitely see myself sending her resources (campus or otherwise) that relate to our shared career goals and maybe participating in an education-related event together.
The final question that we addressed was: “How will you balance academics and involvement?”. This is something that I still don’t know the answer to regarding my own college experience, so I made sure to be transparent about that when she looked overwhelmed by the question. She seems to have a growth mindset when it comes to this, as she answered that it’s something she’s always working on. Time management skills, like prioritizing, are tricks that she knows can help her be successful in balancing academics and involvement but doesn’t always use. If I find any resources that help me answer this question personally, I’ll be sure to send them her way.