1300 words. Each reflection I’ve written this year has fallen around this word count, about two pages full of thoughts and musings on the past few weeks’ favorite memories, teaching moments and areas of improvement. As I write my final Peer Mentor reflection, I’m struggling to think of how to sum up the entire semester’s experience in a couple of pages, into 1300 words. But I’ve so enjoyed this opportunity. From overcoming my own obstacles, to learning how to interact better with the students, I’ve gained so much. I’ve learned what I’m keeping from this year, what I want to change and where I still need to improve.
One area that I’ve improved on and would like to continue growing in is the peer mentor events. Last year, I arranged two peer mentor events and one PM meet-up, where a total of four students attended. This year, I had five PM event and three PM meet-ups, with a total of twenty-five students! Many factors contributed to this, such as the new PM calendar, which allows students from other classes to know about your events, but I do feel like my programming skills improved this year. I focused on more social events this year, with both planned events allowing for conversation and group atmosphere. They were also both events that I thought students would want to go to, even without a survey grade incentive. These worked very well, allowing for more students and more engaged students. My favorite of these planned events was the Buckeye Village Fall Festival, which combined crafting and service for the children who lived there.
I did offer some non-calendar PM events throughout the semester. A few students couldn’t make anything on the calendar, so we met up for coffee/food and talked about life. I held a couple academic-related events, exploring the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum and attending the “Spilling the Beans on Research Panel,” which were centered around a topic that the majority of the class had expressed interest in. In order to incentivize the students to checking out Research Week, I offered these programs as an alternative PM event—if you go, come and chat with me at the event and I’ll count it as a PM event. The last impromptu event was semi-planned: an end-of-survey lunch at the Short North with the other peer mentors. It was incredibly fun to get to talk to the other students and peer mentors in such a fun and relaxed setting!
Next year, I will definitely continue on in the vein that I started this year. I think that including academic-related events as a possible PM event may help convince students to check out something that interests them, but I want to keep the planning focus on the social events that work so well. I definitely will repeat BV Fall Festival as an event next year, as well as peer mentor collaborations!
There are other areas that I’d like to continuing improving on as well. One is being prepared for the unanticipated. I’ve had a couple of unexpected situations this semester, from being approached by a student in need to having ambiguous student participation at a PM event. I did handle them, but I would like to feel more ready for such situations and have more confidence when handling them. I would also like to get better at knowing my students, although I have definitely improved in this aspect over last year. I see many of the students in the Neuroadvising office and around campus, but there are still times when I see people and am not sure whether or not I know them from survey, from elsewhere, or if my mind is playing tricks on me.
This semester, I was also ecstatic to find that students were more comfortable in approaching me with questions. Some stayed after class; others sent emails, but in overall, they were more open to using me as a resource than last year. Again, many factors came into this. Part of it was the age difference—it makes more sense to ask a junior for advice than a sophomore and the fact that I was Lead Mentor this year may have also played a role. The biggest difference, in my opinion, is my demeanor. I was far more confident this year in talking to others and sharing my opinion. I’m also more comfortable in and out of the classroom, and so my interactions with the students/mentors have become less unnatural and more like how I actually behave. I’ve changed that way I carry myself, and that makes a difference.
This internship has also helped me grow in so many ways. I loved the increase of responsibility this year, from arranging the schedules of the mentors in the class to the internship project. The internship project was especially rewarding. I remembered suggesting that mentors get to make a lesson plan for next year, and the project basically served in the same context, giving me the possibility to show the students something that I considered important. The conversations that arose from the presentation were thought-provoking and just what I wanted. The other idea that I had for the project in the beginning of the year was talking about what leadership really means. If I do the internship again, I would like to try something in this theme, perhaps talking about how to program events or how to do meaningful service.
My favorite part of this semester, however, has been the personal connections I’ve made with the students and my other peer mentors. This semester, I’ve developed closer relationships with my students. Between seeing them in class, at events, and around campus, there are multiple students that know on a personal level. After one-on-one PM meetings, I always email students with resources relating to what we talked about, whether it’s letting them know about a grant that could fund a study abroad they want to go on or giving them more information about moving off-campus. For example, I know Bernadette, a girl in my class, enough that I’ve been able to email different opportunities in her interest fields, from clinical psychology research job openings to crafting organizations. One girl, Claire, isn’t even my class, however, she’s come to all my PM events and we hang out outside class at various club and university events.
I’ve also made such great connections with my fellow peer mentors this year. I love the way that we work off each other and how everyone takes initiative. Carol created a PM event calendar that greatly organized and improved how we handle those events and was able to take care of a student in a sensitive moment. Sean organized our correspondence through Groupme and has stepped in when other mentors are sick or had to leave to help students. I’ve also been able to meet other mentors, such as Shannon. The four of us did a joint event to North Market that allowed me to become closer to the students and all the mentors.
Although there are always areas to improve, I’m proud of how I’ve grown and what I’ve done this semester. This experience has been absolutely amazing, and worth far more than these 1214 words can convey.