BU’s International Peer Mentor Program Welcomes Mentors & Mentees for Academic Year 2019-2020
With the start of the new academic year, Global Programs is thrilled to welcome new incoming international students as well as new and returning mentors to the International Peer Mentor (IPM) Program. The IPM program – originally conceived by the Office of Orientation – “is designed to provide facilitated reflection and affinity group support for new international students, to help make sense of what they are observing and encountering in the U.S. and how they may differ from where they grew up,” according to Amanda Miller, Managing Director, Strategy and Communications, who oversees the IPMs within Global Programs.
Being an international peer mentor provides current Boston University students the opportunity to serve as part of a large support system for new international students. International peer mentors help incoming international students with their transition to living in the U.S. and being a student at BU. From answering questions, to lending a supportive ear, mentors volunteer their time to help create an inclusive community at BU.
This year we also introduced the International Peer Mentor Leader Program, through which nine former international peer mentors were selected to provide leadership and support to this year’s cohort of 124 peer mentors.
“As an international student, leaving home can be scary for a lot of people because you are leaving your culture, language, and family behind,” said International Peer Mentor Leader Dinithi Samarasekera (ENG ’20). “You’re also becoming an adult, and it can be intimidating. Having someone who you can talk to and someone who’s gone through that process is really important.”
Dinithi served as an IPM and now acts as a student leader for the program. She helps mentors if they have questions or want guidance in supporting their mentees. Dinithi also went through the program as a mentee when she was coming to BU for the first time from Singapore.
“It’s great to know that you have a support system, and the IPM program connects students to it before they even arrive in Boston,” Samarasekera said.
In addition to developing personal connections to their mentees, mentors also introduce them to resources for international students across the University, such as the Compass and First Class.
The Compass is a full suite of resources to support BU’s international community. Academic, community, housing, and career-related resources and information can be found on the Compass.
First Class is an online noncredit pre-arrival course designed to prepare incoming international students for the transition to BU and the American classroom. It is delivered on the edX platform Edge and is comprised of short videos, polls, and self-checks designed to be completed from anywhere on any device.
“It [First Class] taught me how to prepare myself for academics and social life – and vocabulary that can be really helpful, like syllabus…what it’s for and how to use it,” said Ariane Vigna (COM ‘22). “It was also helpful because it directed us to resources on campus, and it helped me transition to BU.”
These resources, in conjunction with the IPM program, aim to support students in their first year at BU and deepen connections between students from many different backgrounds and lived experiences. It also gives students who act as mentors the opportunity to grow their abilities and skills.
“It’s taught me a lot about self-confidence,” Samarasekera said. “At first, I doubted whether I could mentor people because I felt like I had just gotten here myself. I gained a lot of confidence as a mentor because I realized everything that I could share, having gone through the process of coming to BU and becoming involved in campus life.”
The IPM program also collaborates with offices across BU who regularly engage with international students, including, among many others, Residence Life, Orientation, the BU Hub, CAS Student Programs & Leadership, and the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, for both mentor trainings and best practices for supporting students.