International Mentor Program Eases Transition for New Students


Danielle Grant

Flags outside the Reed Campus Center representing the international students.

Boarding school can be a big culture shock: Western Massachusetts is very different from, say, Shanghai, or Tokyo, or Moscow. Luckily, there’s a program in place to make that transition smoother for new international students.

Mrs. Valine, Director of International Student Programs, announced the application for International Mentors at the beginning of April. After two weeks, she received about 65 applications from freshmen to juniors. All of them are eager and excited to be a part of the program.

Every year, in order to make sure that new international students adjust well to big changes in their lives, Valine organizes the International Student Mentor Program. The program is designed to give every new student a mentor who shares the same interests. Mentors also guide new students to understand the school rules, the academic system, and the basic expectations of Williston students.

After the application process, selected students who are going to be mentors next year will go for training. It usually lasts for a few weeks at the end of the school year, when they meet once or twice a week and get a true sense of what it is like being an international mentor.

“The goal of the program,” said Valine, “is to help new students from the first day of school through the first trimester to become familiar with how the school works and to settle in.”

The mentor and mentee (new international student) are expected to meet up every week during the first trimester at a location of their choice, whether it’s the dining hall, Mt. Tom’s, or any location of their choosing, to share what’s happening and how the mentor can give advice to the mentee to get through particular challenges.

“I hope that through their experience of being a mentor, students can have a feeling of generosity of giving their time to help and be friend to a brand new student,” Valine said. “They can also grow through the process by getting to know new people, sharing information about their lives and interests, and getting a new perspective about the world we are living in.”

The International Mentor program usually starts with a four-day orientation. New international students arrive a few days before the school year starts. Both the mentor and mentee are involved in bonding games, a trip to the Holyoke Mall for new students to get their necessities, and a trip to play mini golf.

Junior Emily Cho told The Willistonian she benefited as a member of the program.

“My experience as a mentor reminded me of my first time coming here and made me think about my responsibility to help the new students,” said Emily. “It really affected me [and taught me] how to genuinely care about others and [make an] impact on other people.”

Valine’s hope when she matches a new student with a mentor is for both to become open to this new friendship. Valine told The Willistonian:

“After reading through the student files, getting a sense of their interests and where they come from, I will go through my list of mentors and match them with someone who shares similar hobbies or interests, sometimes from the same country.”

Many international students became really close friends with their mentor. Junior Ha Phan explained, “I was lucky enough to have Gabby Mercier ’17 as my mentor when I first came to Williston. Gabby was the greatest mentor one could ever ask for, and not only was she one of my first friends here, she really treated me like I was her own sister and took very good care of me.

Ha said she wants to pay it forward to the mentee she ends up with.

“I want to be able to do the same thing for the new international students coming next year because I believe everyone deserves to have a tremendous mentee experience like I did,” she said.