International Student Mentor Program
The Washington College International Student Community Mentor Program has been very successful in connecting international students to the local Chestertown community for over 17 years. This program continues today because of committed and caring individuals in our community!
Frequently Asked Questions
The mentor/mentee friendship is built over time and through ongoing visits during the student’s studies at Washington College. Although the international students are very likely to be familiar with different aspects of U.S. culture,the reality, especially in a small town in a rural county, may not be as expected. There are many reasons why international students participate in the program, but many say that they like to be part of the mentor program to:
- Experience “real life” in the United States
- Meet U.S.-Americans in the community
- Improve their spoken English
- Experience life outside of the college campus
- Learn about career experiences and opportunities (please note that international students cannot legally work off-campus due to their visa status outside of academic training, curricular practical training, and occupational practical training)
After an initial meeting, the mentee and mentor decide how often they would like to meet (weekly or biweekly meetings is the norm; although the meeting times vary based on the availability of both the mentor and mentees).
Through these mentoring relationships, international students experience “real” life on Maryland’s historic Eastern Shore. Mentors and their families, in turn, meet and form friendships with students from diverse cultural backgrounds and life experiences. The friendships formed between mentors and students often extend beyond the students’ stay in Chestertown, and have connected families across the globe. Mentors report gaining a number of tangible and intangible rewards from hosting students.
Some of these rewards include opportunities to:
- Learn more about a particular region/country
- Practice language skills or learn a new language
- Enrich their own lives by giving to others
- Expand their appreciation of other cultures
- Introduce their children to international students so they can broaden their understanding of the world and other cultures.
Mentors and students are asked to meet locally within a 100 mile radius of Washington College. Overnight stays and travel outside the 100 mile local area are not sanctioned by the program. Ideas for local outings include things such as Chestertown’s First Friday, partaking in a holiday tradition (i.e. carving pumpkins around Halloween), attending a local event such as Downrigging Weekend, taking in a show at Gibson or the Garfield, attending a high school sporting event, or meeting for tea, coffee or a meal.
This experience should be rewarding to both the mentor and mentee. If the mentee is not responsive to the mentor’s request to get together, the mentor should contact the primary contact at the GEO to talk with the student to assess their interest and the reason why they are unresponsive. If a mentee is asking things of the mentor outside the scope of the program such as a ride to the airport/mall or storage of their things over summer break the mentor can share with their mentee that they are unable to assist with these issues and encourage them to talk to the Global Education Office for assistance. A student asking to stay at the home of a mentor over breaks is also outside the scope of the program and not sanctioned by the College or the mentor program.
Mentors are all volunteers and the best occasions are usually free – for example, a visit to the mentor’s home to share a dinner with the family, or to join in a family celebration or to participate in a holiday tradition. If the student and the mentor do go out to dinner or visit a local attraction with an entrance fee, it is best for each person to pay their own way. The important thing is to discuss who will pay ahead of time so that the mentee is aware of his/her financial commitment in partaking in the activity.
In response to the growth in the international student population at Washington College, GEO has developed some prerequisites for participating in the program. These requirements are aimed at fostering strong relationships between mentors and students, while adhering to best practices for mentoring and student safety. The two main changes are that (1) Mentor volunteers need to undergo a routine background check and sign a liability waiver and (2) mentors and mentees are asked to keep their outings and activities local (within 100 miles of campus).
Contact information for the program:
- Email: email@example.com
- Sarah Lyle, Administrative Assistant, GEO and primary contact for mentors: 410-810-5038