When Helen asked me to be a mentor for one of her scholars, Janet Botha, I was both excited and scared: excited because I would get the chance to impart my knowledge of college applications, and scared because being a mentor partially meant I had to take responsibility for my mentee’s applications. I was also worried about the fact that I did not know Janet so well: I had never mentored someone I never knew before. Fortunately, I was able to meet Janet in person while I was at home in Zambia during the summer. Meeting Janet in person was helpful because I got to know a little about her future career aspirations and advise her on a list of universities that I thought would be best for her. It also helped me put a face to her college applications, instead of reading them as though a stranger wrote them. However, I am also happy that Janet and I are only acquaintances because I was able to edit her essays more critically; if she was someone very close to me, I probably would have held back on a lot of suggestions to improve her essays.
I had originally thought that being a mentor would be easy, because I am naturally a critic. However, I never imagined that it would take up so much time. I remember there was a time I had to edit one of Janet’s essays while attending a class lecture because the essay was due at midnight that day, and I had to work at my part time job after class. Finding time certainly was not easy for me because I work three jobs on campus, and Swarthmore College has a tendency of killing its students with daily assignments. There were times when I was overwhelmed by all the essays I had to read, but the thought of being a part of helping another student realize her dreams kept me going.
I also found it mentally rewarding to read the essays, as they had so much ambition in them. As a college student I read hundreds of pages every day, and sometimes even get frustrated due to such readings, editing college applications turned out to be a good study break for me. It also helped a lot that Janet was very passionate and clear about studying civil engineering. She was very good at communicating her thoughts on my edits. Her determination made my work easier, and often motivated me to edit her essays much faster. I am glad I got the opportunity to mentor her and thrilled that she has a place at Edinburgh University to study Civil Engineering from September 2018.