The MGA has an impressive range of graduate students who sign up to our Mentor Program every year. We caught up with one of our excellent mentors, Jing Zhang, to find out about her experience in our HDR Mentor Program and what it means to her. Read on to get a better sense of what to expect when you sign on to be a mentor or mentee as part of our program.
What are you studying at Monash?
I am one-and-a-half years into a PhD program with the School of Curriculum Teaching and Inclusive Education at the Faculty of Education.
What prompted you to sign up to be a mentor?
I was invited by an MGA staff member who knew I had been through the program as a mentee, for which I feel very grateful. Considering how much I benefited from my experience as a mentee last year, I accepted the challenge in the hope of facilitating the initial PhD journey for peer students starting out, like how my mentor did for me.
What are your mentees like?
Six mentees were assigned to my team, and all of them are awesome. My mentees come from diverse backgrounds and are all doing different research, varying from education to psychology. Many of the mentees, as well as myself, are international students and one of the mentees is interstate. Regardless of distance though, we have fostered a very respectful and supportive space where we can safely share joys and sorrows on our PhD journey.
Tell us about your mentoring experience.
Mutual support from peers is significantly helpful for PhD students starting out. First, by sharing our experience and knowledge, we help each other to better orient and pace ourselves within the confusing and often overwhelming start of our PhD journey.
Second, it is so empowering when we find out that we are all facing similar challenges. The regular catch-ups and ongoing group messages facilitated the establishment of a sense of belonging for the new students, which is essential to many of us when we first begin an unknown journey such as the PhD.
Are there challenges along the way?
Given the large group, the main challenge within our team is to schedule meetings at a time that suits us all. To accommodate everyone, we agreed to meet via Zoom throughout the program. At our first meet-up session, we locked in a fixed meeting time, recurring every fortnight, after consulting everyone’s preferences. Additionally, we recorded the sessions upon everyone’s consensus so that they can be sent out for students to catch-up or recap. Because of this, the mentees were not stressed about making it to every session, but they could stay well connected to the group and would not miss out on any relevant information. Combined with regular follow-up emails and random group chats on Messenger, this process works out very smoothly for the team, and could provide a good framework for future teams too.
What is the most rewarding part about being a mentor?
To me, the most rewarding part is the peer support, genuine relationships and mutual reciprocity cultivated along the way, which all gives me an enormous sense of achievement. It is just beyond heart-warming whenever I receive a message of appreciation or email from my mentees.
Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to in life or beyond university?
I do have quite a few great mentors who I look up to, such as my academic supervisors, both current and former ones, my family members and some of my great friends. They all teach me a lot about different aspects of life. One common trait shared by these amazing mentors is genuine kindness toward people. Kindness and generosity are powerful and beautiful gifts that guide me to follow their footsteps in many cases. Empathy occurs when we truly respect people for who they are and are willing to put ourselves in others’ shoes. Another great trait I’ve learned from my mentors is that we learn more and achieve more when we share and collaborate.
Would you encourage other students to become a mentor?
Yes, definitely. I would highly recommend other students to mentor, considering how much this kind of experience offers us as students. It is not only a great way of achieving personal growth but also a fantastic opportunity to foster meaningful connections and networks. Besides, PhD students are often isolated and prone to mental distress. Participating in such mentoring programs will certainly benefit us in terms of maintaining a healthy wellbeing.
The MGA Mentor Program is an excellent opportunity for students to develop leadership skills, meet like-minded students outside their network and contribute to the graduate student community at Monash.
Interested in signing up to become a mentor?
Click here to become a Coursework Mentor. Applications close on Wednesday, 13 July 2022.
Click here to become a HDR mentor. Applications close on Sunday, 7 August 2022.