By Shu

 

Finding a mentor in graduate school is extremely important for both MSW and PhD students. When you are confused and struggling, a mentor who knows you well can offer individualized and constructive advice to help you make well-informed decisions about important aspects of your academic life, like coursework, internships, volunteering and career planning. Their generous and honest sharing of the unspoken rules of graduate school can save you tons of time and unnecessary stress. Along your academic journey, mentors can also act your graduate school skills coach, facilitating your development in areas, such as time management, work-life balance, team work, personal growth, professional networking and self-care. Then, when you succeed in your endeavors, your mentor will also be the first to celebrate your accomplishments and encourage you to set even higher goals for yourself!

It is not always easy to find a good mentor due to factors such as willingness, availability, compatibility, and personal and professional styles. It is an amazing feeling when you find someone who is a good fit for you because you know who you can go to for just about any question. I find that I feel refreshed and relaxed after every single conversation with my mentor; I always leave the room with clearer thoughts and better solutions to my problems.

While mentors are essential for students who seek advice, an excellent mentor can play many additional roles. In my experience, my mentor has been my supervisor, professor, advisor, and friend as well, changing the course of my life as doctoral student. Over the past 2 years in the PhD program, I have been fortunate to have Dr. Monit Cheung as not only my mentor, but as the best mentor I have ever had. She has played so many important roles during my time here at GCSW and abroad. I am grateful that we chose each other for my PhD journey.

As a supervisor, she has been extremely understanding and patient with students like me, who have only had limited previous research experiences. Rather than being surprised or disappointed, she has trained me during every step and has allowed me time to learn and adjust. She has tried her best to maximize my growth as a student under her mentorship. When I was having trouble with my school-related finance, she cared about my struggling and helped following up on my payroll.

As a professor, Dr. Cheung has spent an unbelievable amount of time preparing her class lectures, and consistently updating her course syllabi and teaching materials. She encourages us to engage in college events such as faculty candidate interviews to support the college and learn from the experiences.

As an advisor, she has made herself available to me almost 24/7. In addition to our weekly face-to-face meeting, she replies to my emails very quickly, even when she is abroad. Her availability is very impressive and extremely helpful. She always respects me and my time, and arrives on time for our appointments. When she has very rarely been late, she informs me as early as she can, with detailed explanation and sincere apology. Though she is a full professor, she never acts as though her time is worth more than mine.

As a mentor, Dr. Cheung has advised me on a wide range of problems in my personal and professional life. She has spent her valuable time listening to me, showing sincere empathy, and offering practical advice. In addition, she and her family have generously prepared a lot of delicious free food at the college events and at their home parties. I couldn’t remember how many leftovers I have taken from these events to feed myself and my family. They all have helped to make ends meet on a tight student budget.

As a friend, she has shared her life stories and lessons with me. Her experiences have inspired me and I have learned so much from her wisdom. When my parents came to visit me from China, Dr. Cheung and her family took them out for lunch. My parents were impressed and touched by her thoughtful care for me. They left the U.S. happily with huge gratitude for Dr. Cheung and her family.

I have been in the U.S. for 7 years as an international student. I always want to go back to China and I have already started the count down. However, among the happy expectations for finally returning home, one piece of my heart feels sad. I know that sadness is connected to my relationship with Dr. Cheung, who is always my go-to person. I am so used to contacting her at any time for anything that I need help, and she is always available and helpful. I cannot imagine my post-graduation life without seeing her every week.

Dr. Cheung is my role model (although I don’t skip on sleep and food as much as she does!) and the light of my PhD life. I will be forever grateful for all of her love, advice, and contributions in every single aspect of my life!

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