The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

DVC Sophomore Launches Mentorship Program to Assist International Students

DVC Sophomore Launches Mentorship Program to Assist International Students

Between time-management struggles, work-life balance, and adjusting to a new social landscape, the first year of college can prove difficult for many students. But for international students especially, college life presents additional challenges as they acclimate to a new country, language, and culture.

To address the numerous obstacles foreign students face, Diablo Valley College sophomore David Maeng partnered with the International Student Office (ISO) to launch the Global Connect Mentorship Program this semester.

The system, which already has 80 active participants, pairs each new international student with a returning student for weekly meetings at the Pleasant Hill campus to discuss academic goals, explore support services, and socialize.

Drew Gephart, director of the ISO, told The Inquirer the purpose of the program is “to help new international students feel welcome to the campus and provide them with the necessary resources to be successful.”

But the benefits of the mentorship program don’t stop there. “It also allows our current students to volunteer in a way that will enhance their resumes and leadership experience,” Gephart said. 

Gephart said this new program differs from student-run organizations, such as the International Students Club, because it delivers customized support to individual students in a personal rather than group setting.

Maeng, a 21-year-old business administration major, said he was motivated to launch the program by his own experience as an international student.

“I know how hard it is to come to the U.S. for the first time… faced with the language barrier and imposter syndrome,” Maeng said. “And I really wanted to make a program where I could directly help new [international] students really just get adjusted.” 

Maeng said he’s had an unconventional experience as an international student. Born in South Korea, Maeng moved to California with his family at age five. When he was 15 years old, his family relocated once more to Korea, an adjustment that proved difficult for Maeng, who felt that the U.S. had become his “hometown.”

“Honestly, the U.S. feels more like a home country to me than Korea, but obviously I do love both countries.”

As a student employee in the ISO during the 2022-23 school year, Maeng realized that he and many of his peers wanted to provide a higher level of guidance for incoming international students.

At age 20, Maeng flew back to the U.S. to attend DVC, which caught his eye with its vibrant student life and promising transfer rates to UC Berkeley, where he said he hopes to attend next fall.

After spending the bulk of his 2023 summer break composing a master plan for the program, Maeng pitched the project to the International Student Office, which granted him approval. Maeng then worked alongside the ISO to recruit and interview prospective participants. 

He said he designed the pairing process to match mentees with mentors who shared similar majors, interests, and academic goals. But he deliberately avoided pairing students with the same national origin. Maeng said the purpose of this was to keep international students immersed in the English language and foster cross-cultural interactions.

“A lot of people from different countries tend to stay within their own communities and their comfort zones, but I really wanted to break that,” Maeng said. “I really believe in the power of diversity, and I wanted these communities interacting with each other, having fun together.”

Although most meetings occur in-person on a weekly basis, Maeng designed alternative meeting formats, including bimonthly and online options, to “ensure flexibility” as mentees fill their schedules with campus and community engagements.

These options require mentors to submit an agenda and meeting summary to Maeng, who then provides feedback on their discussion topics and addresses their questions or concerns.

As the fall semester draws to a close, Maeng said he looks forward to expanding the program in the spring. For example, he hopes to collaborate with companies that offer internships specifically for international students to help students navigate the F-1 visa limitations on their employment opportunities.

Maeng said his career goal is to become a CEO of a company that offers financial aid and equitable opportunities to underserved students. “Business really opens this door to advocacy for me, personally,” Maeng said.

Designing and implementing the Global Connect Mentorship Program became a big time commitment for Maeng, in addition to his 13-unit course load and active participation in seven student organizations. But it “didn’t feel like a chore,” he said. 

“I believe that I am a workaholic person, but I think that time management is all about determination,” Maeng added.

“I really like making positive impacts for the greater good. Just seeing all these mentors and mentees all around campus having their meetings and having fun is really what makes it worthwhile.”

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About the Contributor
Alyssa DuFresne, Editor in chief

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