USC Virtual Mentors Support International Students

University of South Carolina
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By Oshitha Narangoda
Last updated on March 25, 2021

International students build strong connections and learn how to overcome challenges through the Virtual Mentorship program at USC.

University of South Carolina

Two international students at the University of South Carolina, a mentor and mentee, wear facemasks and stand next to a bronze statue of the South Carolina gamecock mascot.

As international students adapt to a new learning environment where they study remotely, the University of South Carolina (USC) has also shifted its mentorship program to go virtual. International students enrolled in USC’s International Accelerator Program (IAP) can look forward to receiving peer support during their first semester, whether studying in person or online.

The virtual mentorship program connects IAP students with a mentor responsible for guiding them through their first semester at USC. Typically, mentors are USC students in their sophomore year or later, and are ready to help first-semester international students navigate new challenges, both in the classroom and out.

Why Should an International Student Consider the USC Virtual Mentorship Program?

When IAP students get a mentor, they strengthen their connection with the USC community. USC mentors make sure international students feel welcome and supported while studying virtually, with just as much assistance as students would have on campus. Mentors are often international students who had the same questions and challenges when they started their US degree program. 

Mentors provide a warm welcome, taking students on virtual campus tours and offering information about USC services, activities, and events. They also can provide resources to improve academic performance and are always available to answer any questions. Often, mentors are an international student’s first friend in the US. As fellow students of USC, they can help make introductions — both to other new friends and to student organizations on campus. 

While academic advising is always important, the virtual mentorship program specifically aims to take care of personal well-being. Mentors are intended to be the go-to source for support and advice.

How Does the USC Virtual Mentorship Program Work? 

When you sign up for the Virtual Mentorship program at USC, you and four other IAP students will be partnered with a mentor. To foster connections, mentor/mentee matches are based on shared interests, nationality, majors, or age group. 

After being paired, your mentor will connect with you two weeks before your university orientation. The mentor will introduce you to life as an international student in the US, including a tour of the USC campus and orientation preparation activities. Your mentor will also check in on you and their other mentees on a weekly basis. (Use these regular check-ins to voice any concerns or ask questions!)

What Is it Like Being a USC Mentor?

Sophomores and upperclassmen have the opportunity to become mentors at USC. In addition to the rewarding experience of helping fellow students, mentors also graduate with a Leadership Distinction (a valuable addition to one’s professional portfolio).

Motivated to help others, international student Tu from Vietnam decided to become a virtual mentor at USC. 

A mentor is important because they can help you see a good perspective of life,” says Tu. ”When you think about a mentor, you think more about academics, but … the mentor can help you to understand more [about] life. A mentor is one [who] also has the same situation, life circumstance, or position as you, that’s how they can understand and help you.”

Tu encourages both mentors and mentees to try as many university activities as possible, even remotely, as it enables them to explore and expand their interests. 

He also joined the program because he saw how new students are in a very different environment compared to when he started at USC. With many students having to study remotely, it was now more challenging for new students to figure out how to settle in, and he felt the virtual mentorship program was a way for him to offer support.

Becoming a mentor has helped Tu form close friendships with the other mentors in the program. Tu considers all his mentees his friends – and has even made friends with the mentees of other mentors! 

What Is it Like Being a USC Mentee? 

Ngoc is an international student from Vietnam in her first semester at USC, pursuing a master’s degree in International Hospitality and Tourism Management.

When she enrolled, Ngoc needed guidance as to what to do first. So, she requested an online mentor. 

She was paired with a mentor who was also a Vietnamese graduate student studying international hospitality and tourism, and they bonded immediately. One of Ngoc’s first objectives was to perform better in class, so her mentor helped Ngoc explore the USC’s academic resources. Additionally, there were many events and societies that interested Ngoc, and with advice from her mentor, she learned more about campus programs and how she could get involved. 

With all the support she had received, Ngoc felt that her mentor was a great friend who she could talk to about anything. She felt that her mentor was just like family; the two would often get together on the weekends and check up on each other regularly. 

I highly recommend the virtual mentor program, especially in this current pandemic situation. It is really helpful for international students who start their new life at USC and in the US, because they will have the opportunity to make a really close friend through their mentor as well as the other students, and life becomes more exciting.” — Ngoc from Vietnam, USC

With the USC Virtual Mentoring program, international students develop lasting relationships across the campus community. As a fellow student of USC, your mentor will help you during your crucial first semester — and beyond. 

Discover how the University of South Carolina supports international students >

*2023 update: With the return of students to campus, USC’s online mentor matching program is on pause. The USC IAP student services team can provide in-person mentors on request.