Hunter College graduate Roshan began volunteering as a college coach with Breakthrough New York in 2021, and is currently pulling double duties with two mentees! She shares how she found a kinship with Sadia and Srijani that went beyond traditional academic mentoring, and how she uses this role to build community.
Tell me about yourself.
I graduated about two years ago [from Hunter College]. I did a major in clinical psychology and minor in biology. I was applying to medical school this past year, and I actually got accepted to several medical schools. So I will be a medical student this upcoming fall, but in the meantime I’ve been doing research and working currently as an instructor for Princeton Review to teach bio for the MCAT. I was a mentor [for freshmen] in undergrad; I want to continue that in medical school, and I want to continue that as a physician. Mentorship has always been an amazing opportunity for me – I think I learned a lot from students and mentoring. I’ve done health education as well, so I’m a very service-oriented person.
You have tons of experience being a mentor. When you came to Breakthrough, what specific goals did you have in mind with this opportunity?
I really wanted to create an organized set of goals that my mentees and I had to help them achieve whatever they wanted to achieve while in college. I really wanted to make sure that my students knew I was there to help them professionally and with school, but also someone that was there to help them through personal difficulties. A lot of times people think that they can’t help their students with personal difficulties; I think that’s part of what being a mentor is. These students are not just facing professional difficulties but personal difficulties as well.
Tell me about your current mentorships. How do you support your mentees, and how do they support you?
I currently have two mentees: Sadia and Srijani. Both come from similar cultures to mine, and I think the way that I try to support each of them is really listening to what their needs are. For example, Sadia in the beginning was telling me how she was interested in nursing. The next meeting, she was like, “Well actually, I want to work with animals.” It’s totally cool to change your mind about things! If they decide to change their mind, be supportive [and] listen to why they want to make that change.
With my mentees, I’ve seen how resilient they are and how determined they are, and how independent they are. I really admire my mentees for that because when I was in college [the] first year, I was none of those things! I make sure I tell them that. I’m proud of them.
Both my mentees come from similar communities to me, so I’m able to talk to them about more than just school or their professional lives. I will talk about issues in South Asian culture, and [that] has been very important for both of us because in [our] community, it’s really hard to talk about some of the issues that come up. I actually haven’t experienced [that] before in a mentor relationship.
Have you found anything that really works when you’re trying to build that connection with someone virtually?
One is to listen. I think a lot of times people, especially over virtual connection, feel like you have to talk a bit more to get the connection going, but having someone to just listen to you fully instead of interrupting is really important. Also just being more consistent than you would if you were in person. Follow up with them to make sure they know you are there for them, and that you are a resource they can utilize.
For anyone who’s considering volunteering as a college coach, how would you convince them to join Breakthrough?
Being able to make a difference, or to help individuals in communities where they don’t have access to resources as readily, is so important. For me personally, I’ve seen how valuable it can be for students to have access to those resources because they may not know about certain internships or resume editing workshops that can really help advance their careers.
[It’s] so important that you’re not only helping people but you’re also helping yourself. It helps you grow and you help others grow, so it’s a reciprocal thing, not just a one-way street. And you also make these connections with students. I genuinely don’t forget my students, and I will remember and cherish those connections for the rest of my life.
Breakthrough New York is an amazing organization [that] has an amazing support team for college coaches. Whenever I have an issue, I usually hear back within one day. [That] speaks to how dedicated the team is to helping college students and college coaches thrive in this mentorship.
If you’d like to become a college coach, visit our Volunteers page for current opportunities.