UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN


INTERLINK FAQ

Program Information FAQ

Mentee FAQ

Mentor FAQ

Program Information FAQ


• What is INTERLINK?

INTERLINK is an international student mentoring program, aimed at helping international students adjust to the culture and environment at the University of Illinois. The program will match interested new and returning international students with volunteer students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and staff, so that international students can get social and emotional support from their mentors.


• Why should I participate in INTERLINK?

INTERLINK helps international students adjust better to the local campus and community by building a one-on-one relationship with a University of Illinois student, faculty, or staff member. The program also benefits mentors in that it will provide an opportunity to interact with individuals with international backgrounds, broaden horizons by learning about other cultures, and impact someone’s life for better.


• What is “mentoring?” What does “mentor” and “mentee” mean?

Mentoring can be viewed as “a one-to-one, non-judgmental relationship in which an individual mentor voluntarily gives time to support and encourage another. This relationship is typically developed at a time of transition in the mentee’s life, and lasts for a significant and sustained period of time” (Carrad, 2002).

In general, a mentor can be considered a trusted teacher or friend who shares experience, knowledge, and wisdom and who can offer support. For INTERLINK, “mentor” refers to volunteer students, faculty, or staff members who have lived in the U.S. for a while and who want to support international students in their adjustment process. “Mentee” refers to new and returning international students who would like some support in adjusting to the culture and environment at the University of Illinois.


• What activities do mentees and mentors do in the program?

Mentees and Mentors can engage in a number of activities such as attending free concerts, watching movies, eating at local restaurants, exercising together, etc. A monthly newsletter, which lists several ideas for activities and on-campus/local events, will be sent out to all program members. Mentees and mentors can choose their activities from these choices, or develop creative ones of their own. The program will also organize at least three group gatherings each semester: welcome event and two mid-semester social activities (e.g., potluck, bowling, ice skating).


• How is INTERLINK different from other international student support programs/organizations?

We hope that INTERLINK will provide social and emotional support for international students. INTERLINK is a program that emphasizes a one-on-one relationship, whereas some other programs involve families of either the student or host. INTERLINK does not focus solely on improving English. Finally, INTERLINK expects regular contact between mentors and mentees (i.e., preferably weekly or at least every other week).


• Who makes the mentor-mentee match, and how?

The INTERLINK coordinating team makes the matches according to the needs and preferences that participants provide in their application forms (e.g., gender, country of origin). The coordinating team will try its best to accommodate each applicant’s needs and preferences. Sometimes, it is possible that applicants may not get their first choice. However, participants may find interesting and unexpected qualities in their mentor/mentee. In some cases, mentors may themselves be international students or be younger than their mentees. In general, mentors have been chosen for their ability to help their mentee make the needed adjustments to living in the US. We hope that every member will learn from each other.


• What if my mentor is younger than me?

It is possible that your mentor may be younger in age than you. Please remember that we have selected a mentor for you based on their experience living and navigating life in the U.S. So even though they may not be as old as you, they still have a lot to offer in terms of answering your questions and concerns about living in this new country—many such mentors have lived here their whole life!


• What are my commitments to the program as a mentor/mentee?

You are expected to participate the program throughout one semester. During the semester, you will meet your mentor/mentee regularly. You and your mentor/mentee can define your relationship based on both of your schedules and preferences. You and your mentor/mentee are responsible for keeping in touch with each other. The time duration for each meeting is also flexible, though a starting place might be 1 hour. If any problems arise with this commitment, please contact us.


• How frequently should mentors and mentees meet?

Previous participants have told us that regular weekly meetings are the most effective in helping mentees and mentors have a good experience in INTERLINK. It is often useful to plan meetings with your mentor/mentee at a regular time each week (just like a class) so that you are not constantly juggling schedules. In this way, even if it is not possible to meet on a particular week, you can reschedule or simply plan to meet at your regular meeting time the following week.


• How long can I participate in INTERLINK?

Each mentee and mentor is committed to INTERLINK for one semester. If you want to continue participating, you are more than welcome to do that. There is no upper limit for your participation. If you choose to continue participating, you can either stay in your mentor/mentee pair, or ask to switch to a new mentor/mentee. However, whether you can keep your old mentor/mentee depends on their preference as well. In addition, higher priority may be given to new participants.


• What is the purpose of the Information Sessions? Do I need to attend?

Anyone who is interested in INTERLINK is strongly encouraged to attend one of the information sessions held at the beginning of the semester. This is an opportunity to learn more about the program. We will address questions such as: What is the time commitment? How do mentors get paired with mentees? What is the acculturation process like for international students? What activities can I do with my mentor individually or in a group? How would I handle potential problems with my mentor? Potential mentors and mentees are both encouraged to attend.


• What if I have trouble getting hold of my mentor/mentee?

If that happens, we encourage you to contact them by both phone and email. If you have done so, and they have not responded in a week’s time, please contact the INTERLINK team directly via phone or email. We will contact your mentor/mentee to check in with them. In the unlikely event that things do not work out, we will switch you to a new mentor/mentee.


• How can I contact the INTERLINK team?

You can contact the INTERLINK team in the following ways: (a) attend an Information Session or other group events (b) call or email us directly, and (c) fill out brief evaluation at the end of semester and let us know your comments/suggestions. Please check out the INTERLINK Resource Guide for our phone numbers and email addresses.


• Why should I fill out an evaluation form?

The evaluation form is an online survey that is simple to fill out. The feedback we receive will be confidential. This evaluation form is a way we hear from our program participants. We appreciate every member’s comments/suggestions. Our hope is that you can share with us your experience in the program and help us improve the program in the future.

Mentee FAQ


• Do I have to pay a fee to participate in INTERLINK?

NO! The INTERLINK program is free for all international students who are currently registered students at University of Illinois.


• How many mentors can I have?

Each mentee can have one mentor at a time.


• Will I always be matched with a mentor?

We have a high rate of matching in our program. Matches will be made in the first month of each semester. If you request specific criteria for a match (e.g., a mentor who can speak Spanish), we may not be able to guarantee that we can find what you need in a certain semester. Also, mentees who apply after the match deadline will be matched according to the available backup mentors at that time. There is a chance that you might have to wait until next semester to be matched. In either case, we will put you on a waiting list till we find a good match for you.


• How diverse is the mentor pool?

INTERLINK welcomes mentors of all backgrounds. Our mentors are primarily undergraduate students and graduate students as well as a fewer number of faculty and staff members. Also, we have U.S. mentors with different heritages (e.g., Caucasian [White], African American, Asian American, Latino/a American, etc.) and senior international student mentors. Very often our mentors have studied abroad or are interested in studying in another country/culture.


• Can I switch mentors within a semester?

We generally do not make switches and instead encourage each mentor-mentee pair to continue their relationship throughout the semester. If anything unexpected happens, the INTERLINK team will do its best to help each member in making the best match under the circumstances. If necessary, we will match a mentee with a new mentor.


• I have been a mentee in INTERLINK in the past, can I now be a mentor?

Yes, you are more than welcome to be a mentor after you have finished your commitment as a mentee. We appreciate your efforts to share your own experience and help out other international students who need assistance in adjustment.


• What if I find that I don’t have enough time to meet with my mentor during the semester?

We understand that sometimes when there is a lot of work to do, or when you are feeling tired, meeting with your mentor may not feel like a priority. However, our experience suggests that, a) learning to develop a balance between your social/recreational and work life is essential for your long term success; b) meeting with mentors can be actually be helpful at such times.

Nevertheless, we realize that sometimes it just is not possible to meet. If that should happen, we ask that you be respectful of your mentor’s time and let them know in advance if you are unable to meet.


• What should I consider as a mentee about limits of the mentoring relationship?

We hope that both you and your mentor will find a comfortable way of building a relationship with each other. Although we do not have any restrictions on how you define your relationship with your mentor, please consider following questions:

  • Do you want to establish any time boundaries? (e.g., no calls after 10PM).
  • Do you want to invite your mentor into your home and/or meet your friends and family?
  • Do you want to be “friends” on Facebook?


• What should I do in emergencies?

Please keep in mind that mentors are NOT expected to handle psychological, medical, or legal emergencies. Please check out the INTERLINK Resource Guide for phone numbers you should call in emergencies.


• Can I ask my mentor for money?

Please do NOT lend/borrow money from your mentor. You may end up spending small amounts of money for your activities (e.g., going out to dinner) though we expect that you will each pay for your own expenses. Also, we discourage activities that are very expensive. There are many things to do on campus or locally that are either free or low cost. If you encounter any financial difficulties, please consult with banks or ISSS for further suggestions.


• What if my mentor asks me to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable?

You can certainly decline invitations if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with something your mentor suggests (e.g., bungee jumping, or activities that not in keeping with your religious/spiritual values). Actually, this has never been an issue in INTERLINK so far. Mentees and mentors have been able to work out activities that fit both mentees’ and mentors’ preferences. However, if you do notice significant differences, please be aware that many differences can be based on cultural values rather than personal conflicts. We encourage mentors and mentees to respect differences in religion, family, money, values, and traditions. We encourage you to explore these differences together (e.g., by talking with each other). If you feel further assistance is needed, please contact the INTERLINK team.

Mentor FAQ


• What should I consider as a mentor about limits of the mentoring relationship?
Although we do not have any restrictions on how you define your relationship with your mentee, please consider following questions:

  • Do you want to establish any time boundaries? (e.g., no calls after 10PM).
  • How much time and mental energy do you have to devote?
  • Do you want to invite your mentee into your home and/or meet your friends and family?
  • Do you want to be “friends” on Facebook?

We encourage you to communicate these kinds of boundaries early in the relationship.

• What if I’m feeling over-extended in my duties as a mentor?

While we certainly expect that you will meet regularly with your mentee and become interested in their lives, you are not expected to become their sole source of emotional support.  If it feels like you are over-extending yourself, we are happy to consult with you about setting appropriate limits as a mentor.


• What should I do as a mentor in emergencies?

Mentors are NOT expected to handle psychological, medical, or legal emergencies. If your mentee asks you for help during any emergency, please direct them to appropriate resources. Please check out the INTERLINK Resource Guide for suitable referrals for emergencies. You can also consult with the INTERLINK team if you are concerned about your mentee.


• What if my mentee asks me for money?

Please do NOT borrow/lend money to your mentee. If your mentee encounters any financial difficulties, please direct him/her to consult with banks or ISSS for further suggestions. You and your mentee may end up spending small amounts of money for your activities (e.g., going out to dinner) though we expect that you will each pay for your own expenses. Also, we discourage activities that are very expensive. There are many things to do on campus or locally that are either free or low cost. We encourage you to explore cultural differences related to money with your mentee.


• What if my mentee has different ideas than mine?

Although it has never been an issue in INTERLINK, if you do notice significant differences, please be aware that many differences can be based on cultural values rather than personal conflicts. We encourage mentors and mentees to respect differences in religion, family, money, values, and traditions. We encourage you to explore these differences together (e.g., by talking with each other). If you feel further assistance is needed, please contact the INTERLINK team. In terms of planning activities, we suggest that you and your mentee come up with plans together, so that both of you can feel comfortable and safe with your choices.