The Department of Civil Engineering mentor programme provides the building blocks for first-year students.

05 Dec 2022
05 Dec 2022

The Department of Civil Engineering mentor programme provides the building blocks for first-year students.

In recent years, the University of Cape Town’s Department of Civil Engineering has begun a mentorship programme to help first-year students adjust to life as UCT students. The mentoring programme brings together senior students (mentors) with first year students (mentees) in the spirit of generosity and guidance. It aims to assist first years to transition into university life, provide the mentors with leadership skills and fosters camaraderie among the undergraduates.

Dr Motala is currently looking after this programme and explains that “Thus far, we have found that both groups received great benefit through participation. The mentors are often the first group alerted of potential problems, and thus can escalate any issues quickly, enabling speedy resolution. This programme has been  wonderful for confidence building!”

We sat down with 2 of the mentees, Mr Ryan Kanhye and Miss Bonolo Meso, and delved into their experience as first-year mentees in the programme.

Can you briefly describe how the mentorship programme works?

Ryan: Upon arriving at UCT as a first-year student, a mentor meet-up will be set up where you and a few other first-years will automatically be assigned a mentor (or two). After getting to know each other at the meet-up, a WhatsApp group will be set up to facilitate communication. Your mentors might set up a few more meet-ups to build the mentor-mentee bond. From there, you can approach your mentors anytime you require advice on anything that you think their insight might be helpful.

Did you benefit from the mentorship programme, and would you recommend it to next year’s first-year students?

Ryan: Hindsight is the most remarkable insight to foresight; civil engineers learn from the past and apply it to the present to build the future. The mentorship programme applies this concept perfectly to the undergraduate experience. A mentor’s past knowledge and experiences are invaluable to a mentee, and it enables one to have a prenotion of what is to come and prepare accordingly.

Bonolo: The registration process is your introduction to UCT life and can be overwhelming and unfamiliar. My registration process was stressful, but I coped because I could message my mentors for guidance.

 Bonolo and Ryan both recalled having benefitted significantly from the programme.

Do you have any standout highlights from the experience?

Ryan: Like many first years, leaving family and friends to travel to Cape Town to study at UCT was a hard leap for me. I remember feeling lost and overwhelme. However, attending the mentor meetup was very insightful. The mentors instantly made me feel like I was not alone in this journey and gave me a sense of belonging.

How would you describe the bond that was created between you and your mentor?

Bonolo: I am not very close with my mentor. However, although we do not speak very often, I know they have been and will always be there when I need them. They check up on me regularly, which warms my heart all the time, considering their busy schedules.

Ryan: Having a mentor ignites a sense of comfort despite being in a foreign space. Relationships also grow over time and the bond only gets stronger. We’ve created a bond centred on mutual trust, constructive criticism, mindfulness and, most importantly, friendship.

Do you think you would be interested in joining the mentorship programme in the future as a mentor?

Both Ryan and Bonolo are keen to help, guide and mentor upcoming students. The overwhelming support and invaluable guidance they received motivated them to consider becoming mentors. They hope to contribute positively to the programme when their time comes.