Sometimes students struggle with the first step of experiential learning or becoming more involved on campus. This was the case for Tyler – read below to learn about how she decided to take the leap of faith, and how it turned into an experience that would impact her for the rest of her time at Iowa!
It all started with an Instagram post. The Honors account was advertising an opportunity to work as a peer mentor for a new course called Life Design, taught by the incomparable Dave Gould. I was starting the fall semester of my third year at the University and was feeling like I needed to make more of an effort to get involved with campus activities. With a quick email to Dave indicating my interest, I took that leap. After a short phone interview (well, as short as any phone conversation with Dave can be) I had the position and was sent a syllabus of the course I would soon be helping with, along with the eight other peer mentors that I was soon to meet.
As it was a new course, Dave enlisted our help in providing feedback on the syllabus, as well as providing examples for the exercises that the students would be expected to complete. Life Design is a 2 s.h. class that meets asynchronously for eight weeks. We had the first eight weeks of the semester to get the syllabus right and to tweak our sample assignments. As this was the Fall of 2020, our weekly meetings were held over Zoom where I met some of the coolest people. We all had vastly different majors and goals in life, but our passion for creating connections with others made us bond instantly.
As a peer mentor, we hold office hours for our designated group of students who are required to meet with us at least once throughout the course. We also provide feedback on their weekly reflection exercises. This process was one of my favorite parts of this position. I was able to connect with so many students and though no one of us had ever met in person, I was amazed at their ability to be so vulnerable in their storytelling. I learned from students that had needed to work since the age of 14 to provide for their family and I bonded with students over our shared experiences with mental health struggles. I am immensely grateful that my students felt that they could open up to a complete stranger about some of their lowest lows and their highest highs. By the end of each eight week cycle, I could feel myself growing as a person and as a mentor for younger students.
Through this position, I was also provided the opportunity to virtually visit with a class of preschoolers on a weekly basis. I love kids and felt that we had so much we could learn from their still-blossoming perspective on life. As adults (or almost-adults, I suppose) I find that we tend to view the world through an objective lens. We have our goals and very black-and-white ways of achieving them. However, kids view the world much more subjectively. The world is a place of color and wonder and imagination. I feel strongly that this is something that we could all stand to integrate more into our lives. Following my sessions with the preschoolers I would report back to my fellow peer mentors, and I incorporated the preschoolers’ music and storytelling development with my final letter to my students.
While I am no longer in this position, I have been helping Dave build the sequel class (!) called Life Design 2: A Better World which launches this semester. I was able to learn so much about myself and the world during my time as a peer mentor. It helped me focus on the ways I want to make a difference in the world and the unparalleled importance of forming connections. While this can be hard to do in our increasingly virtual world, by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I created memories that will shape me for the rest of my life. Between meeting with students on campus and with children in the community, this position gave me a heightened sense of belonging in the University of Iowa and Iowa City community. I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a peer mentor for Life Design.
Tyler Rose Voas (she/hers) is a senior from Ames, IA, studying psychology with a minor in global health. In her free time, she likes to work with kids, and you can frequently find her quoting Disney movies and Friends. She is currently fighting senioritis and is hoping inflation will go down so she can afford an apartment in New York City.
Edited by: Delaney McDowell, Honors Admin