During my last year of university, I started an internship in Basel, Switzerland, where I later settled and where I still live now. Unfortunately, I rarely manage to return to Italy, and to Rome even more rarely, although (without being too sentimental) it remains my favorite city in the world. The pandemic certainly hasn’t made things any easier, and that’s also why I’ve been very happy to reconnect, even if only virtually, with my university by taking part in a new program that has just been launched.
Reconnect Luiss is a mentoring project for Luiss scholarship students. The mentors have graduated (alas, several years ago) from the same university as the scholarship holders. So, what do I think? My initial opinion is positive. The idea seemed great right away: even if it’s hard to generalize, students on scholarship usually have a series of questions and specific needs that can only be understood by those who once found themselves in the same situation. I, for one, remember being constantly worried about maintaining a high GPA and taking my exams as soon as possible. In retrospect, a lot of stress was actually unfounded: analyzing the situation in a rational and detached manner – perhaps with a more experienced figure – would have been helpful.
I believe that participating in the program is truly gratifying for the mentors too, who can support someone and have the opportunity to give back. So far, I’ve never participated in similar programs as a mentor, but I have had opportunities to speak with students and – beyond sharing information and useful contact – I’ve talked about my university experience and I’ve given advice that I would have given a 19-year-old me. One of my most frequent pieces of advice: take advantage of the University’s extracurricular activities, don’t wait and sign up only in the last year like I did (what great memories I have of the Sustainable Luiss club!) I like having these conversations a lot, not just because they bring back memories, but also because I like using my experiences to help others.
I believe that the idea of mentoring in general is laudable in itself. I’ve had three mentors so far. While at Luiss, I had a mentor that talked to me about working in companies, at that age I was having difficulty choosing whether to work in the public or private sector. Then when I started working, I had a mentor that talked to me a lot about the department that he worked in, as I was considering a position in a related area. Lastly, after I moved in that direction, I had a mentor that talked to me about the behaviors and attitudes in the workplace. All of these mentors offered me precious opportunities to grow that helped me so much in my career.
Contrary to what one might think, however, mentors are not necessarily experts who offer solutions. Rather, they are people who listen and ask questions to stimulate thought. They don’t choose, but help make choices, they don’t guide, but help others find their paths. I had the chance to experience this first person: I work in the commercial area, but some of the best professional advice I’ve received has come from a scientist mentor who works in the lab. During our time together, during which I was able to talk about things with someone completely detached from my situation, I was able to see my issues in a new light and consider new factors. It was definitely one of my best moments of personal and professional growth.
In summary, our role as Reconnect Luiss Mentors is not to convince the young minds we are entrusted with to follow in our path, but to stimulate their reflection and growth. At that age, I had a distorted vision of the working world and my level of personal awareness was much lower than it is now. We have not yet met the students, but I have had the chance to meet up with an old classmate (who asks me thousands of questions, just like old times) and old roommate that I hadn’t heard from in years (but hope to see in person soon) and moreover, I’ve met a group of established professionals who look forward to guiding our students to give their best: the program is promising.
Carolina Coradeschi, Public Affairs Manager at Novartis