Vishwas Paul serves as a mentor amid the pandemic, racist incidents at SU
Vishwas Paul: a mentor amid the pandemic
Coming to college can be a scary transition. For many people, it’s their first time living away from home, and for international students, these fears are only exacerbated because they’re so far from home. Then you throw in a global pandemic, and it makes for quite a difficult transition. That’s where Vishwas Paul steps in.
Paul is a senior at Syracuse University, majoring in economics with a double minor in business and psychology. He’s held leadership positions with several groups on campus, from the judicial board chair for Student Association to the undergraduate representative for the Board of Trustees. However, some of his most significant work has been with SU’s Center for International Services, for which Paul is a student mentor for new international students.
Paul’s journey with the center started out when he was first looking for a job. Work opportunities for international students are slim, according to Paul, and he wanted to find a job that he could learn from. When his former roommate recommended the center, it seemed like a perfect match.
Paul said he wished he would’ve utilized the center’s services when he was a freshman. He recalled multiple times during his freshman year where he could’ve used some guidance and advice from someone who had been in the same position. Additionally, he sees it as a way to build social skills.
“I joined the international center because I wanted to help incoming international students to adapt to SU and be successful, but it also helped me double up on good skills like people communication and mentoring individuals,” he said.
But Paul’s favorite part of working for the center is helping his mentees. One of his favorite ways to bond with them is to go to local restaurants and chat over a nice meal. He’s fascinated by the lives of these other international students.
“They’re from China, Korea, some parts of the world 7,000 miles away, and they ended up in Syracuse,” he said. “It’s crazy…. You get to hang out with some really cool people.”
However, Paul has had to face two unprecedented obstacles with his job as a mentor: the COVID-19 pandemic and the racist incidents that struck the SU community in recent years.
In 2019, two of Paul’s mentees from China lived in Day Hall when racist graffiti was discovered there. He said it was a difficult time for everyone, and it required a new approach to being a mentor. He focused on helping his mentees remain positive and not on the hate that’s plagued our campus.
“When all this was happening, even though it was overwhelming, I always made it a point so that all my mentees had some sort of distraction almost,” he said. “Something that could take their mind off of it and relax. Whether it be going out to a restaurant or going out to the mall, or just grabbing some bubble tea and talking about something else.”
However, the pandemic completely altered Paul’s ability to hang out with his mentees. And suddenly, Paul found himself starting from square one. He had to find new ways to connect with mentees, some of whom had stayed home for the semester, and navigate the new normal brought on by the virus.
“The best part of the job, which is in-person interactions, is kind of clouded out by the fear of getting COVID and the inability to hang out in person because you’re 7,000 miles away,” Paul said.
Despite the challenging circumstances he’s faced during his career at SU, Paul hasn’t let it get in the way of trying to be the best mentor possible. He loves his job at the center and said he feels proud watching his mentees go on to succeed.
It’s this dedication and love for his job that has made Paul stand out to his supervisors, Syrena Hernandez, his former supervisor for the program said. Hernandez recalls Paul was a great mentor who always maintained strong relationships with his mentees and helped them explore different opportunities on campus.
His current supervisor, Yuhsun Peng, described him as a “very warm and kind person” who always makes sure to provide his mentees with plenty of support.
Through his work as a mentor, Paul hopes to uplift international students and give them the confidence they need to accomplish their goals at SU.
“When it comes to educating them about that and helping them adapt and see them get better at it and succeed, that’s definitely one of my proudest moments of being a mentor,” he said.