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Pre-med mentorship program connects Bruins to high school students in STEM abroad

(Isabella Lee/Illustrations director)

By Aditi Kumar

Aug. 20, 2022 11:01 a.m.

This post was updated Aug 21. at 8:45 p.m. 

The International Pre-Med Society at UCLA has created an international mentorship program for high school students from other countries interested in studying STEM in the United States, which began Jan. 4.

Julieta Serobyan, founder and president of IPMS, said she created the program because she believes there are not enough resources available for international students to successfully apply to universities in the U.S., drawing on her experiences attending high school and going through the college application process in Armenia. Having a mentor to ask questions about the application process would have been helpful as an international student, she added.

Serobyan, a rising fourth-year psychobiology student, said this experience spurred her to discuss the idea of a mentorship program with members of IPMS.

“We all went through the entire process. We all suffered so much just to get into (a) good school in the U.S.,” Serobyan said. “Maybe we can help the other students who are in our shoes now and make it less stressful for them.”

The program currently mentors 20 students at a high school in Armenia, Serobyan said, adding that each mentor is paired with one mentee.

Mentees and mentors are matched based on the area of study a mentee is interested in, their time commitment and their goal for the program after both parties fill out a form, Serobyan said.

Malvina Khachatryan, Serobyan’s mentee, said she first learned of this program when Serobyan, an alumnus of her high school, gave a talk via Zoom to the students. Khachatryan hopes to study in the U.S. and is interested in medical school, sparking her interest in the mentorship program, she added.

Serobyan said the program has a flexible requirement of two hours of mentorship each week, and the structure of the mentorship is based on the mentee’s needs. The program lasts as long as the mentee feels they need assistance – Serobyan and her own mentee interact through text when Khachatryan has questions, Serobyan said.

Through her time with Serobyan, Khachatryan said she has been able to get her questions answered in detail as they came up, which she found useful.

Jennifer Richmond, another mentor in the program and a rising third-year neuroscience student, said her own interactions with her mentee range from weekly workshops to conversations about their week. She added that she does workshops on topics her mentee requests, such as how to write a personal statement when applying to universities.

Serobyan said in the future she hopes to increase the number of schools the mentorship program partners with. She has reached out to a second high school in Armenia and a high school in South America and is awaiting their responses, she added.

Through the program, she was further able to encourage her mentee to pursue passions outside of STEM thanks to the connection it created, Serobyan said.

Richmond said the program uniquely allowed her to form a connection with a mentee on the other side of the world and find shared interests.

“Bruins are able to talk to other people and extend a hand (to) other people that we might not interact with on a day-to-day basis,” Richmond said.

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Aditi Kumar | Science and health editor
Kumar is the 2022-2023 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat and a Graphics staff member. She is also a third-year bioengineering student minoring in bioinformatics.
Kumar is the 2022-2023 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat and a Graphics staff member. She is also a third-year bioengineering student minoring in bioinformatics.
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