In the second year of my clinical training at the University of Waikato the Tuakana/ Teina was introduced, a mentor program where more senior students supported new students in the program. This was an incredible process for me as it provided space to share my learning but also my concerns through the program. At this point, I had already been at university for four or so years and I did it without a mentor, which meant I had to fumble my way around navigating the university system and processes alone.
Here’s a bit of background about me. My parents migrated to Aotearoa in 2000s, they completed their University in Zambia, UK and recently Aotearoa (well done mum!). They were supportive but were often unable to assist me to navigate a university system that was new to all of us. I was also going into an industry that was unfamiliar to many of the people around me. When I started engaging in the Tuakana/ Teina program, I reflected on how much easier those first four years would have been had I had a Tuakana. I also realised that I had found some mentors along the way in lecturers, supervisors, and researchers. These people, some of whom I only had contact with through their writing, were they people I wanted to be when I grew up (or at least finished university). They gave me an idea of the sort of therapist I wanted to become and a key part of that included playing the role of a guide for those coming up.
So this is my open letter to those first year and beyond psychology students – find Tuakana(s) who can help you navigate the education, placement, internships, and early years of practice. And if you can’t find one where you are, email me.