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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cross-Cultural Mentoring: Cultural Awareness & Identity Empowerment


Practices of mentoring programs often match mentors and mentees who are from similar backgrounds (i.e., same-culture mentoring). Both practices and studies on mentoring disregard possibilities in cross-cultural mentoring (CCM) where mentors or mentees are from different cultural (i.e., national or racial) backgrounds. This paper investigates students’ experiences in CCM in terms of the influence of mentors’/mentees’ cultural backgrounds on their identity development and cultural awareness. Five in-depth interviews were conducted with CCM mentors and mentees. Vignettes of CCM experiences are presented that reflect the impact and meaning of CCM for mentors and mentees. Types of CCM are identified and learning opportunities and challenges for students in CCM are revealed. This study challenges the status quo that only same-culture mentoring could benefit students since CCM is proven to empower the identity of mentors and mentees and cultivate their social skills including self-awareness and cultural recognition. Strategies are offered for students engaging in CCM to navigate opportunities and challenges. Recommendations are provided for higher education institutions to build community, diversity, and inclusion in higher education.

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