Connecting Across Cultures: Sareé and Chihiro’s Story

One of the greatest strengths of iMentor is the diversity of its community. Mentor and mentee relationships thrive because of the unique perspectives each person brings. Sareé and Chihiro are a pair from iMentor NYC who found ways to connect with each other across their different cultures and backgrounds.

Complementing Personalities

Sareé is a senior at the Bronx High School for Law and Community Service. A native New Yorker, she is interested in expanding her horizons by applying to colleges in other states. Chihiro is originally from Japan and came to the US at the age of 18; she has since studied at schools in Boulder, Chicago, and NYC. The fact that both were open and willing to learn about each other allowed the duo to build their mentorship.

Sareé was ready from day one to meet her mentor. “I was really excited honestly – I love meeting new people. I was so prepared to tell her everything right off the start,” she says.

Even though Chihiro has a quieter personality, she was not intimidated by her mentee’s enthusiasm; in fact, she finds that they complement each other well. “It was very helpful that she was very open,” Chihiro reflects. “The program coordinator did a really good job matching us.”

Their varied interests only added to the depth of their relationship. Sareé and Chihiro spent time sharing their music, TV, and hobbies – even if the topics were completely unknown to the other. Chihiro would research the video games that Sareé was playing. Sareé would ask Chihiro about her global travels, inspiring her to one day travel herself. This effort to relate to her meant a lot to Sareé. “She built that connection by taking an interest, even though she herself did not have an interest in it,” Sareé says. “We were never afraid to talk to each other.”

Preparing for College

This openness with each other created a strong sense of trust, which became helpful as the pair started to look at options for Sareé’s future. Exploring college majors is a big decision to make, and Chihiro made sure not to project her ideas onto Sareé. “It was really a balance of being a mentor who could guide her in terms of what works for her, but at the same time respecting her authenticity and what she wants to do,” Chihiro says.

As Sareé was deciding between studying art or computer science, the pair attended virtual info sessions at schools and debated which path would be better suited for a hobby versus a career. In the end, Sareé focused on computer science and spent hours with Chihiro writing her personal statement for her college applications.

Lessons Learned

Sareé reflects that she has learned a lot from her mentor, both about her life and how to emulate her and grow as a person. “I get to learn so much about her culture, how she grew up, how she got to experience [things] because she’s from a different generation,” she says. “[I learned] don’t be afraid to be honest. Don’t be afraid to be authentic. Put in your best effort all the time.”

Sareé currently interns in the IT department of the law firm Simpson Thatcher and Bartlett and hopes to enroll at either Rutgers University – New Brunswick or Northeastern University. She credits Chihiro for providing the guidance and encouragement to lead her where she is today. “She is how I made it this far in life,” Sareé remarks. “She pushed me to take that step and grow as a person. I am forever grateful.”

We need more mentors like Chihiro to lead students through high school and into college! Sign up to be a mentor today: