As part of Tutor Appreciation Month, Aditi shares how tutoring impacted her Penn experience.
There are some events that no one prepares you for. I had one of those events happen to me when one of my closest friends ran away from her dorm with a bottle of her antidepressants and almost committed suicide. My first reaction was shock which soon turned into a deep sadness. You see these things in movies and shows but you would never think that it would happen to you so suddenly with no warning. At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with tutoring. And you’d be surprised to find out that it has a lot to do with it.
I became a tutor in my freshman spring. I taught MATH 104. For three hours a week, I would sit at the tables at Penn and talk through math concepts and I truly loved every moment of it. It was familiar. It made sense. Being a freshman felt a lot like being a deer in headlights for me. Being an international student, I was exposed to so many novel stimuli. Culture, people, classes — none of it seemed easy. Everything was something to put effort into and not knowing where to look for help did not make it any easier.
In my sophomore year, I tutored MATH 114 and became a tutor mentor. I was still lost about what I wanted to do in my four years at Penn but I trudged along. There was a silver lining though– someone who made my days easier and exponentially better- my friend (and roommate). We would roam Penn, make 6 am Starbucks runs, build snowmans in front of my dorm. Suffice to say that I was slowly finding my way. And that’s when life gave me a jolt. I am sure that we all have these life changing experiences where everything takes a turn for the worse and then nothing is the same again. At 9:30 pm on a Sunday night, my friend was gone. I had no idea where she was, I had no way to contact her because she wasn’t answering her phone. A week later, I received a phone call from a social worker and my friend flew home and we couldn’t be the same anymore. And just like that, everything changed.
Every week I would tutor CHEM 241 and MATH 104– the only truly structured part of my day. The rest of the day, I would sit in my dorm staring at the now empty room wondering how everything changed. I spent a lot of time crying, sitting silently staring out of those large glass windows of Harrison and talking to my friends over the phone or just staying on FaceTime so that I wouldn’t be alone. The only thing that got me up to do things were that I needed to complete my classes and I needed to tutor. I managed to muster up enough strength to get through my semester and keep my promise to myself to not let this get in the way of my dream to go to medical school.
I mentioned before that tutoring was where I seeked comfort. There is something so wonderful about the look on someone’s face when they have been struggling with something for so long and then finally it makes sense. It made me feel like I truly made a difference. After my experience with my friend, and constantly questioning if I could have done something differently, if I could have helped more– here I was, actually helping. Actively changing something, someone for the better.
Call me a nerd, but in those days when everything was so heavy, tutoring lifted me up. My own tutors taught me subjects that I struggled with, with such care that I made it through my classes and finished strong. And on the day when I got an email from Valerie Wrenn (Associate Director of Tutoring Services) to become the Lead Math Tutor at Penn, all my hard work, all my love for tutoring, something that gave me joy and comfort came into fruition in a whole new way. I had a jump to my step as I walked on that cold winter morning. It was the one thing I needed to give me a real push out of the dreadful period that I couldn’t seem to get through.
Being the Math Tutor Lead of Penn has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for me. I can help so many students who need help at Penn and also guide the tutors. But the not-so-obvious joy of this position is Valerie. She supervises my position and talking to her makes me feel like all these ideas that constantly pop up in my head can truly be a reality. Talking to someone who takes the time to attentively listen to all your ideas and supports you while grounding you is invaluable. The support and care that I have received from the tutoring center has shaped the person that I am today. I know that without it, I would probably be lost at Penn. It has impacted me in so many ways– by making me a happier, more confident individual who can dare to dream at Penn.
The goal of this blog post is to express my heartfelt gratitude to Valerie, Weingarten and all the tutors at Penn who have made Penn a better place for me and for so many other people. I could not have asked for a better support system.
– Aditi Singh