First of all, Natalie, could you tell a bit about who you are and what you`re usually doing?
Natalie: My name is Natalie, I live in the UK, in London, but I`m from Cyprus originally and I`m working as a journalist. I`d be working as a journalist for 5 years, I think, and worked in TV a lot longer. I`ve always been interested in helping young women, because when I started in my job, there weren`t really many women that helped me and I was really surprised. I`ve always thought that it`s important that women help other women, especially in some industries- like journalism. Separate from that, I just really care about learning. Like in school, people don`t really help you to figure out what to do with your life. I always think it`s good to have other people around, so I`ve always wanted to get into this kind of thing. When I was in lockdown, which in London was really a tough lockdown. I was just like “It`s a good time to do something and try and reach out!” and I didn`t want to do it in the UK, because in the UK there`s a lot of programmes like this. I just wanted more international, since I come from a more international background. So, I was looking online for mentoring programmes and “Mentor International” were one of the only places that came back to me that would do it internationally. Because of the pandemic they allowed e-mentoring as well, which helped me a lot. I got in touch and they said that they could link me up with one of their local chapters- either Sweden or Latvia. I`m pretty sure that very quickly they told me about Antra and said to me that there is this young woman who wants to be a journalist and I thought that it`s so amazing! I remember that I spoke to Ulla and she explained me a bit about the programme and started telling me about Antra. That`s kind of how it started and I was very excited.
Antra, can you tell what your first interaction with Natalie was?
Antra: It was the summer of 2020, the 1st of July when I stepped into adult life and approximately 3 weeks later I wrote to Ulla that I wanted to become a journalist and write articles. At that time there wasn`t really anything to offer for me, but we agreed to get back in touch if anything comes up. If I`m not mistaken, in the beginning of next year I received a message from Ulla that there is a woman who would like to help me and that this woman was from BBC. At that moment I was pleasantly surprised, because it`s BBC, how cool! I agreed and since February of 2021 me and Natalie contact each other every week even until now.
What kind of characteristics does a person need to have in order to gain success in journalism and other related fields?
Natalie: When I first met Antra, I had no idea what to expect. When I met her, I remember that at first she would say she can`t do things and then, very quickly I would realize that she could do it and way more that I would`ve expected! It turned out she could speak English amazingly, which she thought she couldn`t. She`s also very attentive and I remember that I mention a small thing in a meeting and the next time we meet she had done so many great things and worked up the courage to talk to so many people, including well known journalists in a Latvian radio station. I was just in awe that she had not only listened, but also worked so hard and I was very impressed straight away. When I think about what kind of things a person needs to become a journalist, I certainly think that Antra has so many of them- she`s smart, she`s interested in learning things , working hard and having her goals set straight. Now, speaking to Antra is one of the best parts of my week, I love it! She`s such a lovely young woman that has had so many things happen to her, but still manages to be so lovely and kind. Even though I`m older and I`m the mentor, sometimes the mentee knows more about things than you do.
Antra, looking from your perspective, what have you learned since you started communicating with Natalie? What has inspired you?
Antra: When I started communicating with Natalie, she gave me little tasks, so I would better understand how to begin and how to put myself into the world of journalism. One time she said a sentence to me that at that point felt like the most frightening sentence I`ve ever heard in my life: “Antra, you will have to talk to people, write to them and make contacts!’. I was very scared to write to journalists and well-known people in Latvia. It felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest from the stress. At that point major help came from my boyfriend who encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and go do it. It came true and when writing to various journalists, I got ahold of one journalist and got his contacts. Then the next step followed- a phone call. Of course, it took a lot of courage, I tried to build up the courage for 3 days, but it was worth it and I got the chance to talk to the journalist and radio host Valdis Melderis, and also have a conversation with Radio Skonto, where Valdis worked.
Why do you think the mentorprogramme is valuable for young people? Why should it be popularised amongst young people?
Natalie: Firstly, I think that sometimes I doesn`t take a lot for people and their own amazing qualities to come out. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you- “You`re really good at this!”. If you don`t hear that, you might not go for something that actually you`re very capable of. All you need is for one person to pay attention to that side of you and help you realize how capable you are. You`re not creating them as a mentor, those are the things that a person has inside of them. There are times in a young person`s life where you have a family who can help you, your school, etc., but a lot of times that isn`t enough. It`s so amazing to know there are other opportunities, if in your life you feel like you haven`t had that help that you need. The difference between a visit with a psychologist and a mentor is that it`s more about a relationship between two people, rather than just guidance itself. No matter what kind of experience you have, everyone should have something like this.
Antra: This is my second year of taking part in the mentorprogramme. In the first year I had a Latvian mentor, who helped me with many great advices on how to start the adult life, how to save money, organize my daily life, so it is comfortable for me and for others and many other useful things as well. This year`s mentoring with Natalie is more of a professional kind, but she is always helps and is just there for me on the best and on the worst days. Whenever I feel bad, Natalie always reminds me about things to be happy and grateful about and teaches me how to look at life more easy. For teenagers like me, who have grown up without family and it`s support, mentorprogramme is definitely needed. To be honest, it is needed not only for those who have grown up without parents, but others as well, because first of all, the mentor is a complete stranger, the mentor will be straightforward and won`t beat around the bush how family members sometimes do and the most important thing- a mentor will teach you to develop a healthy relationship, which not all people have had the chance to experience. The time spent together is also very important, no matter how it is spent. Even though Natalie is thousands of kilometres away, I can still feel her warmth and can call or text her at any time. I think, that is of high value.
What is your advice for mentors and/or mentees who want to get into the mentorprogramme?
Natalie: I just think that there is so much in this for everybody. As a mentor, you also get so much out of it, because it is such a fulfilling experience. There is not a single thing that`s bad about it – you are able to use what you have to help someone else who is also giving a lot to you by spending time together.. It is the most human thing in the world- to help each other. In the dynamic, you`re maybe the person who is older, but it works both ways. The older you become, you can feel like you`re achieving less, so to me, this is in many ways so much more fulfilling than my job. I can imagine that it might be intimidating for somebody who`s signing up, but it`s like making a new friend, so not entirely a scary thing.