Polar bears and their mothers have a unique relationship throughout their development. Research has shown that a polar bear cub stays with its mother as it develops, but it is left alone to fend for itself after two years (“When Do Polar Bear Cubs Leave Their Mother”). Like a polar bear cub, I also tended to have the same relationship with my parental figures. As a first-generation student, my parents were only able to help me throughout high school. When it came to college, I had to do the process myself, using only the little information my parents could provide. Like a cub, after two years I had to research, learn, and find resources in order for me to have a successful college application. As I researched and applied, I often failed on what exactly to look for in a college. In all honesty, I just applied to any and all schools that I could to broaden my options and acceptance.

After high school, I was successful in getting into a college that I was excited to go to. After 12 years of being under my parents’ roof and protection, I had to leave and begin my new journey. Fifty percent of baby polar bear cubs live past their first year, taking into account the availability of food, sea ice loss, as well as the size of the cub (“Top Mom and Cub Facts”). About one-third of first-generation students are able to get into college. They must rely on the information their parents provide, as well as all the information they gained from reaching out for help. Like a cub, I often had to do most things myself, growing my connections with teachers as well as my understanding of college and its resources. Much like life for a cub after leaving its mother, college was a new terrain where I had to develop my own skills and connections, with only the lessons and experiences I gained from my parents and my relationships with teachers as guidance.

In a way, a cub and its mother have a mentoring relationship, in which the mother teaches its cub all its experiences, lessons, and understanding of its survival. This mentoring relationship then helps the cub hopefully survive after its time with its mother so that it can grow and hopefully find a partner. Mentoring is a valuable and important experience for this cub while it develops. As a first-generation student, mentoring has become an important aspect in my development as well as a vital experience in my growth. Although I did not know much about mentoring, I began to think about what qualities a mentor may have, as well as what qualities I wish my mentor would have. Upon this reflection, I looked at my relationships and compared them to a mentoring definition. As I researched more, I reflected upon my relationships with my teachers in high school, realizing that some were only advisors while others were important mentors in my growth. Using those relationships, I then began looking for a mentor in college.

Not knowing much about the resources in college, I often struggled with finding a mentor, at least one who I would consider a mentor as well as them considering me their mentee. I found a couple of mentoring programs by reaching out to my professors and the resources Elon provided. First Phoenix mentoring program was the first mentoring program I was able to apply to and use to my advantage. This program was a peer mentoring program where students get assigned to other first-generation students who are in a different grade and who can use their experiences to help you. I was paired up with a senior who was in the same major as I was. Using this resource, I was able to make my 4-year plan and get an insight into what to expect from the courses I would be taking. Using that resource as well as my experience from high school, I began developing a mentoring relationship with one of my professors in college. We met occasionally for meaningful conversations about personal and educational development, as well as finding other resources that I may be interested in. Through these experiences, I have gained meaningful advice, understanding, and expectation of college. I have gained helpful relationships that I want to grow and develop as I progress through my years of college.

After my week meeting with research seminar participants as part of my role as a CEL Student Scholar, I reflected on my experiences, the importance of mentoring, and how to differentiate mentoring from advising or tutoring. The week provided me with more information about mentoring and the many aspects that play a key role in mentoring as a whole, as well as relational dynamics in mentoring. The research seminar has given me passion to dive into mentoring and create new relationships throughout my college experience.


“Top Mom and Cub Facts | Polar Bears International.” Accessed July 26, 2023. https://polarbearsinternational.org/news-media/articles/polar-bear-mom-cub-facts/.

Waleed. “When Do Polar Bear Cubs Leave Their Mother? • Polar Bear Facts.” Polar Bear Facts (blog), January 8, 2018. https://polarbearfacts.net/when-do-polar-bear-cubs-leave-their-mother/.

Azul Bellot is a psychology major at Elon University. She is a 2023-2026 CEL Student Scholar working with the participants of the CEL Research Seminar on Mentoring Meaningful Learning Experiences.

How to Cite this Post

Bellot, Azul. 2023. “A Polar Bear Experience.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. August 8, 2023. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/a-polar-bear-experience.