By Konstantina Spyropoulou
I called up Manaswi one August morning about the idea of interviewing her for a tutor graduates’ article on our Inkblot and was pleased to find her always busy yet always happy to get involved in more activities. “Good,” I said to myself, “some things must never change.” Since Spring 2020, when Manaswi joined our staff and the mode of tutoring shifted entirely to online, she had been actively involved in conducting workshops for the Writing Center, managing our social media, fellowing for business courses, and getting involved in as many activities as possible, such as AUSMUN and being an ambassador for FYE. “Why did you decide to work at the Writing Center?”, I ask. She chuckles as she explains the story of wanting to dispel the stereotype against students from Indian schools by becoming a good writer herself and then helping others with their writing: “I started [in Writing 101] and I remember [the professor] said there are a lot of issues that people [who] come from Indian schools face in terms of just our language choice or the way we use certain prepositions, the way our punctuation works [...] So there are things that we were taught that just don't work in the American system [...] I took a summer semester to do Writing 221 as soon as possible. I was dedicated. I really wanted to do this just because I felt that with my understanding and because I was so lucky with my professors, I could share the same knowledge with other students who were struggling as well. That is kind of why I joined, I guess.”
Manaswi has always been dedicated and passionate about tutoring and now I know why. I ask her to tell me more about her experience as a tutor and she speaks about her online sessions: “Because most of my experience was online, I found that it was so nice to talk to people even if the camera was off or if the camera was on. It acted like a nice little check-in of ‘Hey how are you doing today?’ And then we jump into the session. So I really loved the dynamic it created and it still kept us connected to the students in a way that other organizations could not stay connected. You know, we were able to actually help and create an impact even though we were online.” I have to agree with this. Seeing our students respond to online sessions so favorably and still being able to provide assistance despite the change in circumstances was a rewarding achievement.
I now ask her what is one thing the Writing Center has taught her that she will take with her wherever she goes. She laughs: “I would like to say how to break the ice. Starting a conversation is so important and I think because we did so many sessions with so many strangers, we got an opportunity to try out different strategies on how to start a conversation and how to make people feel comfortable, and how to sort of allow people to come to you with their problems. I feel that it was very valuable that I was trained about this during the Writing Center journey.” I am a bit surprised at this because Manaswi always seemed to possess this inherent quality of being exceptionally good at starting conversations. It is true, though, that the Writing Center serves as a place to sharpen your skills and develop new ones.
I know it will be hard for her to choose a favorite session, so I ask Manaswi to share a memorable experience from one of her sessions instead: “We had a session by a psychology professor, I think [...] I think it was about empathetic listening and I remember that session was really nice and it came at a very good time as well. I believe it was in the second semester of the pandemic. And I remember I had the session going on my TV screen and I was doing the hula hoop while the session was going on and I think that was a core memory for me [...] because the Writing Center cared about how we felt and how we were dealing with the requests that came through tutees and everything, and that is such a nice and refreshing environment in a university that's otherwise very, very stressful.” I agree with her but before I can add anything she shares another core memory from the Writing Center: “The panels that we do in the 221 course for upcoming tutors! I love those, I feel like you're passing on a legacy of some sort.” On that note of her passing on her legacy, I ask her to disclose a piece of advice for new tutors: “My advice is not to do it because it's something that will fill a gap in your CV or you just want to get some scholarship or something. No, don't do it [like this] because you will get tired. You will hate it. And this is not a job that you can do well if you resent it. You genuinely need to have the passion of ‘I want to help people’ [...] But if the Writing Center is not the way you want to help someone don't do it.” I agree that the passion for helping others is the basic formula of being a Writing Center tutor.
My last question before we finish our little zoom call interview is about her future plans. She is excited about starting a new corporate job in insurance management now that she has since graduated, even though the idea of working in the corporate sector hadn’t occurred to her before. “Hopefully,” she adds “by 2024 Fall I [will] be doing my masters in…. I don't know what yet, but I'm giving myself the space to figure it out.” As she sure should. “I hope you continue to bake and cook,” I tell her, knowing that baking and cooking are yet two more of her many passions and that she would love to have her own shop or show. “That was my dream,” she admits with a smile and promises to realize it someday.
Be sure to watch the video interview with Manaswi here!