Mentoring is defined as an “intense caring relationship in which persons with more experience work with less experienced persons to promote both professional and personal development” (Caffarella, 1992, p. 38). It is “a powerful emotional, and passionate interaction whereby the mentor and protégé experience…intellectual growth and development” (Galbraith & Zelenak, 1991, p. 126).
In cross-cultural mentoring, mentors and protégés from different cultures confront social and cultural identities, goals, expectations, values, and beliefs (Cross & Lincoln, 2005) to “achieve a higher level of potency in education and society” (Mullen, 2005, p. 6). Cross-cultural mentoring research explores attitudes, behaviors, linguistics and motivators of the more visible racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. (Elmer, 1986, Ulmer, 2008). The cross-cultural mentoring experiences of Indo-Caribbeans in the U.S. are obscured from the research despite their rich socio-historic culture.
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the perceptions of Indo-Caribbean protégés regarding the effects of their cross-cultural mentoring experiences in the United States. Phenomenology is “the systematic attempt to uncover and describe…the internal meaning structures, of lived experience [by studying the] particulars or instances as they are encountered” (Van Manen, 1990, p. 10).
Criterion and snowball sampling were used to recruit 15 participants. A semi-structured interview guide was used to gather data and Creswell’s (2007) simplified version of Moustakas’s (1994) Modification of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen Method of Analysis of Phenomenological Data was used to analyze the data.
Three themes emerged: (a) “Sitting at the feet of gurus” taught protégés how to accept guidance, (b) Guru-Shishya: Learning and Discipleship, ways that protégés perceived mentors’ guidance related to work, skill acquisition, and social or emotional support, and (c) Samavartan sanskar: Building Coherence, helped protégés understand, manage and find meaning. Protégés’ goals and professional expectations determined what they wanted from cross-cultural mentoring relationships and what they were willing to endure within those relationships. Since participants valued achievement and continuous improvement, mentor support was integral to making meaning and developing a sense of coherence in their lives.
Implications regarding cross-cultural mentoring relationships together with recommendations for future research conclude the study.