Buddy System for international students
Have a local friend to help you adapt into your new environment
It is common to feel a little lost when you enter your new campus in a different country. New ways of studying, making friends, or finding a mentor can be a little overwhelming. To ease this, and make you feel more welcomed in a new place, many universities run a great system for international students – the International Buddy System (IBP). A simple, yet effective way to help an international student build a one-to-one relationship with local student and feel welcomed in a new community and place.
What is a ‘Buddy System’?
It is a concept where new international students (known as “international buddies”) are paired with existing local students (known as “local buddies”) based on similar interests. These local buddies act as their mentor and help them adapt easily to a new environment. This system helps the new students feel welcomed and absorb the new cultural and educational ecosystem of the university smoothly.
How does it work?
Local and international students are matched based upon their shared interests i.e. language, course of study or specific student requests.
The process is initiated before the semester starts and often connects international students with their respective buddies before their arrival on campus.
A buddy’s role is designed as per the institution protocols. Most often buddies spend a few weeks with their matched international students to show them around and also assist them with new-student tasks (such as registering for classes).
The local buddies also help the new students get familiar with information on local food, grocery stores, weather, transportation, banks, mobile phone services, resident life, student clubs and students services on campus, etc.
Most universities have a Facebook page from where the students can access their buddy programs and connect with local buddies.
Every country has their own ways of working when it comes to the Buddy System.
Aussie universities have designed their IBP to help Study Abroad & Exchange (SA&E) students in social mentoring and blending into the Australian culture to encourage peer network. Some universities also run their IBPs from Week 1 to Week 4 of the trimester across all campuses. Specific sessions are designed for making social connections, discussing life hacks and exchanging the ideas for cultural diversity. The program aims to:
Establish a supportive network for SA&E students yet to arrive in Australia
Making students comfortable by providing friendly, practical and competent assistance upon arrival
To resolve students’ issues about university and the Australian culture and lifestyle
To ease cultural transition for an international student, Canadian universities have customised their buddy program according to various interest levels such as:
International Student Study Buddy Program (University of Waterloo) : Designed as a peer-to-peer program specific to upper-year international Science students and Canadian students or other students familiar with university studies in Canada. This works as a great opportunity for international students to get academic support from existing students. Interested students opting for a similar course in the program are placed into small or one-on-one groups.
Global Buddy Program (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) : It is social network of university’s buddy students inviting new incoming exchange and visiting students to be a part of the university. The role of a mentor includes assisting incoming students to navigate KPU’s student services, invite them to events, and provide imperative support to create a sense of belongingness in Canada.
Stephanie Babb, an international student associate at McGill University in Canada, says “The buddy program provides international students with the opportunity to ask their buddies for advice on living in a new place and some tips and tricks for handling the first year of university."
The IBP is incepted in order to ease the transition for new international students in adjusting to the kiwi culture. The International Buddies Manager of New Zealand universities is accessible throughout the semester, via email and phone for any queries or support.
"Around 30% of students are matched pre-departure via email, allowing communication to start before they arrive in New Zealand," Kelly Atherton, international student support manager, Victoria International at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand".
The main objective of IBP is to encourage peer support. Most universities pair an existing UTC U.S. student (known as U.S. buddy/national siblings/lions) with new international students (known as international buddies/cubs) to help them through the transition into a new culture, especially the first few weeks of their semester. This helps the new students gain friendships and insights into other cultures.
Details of pair-ups are mostly shared beforehand so both local and international buddies can connect and help with pre-departure queries
Local buddies also help in linguistic challenges and provide with cultural guidance
The IBP in the UK aims welcome freshly arrived international students with a peer to look up to for immediate guidance and assistance. Current students (known as mentors) share their personal experiences besides helping with tips on effective settling into the new environment. The primary aim is:
To help all international students adapt to a new lifestyle smoothly
To help discover the social scene
To make new friends and understand the British culture
The main purpose of the IBP is to help international students have some friendly and familiar faces on the campus when they freshly arrive and hence do not feel lost in a new country. existing students who are matched with international buddies help solve their everyday queries besides providing them with knowledge on local culture. They also help the newcomers participate in social events with a companion and have a true Irish experience. It is always helpful to know someone before you land up in a new country. Check with your university if they have a buddy system in place and get connected with a local student to guide you in your transition process. Plus, having a new friend is always a good thing!