ESN Buddy Program improves
Starting in September, ESN Groningen, in collaboration with student faction Lijst Calimero, will launch a new and improved registration process for their Buddy Program. Once regular (non-exchange) international students have received their letter of acceptance from the RUG, they will be given an information guide containing an overview of ESN’s Buddy Program and a direct link where they can sign up for a Buddy.
A click away
In the past, applying for a Buddy was done via various international offices in the faculties of the RUG. According to Boris Kyuchoukov from Lijst Calimero and Céline Martens, ESN Integration Coordinator for the academic year from 2015 to 2016, this de-centralised process proved difficult at times. With the new program, mediation via different faculties is eliminated and getting a Buddy is just a click away.
As for the exchange students, Kyuchoukov says the groups are still working on a better and faster way to introduce them to the program, ‘but it is more likely that many of these students are already a member of ESN and will receive the necessary information first hand’.
The international offices will also send general information about the Buddy program to all international newcomers via email, including a link to the ESN website where the actual sign-up is done.
This is the first time ESN and Lijst Calimero have joined forces to work on a project together. The collaboration on the Buddy Program began in 2014. The Buddy Program is as old as ESN Groningen itself, both of which began in 2001 – prior to that, ESN Groningen had been known as ESN Wings since the group was founded in 1989. The program connects incoming or recently arrived international students with students who have already been in Groningen for a while, the so-called ‘Buddies’.
Buddies can be Dutch or international students, as long as they are currently studying in Groningen and preferably are in the same faculty as the newly arrived student. As such, the Buddies can help out in a more focused way and easily show the new internationals the faculty, the university, and the city.
The Buddies also assist the new international students with practically any difficulties one might face when arriving in a new city, from student (party) life and housing tips to how to buy a bike and not get it stolen on the first day.
The number of mentees a Buddy can be linked to varies: a Buddy could assist only one international student at a time, but it could also be a group of ten. ‘It’s a nice way to help out incoming international students upon their arrival, because moving to another country or city can be as scary experience as it is exciting’, says Martens.
Being a Buddy
ESN’s Buddy Program has been well received by the international students so far, and they say it wasn’t exactly difficult to sign up under the current program. Takabe Legesse, an Ethiopian master’s student in Clinical Linguistics at the RUG, reports that he was particularly happy with the help he received from his Buddy on the first day of his arrival in Groningen. ‘It is very important for internationals to have someone, already experienced, in their corner; most importantly during these first days in the city when everything is new and scary’, Legesse says.
Students who have worked as Buddies see it as a rewarding experience, too. ‘I was really eager to do it because I know how hard it can be when you are an international student who just moved abroad and doesn’t know much. I definitely enjoyed being a Buddy’, says Julia Danu from Latvia, a research master’s student in Cognitive Linguistics at the RUG.
‘I have been a Buddy for two years now, and it is always a great experience’, says Dana Entcheva from Bulgaria, a bachelor student in International Economics at the RUG. ‘I have been linked to students from Macedonia, Pakistan, and South Korea, and we still keep in touch’, Entcheva says. ‘In a way, it always feels good when you know that you’ve made your Buddy’s arrival to this at first strange, new country slightly less scary.’