International buddy program helps students feel at home

23 October 2018

Camissa Miller

cmille25@uccs.edu

    Colorado has been changing rapidly in recent years, and more and more people from across the country are choosing to call it home. UCCS, having received a record-breaking 12,500 enrolled students for the 2018-2019 school year, is also on the rise as a host university for international students.

    According to collegefactual.com, UCCS is ranked  246 out of 1,204 in overall best value for international students and 451 out of 1,300 colleges and universities for popularity with international students, and with good reason: the resources provided make it a welcoming option for people studying abroad.

    The International Buddy Program, or iBuddy, is one such resource. Aiming to facilitate the often overwhelming transition for international students, iBuddy provides a confidant, or “buddy”, for new foreign scholars so they have someone to contact for anything from questions and concerns to a ride to the grocery store.

    Ingrid Dos Santos Goncalves, the president of iBuddy, believes the function of the club goes beyond simple assimilation. As she describes it over email, “Our goal is and has always been to provide a program that helps all of the campus grow: multi-culturally, linguistically and ‘perspectively’.”

    Having started out as a smaller organization, the International Buddy Program has grown over the years and now hosts a number of events to help immerse students and give them, as Dos Santos Goncalves says in an email, “the most encompassing study abroad experience while they’re here.”

     She said, “Our events have often included conversations and food that have taught us so many things about what life is like all the way across the world from Saudi Arabia and China to Brazil and Singapore” in her email.     

    With the UCCS international student body representing nearly 50 countries, clubs like iBuddy are essential to promoting multiculturalism and making foreign students feel more at home.

    “Theories about communicating with people from various cultures can be taught in classes and from textbooks … but there is nothing better than direct interaction,” said Megan Longching Chau, one of iBuddy’s participants and an international student herself, in an email.

    In her interview, Longching Chau also expressed that being part of the iBuddy program allows herself and other international students the opportunity to expose and immerse themselves in a new culture. This allows them the chance to learn how their native culture is different from ours, in practices and beliefs, and grow in their cultural awareness.

    Longching Chau has experienced first-hand what it is like to jump into a society completely different from her own: “As an international student from a high-context culture, I always found it very difficult to communicate with others” she said in an email. She believes that being part of the International Buddy Program has taught her how to open up to new people and has increased her social skills, which allows her to feel confident in any situation.

    Such is the effect iBuddy strives to achieve.  

    In addition to promoting multiculturalism, the program advocates the enhancement of each participant’s experiences and to broaden their horizons. “iBuddy has enhanced my life in a number of ways. I have come to understand that differences are not what separates different nationals as much it is the presupposed assumptions that we have about these differences,” says Dos Santos Goncalves in an email.. “We are all much more alike than I previously had thought.”

    For more information on iBuddy, visit https://orgsync.com/78887/chapter.

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