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Will you be my buddy?

The Studierendenwerk (Student Union) Freiburg-Schwarzwald connects international students with fellow students from Freiburg

Freiburg, Mar 26, 2019

Will you be my buddy?

Photo: Thomas Kunz

For about ten years now, the “Buddy Program” has been building bridges between students living in Freiburg and their fellow students from all over the world who are studying here. At the beginning of the semester, the International Club brings the tandems together under the patronage of the Studierendenwerk (Student Union) Freiburg-Schwarzwald (SWFR).

Good advice and relaxed conversations: Zsófia Gál (left) and Marie Braunegger got to know each other through the Buddy Program. Photo: Thomas Kunz

A buddy team usually consists of two people. The only participation requirement for the program is that both Freiburg and foreign students must be enrolled at the University of Freiburg or at one of the universities in Freiburg. Yin Lin, who is responsible for the buddy program at SWFR recommends that the Freiburg buddy should already be in a later semester: “It doesn't make sense for first-year students to take on a buddy assignment because they don’t really know their way around a university or the city. The team also makes sure that the buddies have a lot in common. For example, language, age, a similar number of semesters as well as the course of studies are taken into account.

Knowing a foreign language is a must - after all, the buddies should be able to understand each other. Lin explains that English is still the best language. Soft skills are also required: “The participants should be cosmopolitan and attentive so that the international students can take advantage of their help quickly and easily.”

Getting into campus life

Marie Braunegger, a Scandinavian Studies students in her fifth semester, and Zsófia Gál, who has been living in Freiburg for two years and is studying Computer Science for her Master's degree, got to know each other through the program and have been buddies since the 2018/19 winter semester. They have both found it mutually beneficial. Braunegger, who had participated in a similar program during her semester abroad in Sweden, knows how valuable the exchange can be: “The program really helped me make contact and find my way around the city better. And that is exactly what I want to make possible for other foreign students here in Freiburg”.

The Freiburg students have to take time for their buddies: Some of the tasks include bureaucratic and organizational support. Gál thinks that the Buddy Program will make it easier to learn to get around the new city: “It’s nice that I know where I can ask for advice when I need it - whether it's about my studies or where I can find a good doctor.”

Certificate of participation

The Studierendenwerk accompanies the buddies to various events so the couples can meet once a week for an evening together. Vanessa Amann, who supervises the program as a research assistant, emphasizes: “We don't want to give people a fixed framework, but rather offer them an open meeting point.” SWFR also organizes the “Meet your Buddy” event twice a semester where couples can meet and all other students are cordially invited.

In addition, the Freiburg students receive an International Club membership card and a certificate free of charge for their participation, says Yin Lin: “Since the Freiburg buddies have to organize just about everything themselves and we are only there to support them, we would like to reward that as well.”

Maleen Thiele


Information about the Buddy Program