Be my Buddy!
Scrolling down your Facebook feed, you may already have come across pictures of a multi-national group of young people having the time of their life. The chances are that they met through a buddy programme.
“Had the pleasure of hanging out with these amazing people! #winningteam #HiOA”, writes Ngan Tran on her Facebook page. “Couldn't have asked for better buddies. Love”, is one of the comments below the photo. The Norwegian student is a buddy for international students who have come to Ngan's home town of Oslo on their exchange semester.
Buddies like Ngan make sure that international students are in good hands during their first week in Oslo. The buddy week kicks off with Orientation Day where incoming students gather. Together with their buddies, they participate in a programme consisting of different activities, arranged by HiOA. They pick up their travel cards, visit the Holmenkollen ski jump and museums and go shopping at IKEA with the free buses. A scavenger hunt, ice-skating and partying have also been essential parts of buddy week.
Getting to know each other
“We had to compete in some challenges during the week. My team won two of them, we were quite proud”, says Ngan, with a smile on her face. Several teams are formed and each team has one buddy. “People from my last group came mostly from Spain, some from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the States”, says Ngan. Writing a poem and singing a song helped the students get to know each other and the area around the campus. “The international students are my friends now. I include them in a lot I do”, adds Ngan.
“I'm living with a lot of people I was buddy for at St. Hanshaugen student village, so I meet them every other day”, says Kristina Kinne. The Norwegian student started being a buddy two weeks after she came back home from her exchange semester in Washington DC. “We didn't do the 'buddy thing' there, so we had to find out where to go on our own”, says Kristina. For her, showing around exchange students is one of the most important things buddies do: “Tourists tend to go to the most expensive places. I grew up in Oslo, so I know better. One guy asked me about nice restaurants. I've told him he should go to Mathallen (a huge food court). On the following day I got a photo from him, having dinner there.”
Buddies on exchange
Ngan also arranges private dinners with the international students. Last week, they had tacos together. “At the beginning it can be quite scary to be new somewhere – even for me who loves meeting new people and getting to know more about different cultures”, explains Ngan.
That's why the former exchange student likes to hang out with international students. Ngan went to Canada for one semester where they didn't have a buddy programme. “Everything was less personal there. I love the buddy groups here, because people are so nice, honest and sincere”, says Ngan.
Kristina had similar experiences. When the student got back from her semester abroad, she missed the international community. “I knew what international students were going through and wanted to get in touch with them. It's important that they know people who know the country”, says Kristina. The buddy programme seems to pave the way for it. “I just wish that we would have more time, two weeks instead of one”, says Kristina. The Norwegian wanted to offer her international friends a trip to her family's cabin up in the mountains. “I guess we’ll do that anyway, during our holidays”, adds Kristina.