At the beginning of this academic year, the Student Union started the so-called buddy project, which pairs a foreign student with a Dutch student, so that they can do things together and get to know one another's culture. In the first instance, it was a pilot project, to run until February. It has now been decided that the project will be continued after that date.
A good thing, according to participants Sijia Chen and Thomas Neele. Chen came from China to the Netherlands three months ago to study mechanical engineering. He was picked up from Schiphol by his buddy Thomas Neele (computer science) and that was a good thing. Chen: "I had two big suitcases with me." Neele laughs: "And it is difficult to make a train journey if you can't even read the signs."
Neele read about the initiative in the Student Union newsletter and decided to volunteer. "I think it's brave if you move for your study to a country where you know no one. That's why I wanted to contribute something." Chen: "Thomas has been very helpful; he made me feel right at home here. If I have a question, I just send a Facebook message. He helped me with internet problems, but also with my shopping, for example. Dutch milk is delicious!"
Chinese and clogs
The international students come from various countries including India, Romania, Latvia and Ukraine. As a Dutch buddy, you can choose to take care of several students. Besides three jointly organised activities, for each pair there is money available to do something together. The two students went to Amsterdam last month. Neele: "After visiting the Anne Frank House, we had a delicious lunch and went to see the Zaanse Schans. I had never been there before. We met a clog maker who spoke a little Chinese. Very funny."
Chen: "The buddy project is just a programme that provides the opportunity to meet one another. The organised activities will therefore soon stop as well. But if you're real buddies, you stick together your whole life."
New round, new opportunities
When a new group of foreign students arrive in February, there will be new opportunities for students who want to act as buddy. You can register at buddy.utwente.nl. The existing buddies will be having a meal together tomorrow, followed by a party in the Vestingbar from 9.00 p.m. Everyone is welcome!