Starting life at university can be daunting, especially when it involves moving to a new city or even a new country. For many young people it is their first experience of living away from home, and most have to find an entirely new circle of friends whilst adapting to academic life.
The Buddy Programme at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University offers help and support to Year One students by pairing them with more experienced students, usually from within the same academic department.
Yangyang Liu (pictured below, second from the right) is a Year Two student completing BEng Architecture and is a ‘big buddy’ with the programme. Her ‘little buddies’ are Hanshen Guo, Jian Gao and Pengyuan Su (pictured below, left to right), all Year One students who are also studying architecture.
“We met Yangyang at the start of our first semester and she was very helpful,” said Jian.
“She helped us with practical things like finding our way around campus,” agreed Pengyuan. “We could also ask her questions related to our studies, as she had just completed Year One herself.”
“She always makes time for us,” said Hanshen.
Yangyang said she really likes her little buddies and, while she considered it something of a challenge to look after them in the early stages, it has been a valuable experience for them all.
“I’m proud of them and now we all support each other,” she said.
David Kang (pictured above, left) from Bucheon in South Korea is completing his first year of BA International Business with a Language and was paired with Harold Xiao (pictured above, right) in the second year of the BSc Information and Computing Science programme.
They met at the start of David’s first semester at XJTLU, at which time Harold offered his help with practical things like buying a local SIM card for his mobile phone and setting up an internet connection in David’s apartment near the XJTLU campus.
“Those living in shared apartments or dormitories often help each other, but having a big buddy like Harold is particularly useful for someone living on their own,” said David.
“After a few months foreign students get adapted to their new life and they make a new circle of friends,” said Harold, who is from Guangdong Province in China.
“David hasn’t needed much help from me this semester and now we’re just friends. We and three other friends like playing League of Legends [a popular multiplayer cooperative game] together in an internet café,” he said.
In addition to pairing new students with big buddies, the Buddy Programme also organises activities to encourage students to make new friends and to learn more about local culture.
A ‘Chinese Corner’ that was organised in collaboration with various student clubs and societies included a tai chi display, a musical performance by the Chinese zither club and a lesson in making Chinese dumplings. There was also an ‘Overseas Party’ with food and drink, games, skateboarding, and a performance by the Magic Club.
Siyuan Zhou and Yufan Zhao (pictured above, left and right) are members of the committee that oversees the Buddy Programme. They explained a little about how it is organised.
“In April we recruit new big buddies to help the new students who will arrive the following semester,” said Siyuan.
“We interview them, adding them to a list of participants that includes their subject areas and hobbies. In this way we can try to pair them with little buddies who have similar goals and interests.”
“We are also looking to connect with student organisations at the University of Liverpool to extend the Buddy Programme there and give more support to 2+2 students,” added Yufan.
“I’m going to apply to be a big buddy next semester,” said Year One architecture student, and current little buddy, Jian Gao. “I really think it’s a good thing to support your fellow students.”
The Buddy Programme coordinated through the Student Affairs Office at XJTLU. Those wanting to take part can visit the One-stop Student Service Centre in the Central Building (room 117E), or email email@example.com.