Kicking it off: An ice-breaker for mentors and mentees

On 24 Sep 19, the International Buddy Program officially commenced in a buzzing room full of chatter and happy faces from every part of the world.

The event started with longing eyes and hungry stomachs, as everyone waited for the food to arrive. Kiara, an international student from India, was very excited when she entered the room, looking forward to getting to know her mentee. Two semesters ago, she was one herself. Now, having studied at Hochschule Fresenius, she wants to share her experiences with new incomings.

The International Buddy Program is a group of student volunteers who have already spent time at Hochschule Fresenius and now welcome new students with an international background. “The idea is threefold”, says Matthias Nelke, the program coordinator. “We want to establish a more internationally vibrant campus life and give our students opportunities to network internationally. However, the primary focus is and will always remain on helping the mentees adjust and making them feel welcome.” Mentees is what the international students are called. They receive help with their basic needs – from how to get around the campus, to signing up for examination periods, culture in Germany and where they can get groceries from every country of the globe.

With slices of pizza in hand, the mentors met with their mentees to get to know each other, including where the mentee was from, which included Portugal, India, Greece and France. Seeing how diverse the student body truly is was an eye-opening experience for mentees and mentors alike. Some mentors were seeing their mentees for the second time while others for the very first. The meeting seemed to go well as the noise level in the room gradually increased. Common questions which were frequently answered by the mentors were: Where to get groceries, open a bank account or, most importantly, where to party in Cologne. Each student was offered one-on-one-interaction, while the five students from Berkley College in New York were paired with three friends from Hochschule Fresenius. They had already met each other before and spend an evening at the Extrablatt.

With stomachs full, the expectations were mutually decided upon by mentors and mentees and the signed agreements were handed back. As the entire group came together for a picture, the small frame for the picture had certain students kneeling while others standing tall. Time seemed to be ticking very fast as the meeting ended with exchanges of phone numbers, email addresses, Instagram usernames and promises to see each other soon.