BY LONDON MACKALL
Education seekers from around the world call Salisbury University home; but a new on-campus club aims to solidify the bonds between international students and American students.
The Salisbury University Center for International Education: Buddy Program was founded by SU senior Taylor Dittmar in spring 2016. Dittmar came up with the idea after talking to international students about what SU could do to make their time in the U.S. more enjoyable.
Often, international students told Dittmar that they wished they had made more American friends. The buddy program aims to pair up SU students with international students based on their majors, interests and availability
Before meeting their buddies, some students prepare by researching the country that they are from and brainstorming different activities that they can do together.
“I was actually really excited when I heard [my buddy] was from Estonia,” buddy Shannon Chambers said. “I did a project on [Estonia] when I was in middle school. It’ll be fun to kind of meet somebody from there and I just think it’ll be fun to learn about what she has to say too.”
After the students are put in pairs, they spend time together and get to know one another. Usually, the pairs will do everyday activities together that they both enjoy.
“A lot of times, we’ll meet on campus when it’s more convenient,” buddy Jenny Rose said. “I’ve done Cool Beans, I’ve gone to Starbucks, but then also Taylor plans trips to Shorebirds Games and the zoo and we have barbecues where all buddies can get together and hang out with other buddies. When it just comes to you and your individual buddy that you’re matched with, you can do whatever you want.”
Some SU students that are especially close with their buddies even invite them to their homes for special holidays.
“One American student last semester took [her buddies] to have Thanksgiving dinner at her house, which was everything to the [buddies],” Dittmar said. “They thought that was the coolest thing that ever happened. If they really get along well, then they’ll do all kinds of stuff.”
Some students that participated in the buddy program found that it was a rewarding experience that sparked a lifelong friendship.
“It’s a little bit intimidating at first,” Rose said. “The buddies that I’ve made, we’ve formed long-lasting friendships. They’re back in China now and we still communicate through email.”
Being a part of the buddy program also gives students the opportunity to learn about new cultures that they may be unfamiliar with.
“It just really opens up your eyes to everything else that happens in the world and how different people are,” Dittmar said.
The program also gives buddies the satisfaction of knowing that someone in this new country wants to get to know them, Dittmar said. “When people come here and they know they have someone that’s going to care about them and be their friend, it changes their experience,” Dittmar said. “They don’t have to be afraid to be here or to go and do things. They feel accepted and that’s the whole thing.”