"Buddies" care for non-local students

Michelle Tsang

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A novel scheme introduced by City University's Student Development Services (SDS) is making life easier for exchange and non-local undergraduate students. Launched in October 2002, the Buddies Scheme with Non-local Students is a year-long, tailor-made programme designed to introduce non-Hong Kong students to local culture and help them settle into their new environment.

The scheme is designed around four components, summarized by the acronym LIST: Learning communities, Interaction & Service, and NeTwoking. Through various activities, the Scheme aims to cultivate friendship and promote cross-cultural

experiences between local and non-local students. "In addition to encouraging our local students to open up and make friends with people from different countries, the Scheme also provides them with a means to understand their home culture and cultural identity," said Ms Esther Lee, SDS Executive Officer I and Scheme Coordinator. "By integrating a multi-cultural experience into university life, we hope to better prepare our students for a global society and workplace."



The first cohort of 30 local buddies has been selected from over 300 applicants. They will mainly look after semester-long exchange students from overseas. Each of the buddies has been assigned to look after at least two non-local students, both personally and through group activities.  

On 22 February, the buddies organized a visit to the Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery for the non-local students, where they learned about traditional Chinese tea culture. "I've never tasted Chinese tea before and know nothing about oriental tea culture, so it was a unique and enjoyable experience for me," said Ms Julia Tirabasso, a Year 2 Canadian exchange student in the Department of Economics and Finance. Mr Jason Chavarry, an accounting student on exchange from the US, said, "Just a few days after I arrived at CityU, I was introduced to a group of local students who helped me adjust to the campus environment. They took me out to sample city life in Hong Kong. It's great!"

Ms Elaine Tong, a mainland exchange student in the Department of English and Communication, said she was grateful for her buddies. Due to visa problems, Ms Tong and some of her schoolmates from Zhejiang University didn't arrive at CityU until week three of the semester, just in time for Lunar New Year. "This made us felt particularly lonely and homesick," Ms Tong said. "But our buddies were so kind-they invited us to visit the Flower Market with them and took us to visit their families. What they did warmed our hearts." She said she was also grateful for the understanding and patience shown by her buddies in helping her to communicate in Cantonese.

The local buddies have also benefited from the Scheme. "I've become more open when interacting with other people. I also have lots of opportunities to strengthen my language abilities and communication skills," said Ms Sandy Kong, a Year 1 student from the Division of Language Studies. Another buddy, Mr Sam Lau, from the Division of Building Science and Technology, said it was exciting to make friends with young people from different cultures. "It's a mind-opening experience to exchange views with people from different cultural backgrounds. The foreign students often give me new perspectives."



CityU expects to welcome over 100 overseas and mainland students in the 2003-04 academic year. The Buddies Scheme will expand its scope to serve not only semester-long exchange students, but also non-local undergraduates enrolled in three-year programmes at the University. A large-scale orientation will be organized by Scheme members in August to welcome a new batch of non-local students.




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