Salisbury University is home to over 200 international students originating from 60 countries around the world according to SU’s official website.
With the establishment of SU’s International Buddy Program, these international students are given the opportunity to integrate themselves into campus culture while creating long lasting friendships along the way.
The Buddy program consists of an application process in which both international and domestic students answer a series of questions to allow them to be paired with a student of like interests and hobbies.
Beyond friendship, the program promises the benefits of language and cultural exchanges, as well as the ability to gain new perspectives of the world.
International Student Success Coordinator Melissa Aristizabal Vizcaino works to help international students adjust to the culture shock that comes with moving to a completely foreign place, and she works to make sure they have everything they need to succeed in such a diverse environment.
Vizcaino feels that The International Buddy Program is “one of the best practices that we do for an international education.”
She highlighted that the program started about five years ago and has been raising in popularity each year—so much so, that this year the number of American students that applied outnumbered the ratio of international students.
The program accommodated to this influx of interest by allotting each international student two domestic students this year instead of one.
The requirements of the program include setting up mutual meeting times with your buddy and meeting for at least one hour a week. The program also offers up several group events throughout the semester including a bonfire on Assateague Island, trips to the Shorebird’s baseball games and an event at Altitude trampoline park.
Assistant Provost for International Education at SU Brian Stiegler is passionate in all endeavors revolving around global opportunities.
In being a strong proponent for the Buddy Program, Stiegler shared his perspective on what he feels students can gain in joining such a program.
“The Buddy program is about bringing together people from around the world,” Stiegler said. “It’s about giving American students the chance to have a global experience without ever leaving Salisbury. And it’s about creating a welcoming, warm environment for new international students to our community.”
Stiegler also placed emphasis on how great the establishment of the Global Village has been to aiding international and domestic students in cultivating a more welcoming atmosphere toward the culturally diverse.
Stiegler explained that the Global Village is a Residence Life initiative that provides a home for about 45 international students and 45 American students.
“Our hope is that by next year we’ll have all these beds filled by people who want to live in an environment that is multicultural and international and multilingual,” Stiegler said.
The Buddy Program kicked off this Fall Semester of new buddy relationships with a picnic held in the Global Village on Oct. 11.
Colorful flags from all over the globe blew in the wind as SU students—both international and domestic—waited anxiously to meet their new friends. The picnic consisted of handshakes and warm embraces as a multitude of conversations drowned out the tunes that played in the background.
SU junior Gabrielle Rapine attended the picnic to meet her international buddy for the first time. Rapine eagerly scanned the crowd as she searched for her new global friend’s nametag.
Rapine explained that is glad that she went on a whim and joined the Buddy Program because
“I joined the Buddy Program because I’ve always been very interested in other cultures,” Rapine said. “My old major was actually anthropology, so, it was just really exciting to see an opportunity to make friends and really connect with people from other regions."
The picnic also allowed international students the chance to grill and eat their first hotdog if they never had before, in an effort to give them a taste of American culture.
SU senior and Spanish education major Jacey Young first became interested in international affairs when she studied abroad in Spain. Now, Young works for the Buddy Program as an intern and helps to coordinate logistics involved with the program.
Young feels that the program has so much to offer SU students beyond just friendship and she encourages anyone and everyone to apply for the program.
“It is a really great thing; it’s not that time-consuming because lot of these students just want to learn English, and learn about your culture and just study with you,” Young said.
“So, you don’t really have an excuse to not see these kids...it’s just like going to the library with your friends, it’s just that your friend happens to live on the other side of the ocean.”
By CAROLINE STREETT
Gull Life editor
Featured photo by Caroline Streett Images.