How to be a Buddy?

The Exchange Committee set up a buddy program in January for exchange students and Hanken students. The vice president of Exchange Committee, Emilia Hattula, tells about the program. Buddies, Marianne Westerholm and Alexandra Payette tell about their experiences.
What is the buddy program: It’s a program where a Hanken student gets an exchange student as a buddy. Buddies are supposed to meet up as often they want and they can do anything they want together. The point is that the international student can learn about Finland and Finnish culture, and have a local friend. For the Hanken students it’s a great opportunity to get a new friend and learn about another culture. This spring there were circa 80 buddies participating the program. All interested can join the program again the next autumn.
The idea of starting a buddy program at Hanken came from the two presidents of EC. This kind of system is common in many universities abroad, and they thought that it would be nice to have it at Hanken as well. One aim of the program is to support the integration of the exchange students by having a local contact. Sometimes exchange students as a group are a bit aside from the student union, and buddy program aims to change this. The program should also encourage the Hanken students to interact more with the exchange students, and by knowing one of them it might be easier to get to know more of them.
Emilia thinks that how successful the program will be depends a lot on the engagement of the buddies, if you give a lot you also get more out of the program. The point is that the buddies can together do whatever they want, for example join the program offered by EC or go for coffee, or to a museum, anything that they like. Some buddies even went together for the Pampas national day! Another great opportunity to combine the fun and studying is the course Hanken offers, each one teach one. There you’re supposed to meet on regular basis and teach each other a language, an easy way to learn a language and to get to know a new person and his/her culture better. The course is worth two ECTS points, just a tip for next autumn.
Emilia encourages Hanken students to apply to the buddy program! Especially the exchange students have been very interested about the program since they wish to learn about Finnish culture. It is also perfect for Hanken students who have done an exchange and enjoyed it, or for those who are still going on an exchange and want to get a taste of it.
Alexandra from Canada and Marianne from Hanken participated in the buddy program this spring. Since the program was brand new, they didn’t have much expectations for it. “I thought that I’m going to have a Finnish friend”, Alexandra tells about her thoughts before the program. Marianne tells that she didn’t have expectations either but since she wishes to go to Canada for exchange, she had asked for a buddy from Canada.
Alexandra and Marianne did the course each one teach one during the spring, and they really recommend it for all the buddies. They say that it helps to build a better relationship as you meet on regular basis and also you have a perfect opportunity to learn more and ask about the culture and country. Marianne and Alexandra usually meet in a cafeteria or at school for the course and they start the “meeting” with catching up on everything, after this they choose a certain theme for the discussion. They ask questions, like “What is the most popular destination for Finnish people” and discuss about it and learn some easy words related to the chosen topic. Since them both didn’t have any knowledge of each other’s languages, Finnish, Swedish and French, this was a good way to start to learn the new language. It’s also more fun than at a regular language course because it’s more relaxed and you’re doing it with a friend.
Both Marianne and Alexandra think that the buddy program has supported the integration, because without a buddy they wouldn’t probably interact like this. Alexandra says that she probably wouldn’t know as much about the Finnish traditions and culture. Marianne also had a perfect opportunity to get to ask questions about Canada and the local university, she might even go to the same university as Alexandra.
They even have some suggestions for improvement of the program in the future. Because the program is so new, in the beginning it was a bit unclear, what you are supposed to do with your buddy, so they wish for some more expectations for buddies. For example, buddies could have a goal for meeting once a month and to do different things, like doing something together or the Finnish buddy could invite the other one to join Finnish friends, like a party. This would make it more clear for the buddies and they would also get a better relationship.  They both think that the program has a huge potential and it will get better over time.
They would both recommend the buddy program for others. Alexandra highlights the meaning of the course each one teach one, because it’s a great way to get to know each other and have some common activity. Marianne would recommend the program for Hanken students who are planning to do an exchange, the program is a great way to get to know someone from your destination. Also she thinks that being a buddy is a good alternative, if you don’t really have time to be really active in the student union activity. Through the buddy program you get to join the ECs program and you can also be more flexible with your own schedule.