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by Jodi Gillich

No one wants to feel alone – especially in a new country.  But now there’s a way for newcomers to make friends. 

On Jan. 16, the University of Regina’s International Student Success Office (ISSO) launched the International Buddy Program at an event called Chit, Chat & Chew.

International students met with their Canadian buddies, and the room was soon filled with the sound of multiple conversations and frequent laughter.  The ISSO also provided free food and drinks to the students.

Li Liu, manager of the ISSO, said that people from different backgrounds have different perspectives and ways of doing things.  When they encounter a new environment, culture and language, it’s not easy for them.  The International Buddy Program will link international students with Canadian students. 

“We would like to build this bridge between Canadian and international students,” Liu said.
Liu came to Canada as an international student herself, and she said she knows what these students are going through.   

Twenty-seven international students and 19 Canadian students are currently participating in the program.       

“The idea is really great,” said Daniel Assumpcao, an international student from Brazil.  He is not new to Regina, but chose to join the International Buddy Program “to learn more about the culture and socialize a bit.”

Liu said international students often hang around with people from their own culture and keep their eyes down in the hallway, while Canadian students might think that the language barrier is too great.  The Chit, Chat & Chew event and the International Buddy Program provide opportunities to start a conversation, she said. 

Fourteen students in a new Global Citizenship course, Interdisciplinary Studies 101, chose to get involved with the International Buddy Program.  Bryan Hillis, a religious studies professor with Luther College, teaches the class. 

“What we really want is for people to get an awareness of the globe - of other cultures, of other peoples, of other ideas,” Hillis said.

The International Buddy Program was a natural fit with Hillis’ Global Citizenship course, which requires 15 hours of service learning.  He hopes that international students “feel as much at home as possible in Regina” with help from his Global Citizenship students. 

“We’re not necessarily expecting you to become the best of friends...but to meet somebody, have some fun together, and hopefully get a sense of what it means to be from two different parts of the world and have a common experience of the University of Regina,” Hillis said.

The ISSO also organizes other programs and events to help international students settle in to life at the University of Regina. 

For more information, please contact the ISSO or go to www.uregina.ca/isso.