Spring 2017 marked a strange transitional period for me. Upon completing my first ever autumn semester at The University of Nottingham, I realized I had come to the UK for the academics but stayed for my love of the culture. Yet, after 4 months, I still struggled with bouts of yearning for wide open Texas highways and Chick-fil-A (best food in the South). I was both home and homesick.
As an international student, I realized we may overcome wider ranges of adversity during our university experience, but we also gain so much more for choosing to take a degree so far from home. Similarly, this new volunteer scheme, Global Buddies, offers a comfortable, casual, and incredibly eye-opening experience for ANY Nottingham student. The application/interview process were quick and efficient, the training hinted at essential cultural do’s and don’ts as well as how to best interact with students from other countries, and the “meet your buddy” welcome night was an absolute party. (Imagine if a UN meeting involved bright pink t-shirts, a pub quiz, and loads of squash and free food).
Following our initial welcome night, I exchanged contacts with my four buddies (Henry from Australia, Yuhao from China, Lisa from Korea, and Areecca from Malaysia). I’ll be honest, throughout the spring semester I only saw Areecca (pics included!) but was able to maintain random fluctuations of contact with the other 3 (most of which were Facebook messages asking for the best student club nights or cool places to eat in town). I genuinely felt like a 3-in-1 city guide, uni ambassador, and their new best English (but really American) friend. Not only was I blessed with the opportunity to impart my love for Notts/English tea rooms/Crisis to these 4 internationals, but I also gained new Facebook friends/forever friends! The conversations always remained a two-way street in which they would teach me about their home countries, school life, families, etc. As I soon grew accustom to the unique personalities of my buddies, I realized this was not just any volunteer scheme but a chance to build some truly valuable relationships.
The beauty of Global Buddies comes from its hands-off facilitation. Once you are assigned your buddies and meet them, there’s no pressure to commit to weekly hangouts or messaging them every day to make sure they didn’t take the wrong Hopper bus. The Student Volunteer Center offered several workshops for buddies looking for a more informative setting, but ideally, the relationship I built with my buddies was not forced through sit down sessions or awkward social environments; it grew in raw and genuinely organic way, just as I had hoped for. I thoroughly enjoyed partaking in the pilot of this volunteer scheme, simply because it opened my eyes to how other internationals perceive our university, the city of Nottingham, and English culture.
I suggest this scheme to students who are willing to learn about new cultures, eager to share their love of Nottingham, and those seeking to network with students from across the world. As vast as the world may seem, serving as a mentor in this program and building such priceless relationships made the world seem a little bit smaller and my heart much closer to home.
If you want to be part of this amazing scheme then you can apply to be Global Buddies Mentor here:
The deadlines for applications is Thursday 24th August