Testimonial by Savina (full version)
international student, degree programme: M.Sc. Biochemistry
participation in Buddy-Programme: winter semester 2018/19
Taking part in the Natural.PALS-Buddy-Programme was a great experience to complement my first semester studying abroad. I decided to enrol in the programme to meet other students from my degree and at the same time receive some orientation in my studies, mainly regarding the bureaucratic part. I am totally satisfied with my experience in the programme, which even exceeded my expectations.
First of all, I contacted my Buddy via e-mail before the beginning of the semester. At that moment I had some administrative doubts, since the enrolment process in my country is slightly different, and she was really nice and willing to answer my questions and help me. Afterwards, during the first lessons, I met her in person. She was again open and interested in knowing more about me and my decision to study a Master in Germany. She also introduced me to other local classmates, helping me to extend my social circle.
After the beginning of the semester, the first official Buddy-meeting took place; there I got to meet other local and international students from my own and other degrees. From that day, we started planning our official Buddy-meetings. My Buddy had two international students assigned, and the three of us planned the meetings together, which made the experience even more interesting. We also met sometimes with other participants of the Buddy-Programme from our degree and participated in group meetings. In general, it was easy to communicate and set up appointments. We did not need to agree any rules, we just easily communicated per “WhatsApp” with each other, without having any problems. The most difficult aspect about the Buddy-meetings was to find the correct moment to plan them, since we were all quite busy with laboratory practicals, studying, and with slightly different schedules. Other than that, we did not have any communication or cultural problems.
We focused most of our meetings on academic matters, which was quite helpful. Having other opinions when studying for an exam or practicing for a presentation was totally profitable. Furthermore, the experiences and opinion of our local Buddy, who had already studied a Bachelor degree at the RUB and knew most of the professors, was a useful guide for example to choose between different subjects. Moreover, spending time together with my Buddy also helped me to practice and improve my German. Since my study programme is in English and a lot of participants are also international students, I do not often have the opportunity to train my German at the university, and spending time with my Buddy and other local students was useful in that aspect. But the most important benefit obtained from meeting my Buddies was a friendship. The three of us did not only study together, we also spent and enjoyed a lot of free time together at the university, for example having lunch or drinking a coffee during breaks. We built a friendship that I am sure is going to last.
Besides academic advantages, participating in the Buddy-Programme also has plenty of positive aspects from a personal point of view. Being part of this programme allows you to meet people from around the world, which helps you to know more about other cultures and be more open-minded and tolerant. It also helps you to see your culture from a different point of view, realizing that a lot of things that you do automatically without thinking may be different in another culture. For example, I did not realize how close are families or how much importance is given to food and having long meals with family or friends in my culture until living abroad. Realizing that kind of little things makes you more open-minded toward other cultures and other ways to live, because you realize how much the environment influences our behaviour and that some things that seem insignificant to you may have a deep meaning for someone else.
Furthermore, being part of the Buddy-Programme, you get to be informed about a lot of interesting activities like cultural festivals or tandem meetings, where you can have a great time and learn while meeting new people from different cultures. For example, I spent a really nice evening at the “Euroeck”, cooking a meal and talking with other foreigners, mainly from Syria. It was really enriching to know more about refugees with different stories and see how integrated they are into the German culture after a short period of time living here.
To conclude, I would like to say that overall it was a very enriching and useful experience to take part in the Buddy-Programme, both academically and personally, and I would recommend to both local and international students to enrol in the programme if they have the opportunity.