OIP Hosts BP Summit at Campus Recreation To Unite Domestic and International Students Together

Domestic and international student buddies unite at the Buddy Program Summit, presented by Campus Recreation staff members, held at the P.E. Complex in Chicago on Thursday, February 8th, 2024 through a series of team-building activities.
Domestic and international student buddies unite at the Buddy Program Summit, presented by Campus Recreation staff members, held at the P.E. Complex in Chicago on Thursday, February 8th, 2024 through a series of team-building activities.
Ananth Prabhu

On Feb. 8, NEIU’s Office of International Programs (OIP) hosted a summit at Campus Recreation for all participating international and domestic students of the Buddy Program (BP) to greet, meet, and befriend each other. The pairing process of buddies included a survey about their hobbies, preferred gender of their buddies, major, and level of school, according to Michael Nance, J-1 Coordinator and Coordinator of Partnerships and Student Exchanges. All buddies reported to the P.E. Complex for team-building activities and group games to become further acquainted with one another. They did some ice breakers like introducing each other’s buddy to the group, and then they played Don’t Make Eye Contact, Birthday Line Up, Squid Games, and Everybody’s It in the auxiliary gymnasium.

“I didn’t know what to expect but I’m glad I came and I’m glad I signed up for the program,” David Wodka, an undergraduate CMT major, said. For Raquel Braulino, who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Communications, the BP and International Club are fantastic fits. As a trilingual student who originally immigrated from Brazil, interacting with international students is right up her alley.  “In English, I can be very professional, and in my own language [Portuguese], I’m more energetic, and [in] Spanish, I speak, but I don’t write,” she said.

A few benefits of signing up for the BP include developing international networking skills and learning worldly and cultural knowledge from other students, according to Nance.  After reflecting on Nance’s sentiments of the BP, “I think it’s important just to add [volunteering] to your resume, like you help people, you’re getting out of your comfort zone, and you include [new] people to your life, it’s always nice to open the doors for outsiders to come in,” Braulino said. “I’m helping someone, [and] they’re helping me in a way; it’s a mutual thing; it’s a two-way road.”

By volunteering for the BP, domestic students are given the opportunity to learn new cultures, practice new languages, bring international prestige to NEIU, network, enhance cross-cultural awareness and communication skills, and make new friends, “Basically, I was just interested in learning about other cultures, particularly Japanese and Korean, and I got a Korean buddy, so we just met [during the team-building exercises],” Wodka said. “I joined because I have a lot of free time, and I love meeting new people,” Braulino said.

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“We plan on doing kickboxing together cause I suggested that to him,” Wodka said.  “I think going to museum[s] would be a  cool experience [be]cause if it’s like a history museum, it would help him learn the history of America.”  Speaking of kickboxing, several other sports, clubs, and activities are available at Campus Recreation for domestic and international buddies to partake in.

Nance explained how a former domestic buddy helped a Korean buddy last semester, and she is an international buddy during this semester in Korea. She was offered to stay in her buddy’s household during her entire duration in Korea. Thus, the BP could be the start of incredible and long-lasting friendships.  Braulino understands the sentiment very well because “you just never know, maybe one day, they can be your bridesmaids!” 

“I’m interested in learning more about his culture and teaching him about my culture,” Wodka said. “It’s always nice to meet people from other cultures just cause it’s always nice to get out of your comfort zone,” Braulino said.

The BP has required necessary improvements in the past, Nance admitted that one of the major tweaks to the BP from previous years is pairing buddies off instead of creating groups because it was a challenge for some students to find non-conflicting time for all four students to spend time together. “We did that because that was some feedback we were getting that there was this pressure to do something with everybody in the group all at once, and because of that they didn’t get to meet very much if at all,” Nance said.

“I recommend doing this just cause if you’re shy and also like if you want to expand your network, it’s fun to meet other people, and also discover a little bit about their culture,” Braulino said.  “I feel like this program is most beneficial if you hang out with your buddy and go do things and learn about each other’s cultures; I think that’s where this program would shine the most,” Wodka said.

While it is too late for domestic students to take part in the BP in the Spring 2024 semester, the program will recruit more volunteers for the Fall 2024 semester. “Last semester is when I first learned about it, and I was interested, but when I tried to apply [to] it, it turns out I was late for it, so I couldn’t be accepted into it,” Wodka said. Even though it is too late to become a cultural ambassador to an international student in the BP for the current semester, as an alternative, students are welcome to join NEIU’s International Club meetings every Wednesday at 5 p.m. in LWH 1001 to learn about different cultures from student presenters.

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