Since starting MSA in 2001, I’ve held on to a curiosity on what would help an international students feel at home in their new environment. The rapidly changing terrain: new language; different foods; no family; no friends; intense academic requirements; complex admin tasks and so on – often causes a sensitive person to withdraw, resulting in a sub-optimal state of being and an inability to completely process all the change.
Studying abroad is a major upgrade; a significant challenge and a massive opportunity. From having the experience of studying abroad myself and from having worked with numerous students, I’ve come to see how the initial integration weeks – the two or so weeks after arrival at the study destination – is an intensely challenging experience for most study abroad students. I observed that age and travel experience are factors that can contribute to the intensity.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this integration period. Universities tend to focus more on administrative tasks and often neglect the opportunities in personal development available during these initial integration weeks. This is where the idea of Study Buddies landed on me.
I see a Study Buddy as a trained local or older student who partners with new students during their 1st two weeks of integration to the environment. This allows new comers to tap into the experience and knowledge of someone who already knows their way around the territory. Study Buddies help with:
- arrival logistics: airport pickup and temporary accommodation
- settling in logistics: finding an apartment or room mate and negotiating a fair lease
- getting setup with bank accounts, learning the city routes, best places to eat/shop and so on
- general local savvy – correct taxi prices, how to tip and so on
- Help with getting registered at the university
We’re piloting the Study Buddy program this year at MSA. We’re framing it into a network where we have X number of Study Buddies for each university/city that can be a buddy to x number of arriving students. We’re looking at a fee share business model where our company shares the fees charged to the arriving student with the Study Buddy. We want to keep the fees low so that it is affordable and valuable to the student; rewarding to the Study Buddies and sustainable to our company.
Let me know what you think! If you’re based in Romania or Bulgaria and are interested in becoming a Study Buddy, please get in touch with me.