Buddy Program: Strong Together
Every student who has spent a semester abroad knows: When abroad and in a new environment, one must find one's way not just in the university but also in leisure time. How does public transportation work? Which bar offers the best cocktails? And what to do on a rainy Sunday? Upon arrival, most know tips and tricks only from travel guides or Netflix documentaries; the language is still unfamiliar, and daily life can be overwhelming. Yet right from the start, a lot must be done and organized – propelling a roller coaster of emotions between euphoria over the adventure and astonishment at local customs.
To ease the start for incoming international students arriving at the University of Applied Sciences in Kufstein for a semester-long study, the university offers the so-called Buddy Program. With the support of our locals, the exchange students - affectionately called Exchangies - are actively assisted in starting their studies and life in Austria. Every local student has the opportunity to participate in the Buddy Program to broaden their horizons and intercultural skills - and perhaps forge a lifelong friendship. Conversely, all incoming students can also join right off the bat and connect and receive valuable tips from fellow students.
Point of Contact for Everyday Issues
Femke and Clara are buddies. 21-year-old Clara is in her fourth semester of Facility Management & Real Estate Economics at FH Kufstein Tirol. Originally from Baden-Württemberg, she is all too familiar with the feeling of having to navigate a new country - a buddy assisted her during her semester abroad in Canada. Positively influenced by this experience, she decided to join the Buddy Program also at her home institution. Her incoming partner at the university is Femke, 22 years old, in Kufstein for five months, and from the Netherlands. Back home, she studies International Business with an emphasis on Finance. With Clara, she found her first friend in Austria - a real stroke of luck for the 22-year-old. While still at her home university, she signed up as an Exchangie for the program and was able to clarify essential questions even before arriving, such as whether one can take a seat on the train without a seat reservation. "I find it super exciting to get to know other people and cultures and learn more about their traditions," says Clara, who feels comfortable both as an Exchangie and in her role as a local. "It also helps you to get to know your own country better. You're much more motivated to do something." And Femke, who is more used to wide open landscapes than mountains, is up for all outings. Whether it's having coffee or heading out into nature on a sunny day, she enjoys exploring the area and chatting with a friend. By now, all buddies know each other - the university organizes several events, like International Dinners, where participants can exchange their experiences. "That's what I like best about the program," Femke concludes. "I've met so many people with different cultural backgrounds from all over the world, and hearing their opinions and views is truly enriching."
How do I become a Buddy?
"Becoming a buddy is not hard at all," Clara explains. "The ÖH (student union) sends out an email every year with the big words WE WANT YOU. You just have to provide some data and preferences, like the gender of the buddy, and a few weeks later, you receive an email with your buddy partner and can establish contact immediately." If you don't want to wait that long, you can also register directly on the FH Kufstein Tirol website for the Buddy Program. All relevant information about the topic is summarized there. Furthermore, the International Relations Office and the International Department of the ÖH are always available for questions. Contact details can also be found on the website.