22 december 2015

I spent six months this year on an Erasmus project in Belgium. It was a very positive and exciting experience, although I often found myself thinking how useful it would be to have someone to help me, especially at the beginning. So, when I got back to Italy, I decided to join the Buddy Project organised by the Politecnico di Milano to welcome international students

enthuses Federica Colombo, a second-year Biomedical Engineering Laurea Magistrale (Master of Science) degree student and one of the 360 "Buddy" students at the Politecnico di Milano. 

Through the Buddy Project, volunteer students spend six months supporting new international students enrolled on Laurea Magistrale courses, both prior to their arrival in Italy and during their first three months in Milan and at the Politecnico. 

There are three criteria for becoming a Buddy: you must be an international or Italian student with at least six months’ experience at the Politecnico, be attending a Laurea (Bachelor of Science) course and have personal interests in common with your “new international friend”. Federica is Buddy to Homa Zahedmanesh, an Iranian student who arrived in Italy in September to study for a Laurea Magistrale in Biomedical Engineering

I got in touch with Homa via e-mail the moment I received contact details, and we later exchanged telephone numbers. I gave her useful information about the city and the University, and Homa immediately proved herself to be full of enthusiasm about the big life change she was about to make by coming to study in Italy” Federica tells us. Homa says: “I really don’t know how I would have managed without Federica. Her messages were always so prompt, friendly and kind that, even though we hadn’t yet met, I felt as though I’d known her for ages" 

I’ll never forget Federica’s smiling face as she waited for me at the airport, holding up a sign that read “Welcome Homa!”, the day I arrived in Italy; a spontaneous gesture of kindness and hospitality. I’ve been in Milan for three months now and I’ve learned a lot and made new friends, and the valuable assistance from my Buddy eased my initial sense of disorientation and uncertainty and helped me to settle into my new surroundings and manage my difficulties at the beginning.

The aim of this project is, indeed, to improve integration between international students and the resident student community. There are lots of benefits for the Buddy students, too: practising a foreign language - an enriching experience, in both cultural and educational terms - and direct encounter with the international world from the comfort of their own city.

Homa and I had a lot of fun taking part in a treasure hunt designed to help get to know the areas of the Leonardo Campus as the students know them, such as the “Nave” (ship) and “Trifoglio” (clover) buildings. In order to get certain clues, we had to answer questions on culture, sing the anthem, guess European capitals by looking at photographs, taste traditional Italian dishes while blindfolded, and so on. During these few months, the project coordinators have organised events and games designed especially to encourage the Buddies and international students to meet up and get to know each other” Federica says.

When asked "Would you recommend the Buddy Project to a friend?", Federica and Homa agree: 

Yes, definitely! It’s the most wonderful and exciting experience we’ve had in recent years; a valuable opportunity for cultural enrichment and growth as a person