Friends for life: International buddy program helps students feel at home

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International Buddies, a student organization, exists to help international students form meaningful connections at Kansas State by linking them up with “buddies,” organization president Ayyappan Elangovan, graduate student in chemistry, said.

“International students come from other countries and definitely need someone to help them around and get them accustomed to the U.S. culture,” Elangovan said. “Being in a town like Manhattan, there’s not much to do, so you meet new people and make good friends with them.”

International Buddies, Elangovan said, is all about trying to connect international students with other people, even those outside of the K-State family.

While the focus of the organization is on helping international students acclimate to the United States, it can give the opportunity for domestic students to branch out into other cultures.

“For example, if someone wants to go to Germany and practice their German, they can sign up for International Buddies,” Elangovan said.

In the ten years since its founding, Elangovan said the program has steadily become more popular. In the beginning, the program paired up each international student with a single buddy. Now assignments are made in groups of four.

Suna Jo, graduate student in chemical engineering, was partnered with Kristan Crawford, senior in theatre and international and area studies, after leaving South Korea to study in the U.S.

Crawford said the duo’s friendship started when they were paired in January after she requested a buddy from South Korea. Now, more than six months later, the pair said a lasting friendship has formed.

“We kept hanging out,” Crawford said. “We went to the movies sometimes, we would text a lot, went bowling.”

“Don’t forget the ice cream,” Jo chimed in.

“Suna was so surprised by the portions from Freddy’s,” Crawford said with a laugh.

Over time, the buddies started hanging out beyond Manhattan, particularly when Crawford brought Jo with her to her parents’ home in Wyoming over Labor Day weekend.

“We went hiking and a lot of fun stuff,” Crawford said.

To get involved with International Buddies, head to www.k-state.edu/buddies.

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