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Photo: / pressmaster

Best buddies

Buddy programmes at UoC

At the University of Cologne (UoC) internationalization starts at home. It is one of the University’s top priorities to foster an international campus by encouraging international students to study in Cologne and by supporting UoC students to spend a semester abroad or study in one of the University's double-degree programs. To facilitate the exchange between national and international students on campus, UoC’s Faculties have established different buddy and tandem programmes. Talking to participants, we found out that the extra support is highly appreciated. And – even better - buddies tend to become friends and stay in touch even after their time together in Cologne.

A report by Nina Maria Kohl.

Real buddies

Dennis, Florian and Jeffrey (from left to right) in front of the Cardiac Center, that is part of the University Hospital Cologne located on campus.
Photo: Nina Maria Kohl

“Florian has been a great buddy! He was always there for us, really looked after us and even invited us round to his place, but he sure cannot cook spicy food”, explains Dennis. He and Jeffrey, two exchange students from Ghana, and Florian, a Cologne medical student,  look at each other and start laughing. “One night Florian cooked dinner for us and whatever he did, however many chilies he put in the sauce, it just was not spicy enough for us”, Dennis continues. “Jokes aside though, he is a very good listener, too, I have no doubts that he will excel in his medical studies and become a successful practitioner and psychologist”, he concludes with a lot of admiration in his voice.

Dennis and Jeffrey were part of a group of students from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, who arrived in Cologne at the end of August 2016 to participate in a four-week exchange programme at the UoC’s Faculty of Medicine.

Student exchange between Cologne and Ghana

Main entrance of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Foto:

The cooperation between the School of Medical Sciences in Kumasi and the UoC’s Faculty of Medicine was initiated in 2014, with the formal agreement being signed in 2015. It has since enabled both universities to send three students per academic year to each other’s campuses for short-term practical training. In the last two years, five medical students from Cologne had the opportunity to gain international experience 7,800 kilometers south of their home university. 

Buddy programs at UoC's Faculty of Medicine

The buddy programme at the UoC’s Faculty of Medicine was established in 2008/2009. Since then, approximately 60 voluntary buddies have supported international students from all over the world each year. From writing a first welcome email to showing them around town -  buddies are important contact persons especially during the visitors' first weeks at the UoC's Faculty of Medicine.

However, the short-term exchange programmes established in some cooperation contracts such as with the School of Medical Sciences in Kumasi in Ghana, Keio University in Tokyo, and Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan require even more mentoring: UoC buddies, for instance, also pick up the exchange students from the main station and bring them to their accommodation. Furthermore they show them around the campus and take them to the clinic on the first day of their programme.  

Georgiana Buitan

Being part of the buddy programme is a considerable commitment but it enables students to acquire intercultural competences as well as develop personally. Therefore, after successful participation in a buddy programme it is possible to obtain a certificate for social engagement.

Georgiana Buitan, Center for International Relations, Faculty of Medicine, University of Cologne

A great and enriching experience

For Florian it has actually been the third time he took part in a buddy programme and this time he acted as buddy for no less than three students from Ghana: Dennis, Jeffrey, and Nana. “It is a commitment, and unfortunately there are never enough UoC buddies, but it is a great and enriching experience. It definitely broadens your horizon and provides you with new perspectives on different cultures”, Florian explains.

Buddy programs create an international atmosphere and enable students to gain intercultural experiences on their home campus. Photo: / pressmaster

Dennis and Jeffrey agree in that the extra support Florian provided was essential for them to find their way round the campus and to get to know the city and its environment. They also found that often language was the biggest barrier, and again Florian’s help was much appreciated. In terms of their studies and further careers, they consider their stay in Cologne extremely valuable, as they were able to broaden their personal networks. Especially Dennis would like to come back to Cologne for his postgraduate studies.

About whether they will stay in touch with Florian once they have returned home to Ghana, Dennis and Jeffrey are adamant: “Of course we will stay in touch! We will invite Florian to Ghana at least to show him how to cook proper spicy food!” The three young men start laughing again and trail off in a private conversation – just as friends do.