Being a new student on Drexel’s campus can be intimidating, especially for international exchange students. Besides battling a language barrier and culture shock, the students have to navigate their way around foreign classes, campuses and college traditions. To ease the transition, the Study Abroad Office created the Dragon Buddies program to connect other Drexel students with incoming exchange students who will attend Drexel for one to three terms.
“Since their stay at Drexel is so short, it’s even more important that they connect with current Drexel students early on,” Erica Sebastian, study abroad advisor and incoming exchange coordinator, said. “Dragon Buddies act as a first point of contact for incoming exchange students, and serve as a resource, guide and friend for them before and after they arrive at Drexel.”
Dragon Buddies start communicating with exchange students before they even start packing or arrive on campus. Some Drexel students will even meet their Dragon Buddy at Philadelphia International Airport or 30th Street Station to officially welcome them to the city. Others will guide the visiting students around campus and the city while going over important information like the “do’s and don’ts” of Philadelphia. And sometimes, the students end up hanging out in social situations off campus.
“The goal is really to provide some personal connection to the Drexel community, and help students feel welcomed onto campus,” Sebastian said.
Incoming students have come from more than 25 different countries, including Singapore, China, Egypt, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil and Turkey. According to Sebastian, most of the 100 inbound exchange students per year choose to participate in the program. The same number of Drexel students usually volunteer to be Dragon Buddies, and those students have either already studied abroad or have expressed interest in making international friends to participate.
Some Drexel students have become close friends or roommates with their Dragon Buddies since the program’s creation in 2008. And in some cases, Drexel students have even visited the exchange students or studied abroad in their Buddies’ home countries.
One of those students is Jenn Everett, a senior international area studies major who has been involved with the Dragon Buddy program since her freshman year. When she spent the 2012-13 school year studying abroad in Paris, she met up with a former Dragon Buddy from France and even vacationed with her in Barcelona, Spain. As someone with a huge interest in global affairs, she thought that joining the program was a no-brainer.
“I love being a Dragon Buddy because I get to meet people from all over the world and learn about their culture at home,” she said.
The Dragon Buddies program is offered in fall, winter and spring terms and is usually celebrated with a “Welcome/Welcome Back” dinner that the Study Abroad Office hosts.
“It is a social event that brings together the incoming exchange students, Dragon Buddies and also recently returned study-abroad students,” Sebastian said. “It’s a great way for people to make new friends and connect with students with similar interests.”
Students interested in joining the program can contact Erica Sebastian at email@example.com.