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Buddy Program of the Faculty of Business and Economics (c) Anna Friese
21.11.2022 from 
Study + Teaching
Starting out made easy

Moving to a new town within Germany in order, for example, to begin a course of studies, can be hard. If, however, like around 3700 fellow students you come to the University of Magdeburg from abroad, you may, like Nadezhda Karklina, be faced with quite different challenges. The young woman is studying for a Master’s degree in International Management, Marketing & Entrepreneurship at Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and has previously gained experience of living abroad during an exchange program in France. She spent six months there but soon realized that she was not happy in France and so kept a lookout for a new destination. This time, however, she wanted to be better prepared, since “I know how difficult it is to be all alone in a foreign country.” Having already experienced this in France, she did not wish to repeat it in Germany. The situation here was even more difficult because “I cannot speak German, and in the beginning I really needed somebody to support me,” says the 23-year-old.

For just this eventuality, the Faculty of Economics & Management at the University, in which Nadezhda Karklina is a student, offers the Students’ International Mentoring Program & Social Organizational Network, known as SIMP-SON for short. In this mentoring program, new international students are paired with so-called buddies, that is, students from higher semesters. They make the new starters feel welcome and help them get to grips with their new environment at the university. Anna Genkin, who is also studying on the Master’s program in International Management, Marketing & Entrepreneurship in her fourth semester, is one of the buddies.

She is originally from Dortmund and had a variety of reasons for taking part in the program. “I love getting to know new people from different cultures. Apart from that, I would have liked to have someone to hold my hand when I first arrived in Magdeburg,” she says. The student found out about the program from an email and completed a registration form in which she indicated the languages she speaks, hobbies and other preferences. If the new arrival and buddy have a lot of preferences in common, then a match is made. What is special about SIMP-SON is that both participants follow the same course, like Anna Genkin and Nadezhda Karklina. This means that the mentor has the best possible chance of supporting their protégé. Anna doesn’t just help Nadezhda to get her bearings in the classes. As a buddy, she supports her in everyday situations such as looking for accommodation or with official formalities.

However, above all she wants to get to know Nadezhda and possibly build a friendship. Anna’s help has already had an impact. “I am pretty sure that it has helped me a lot and that thanks to the program I have been able to settle in without any difficulties,” Nadezhda concludes. Apart from this, the international student especially likes the solidarity among the students and the fact that “I can turn to anyone at the University for help and get an answer.”

The Faculty of Economics & Management has had an English-language study program for 25 years, which began with around 80 students with the support of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). There are now 850 enrolled students from over 70 countries. The SIMP-SON buddy program was added as an offshoot of a study program in 2010.

The international orientation of the faculty is also highlighted by the fact that it is the only one in the university to have offered an English-language Bachelor’s program (since 1997). It is now possible to study in English from the Bachelor's degree through to a doctorate.

Participating in the Buddy program has been worthwhile for both Anna and Nadezhda. “Without a doubt, it is definitely one of my top recommendations for new students. Moving is difficult, but it is easier with the Buddy program and above all you are not alone,” says the international student. And who knows, perhaps in a couple of semesters’ time, as a buddy herself, she will make sure that a new arrival feels just as welcome at the University and in the city on the Elbe as she does.