The digitalisation and expansion of Global Buddies
Led by the Students’ Association, Global Buddies has seen an expansion during Covid-19 to ensure a strong sense of community and a peer-to-peer level of support for all international students.
Global Buddies is a peer support programme for undergraduate and postgraduate international students coming to Edinburgh, organised by the Students’ Association. The programme has been identified as a powerful tool to maintain community and support on a peer-to-peer level for international students, as we all continue to be affected by this worldwide health crisis.
How Global Buddies has evolved in 2020
In previous years, the programme has only been available to visiting students. The University is supporting the expansion of Global Buddies this year, ensuring all new incoming international students were invited to join the programme in July 2020. Because of government restrictions and safety reasons, activities and events cannot be run face-to face, which has also led to the digitalisation of Global Buddies this year. Delivering the programme in a digital format has allowed students to participate who study remotely from all around the world, who cannot physically be in Edinburgh.
The number of students increased dramatically in comparison to previous years, with 2613 new international students enrolled and 377 leaders volunteering as Global Buddies leaders.
The Global Buddies Programme is essential to the international student experience and to the wellbeing of the overall student community. The Global Buddies expansion has allowed thousands of new students to join the programme and find a support network during these difficult times. Thanks to the digitalisation of the programme, students have been able to join Global Buddies remotely. International students can feel that they are part of the University of Edinburgh community, no matter where they are based in the world.
Online events and progress of the programme
The Global Students team matched the 2613 applicants into groups over the summer period. In total, 26 supergroups were created. Each of these supergroups contain, on average, 6 smaller Buddy Groups. Around this time, the 377 student volunteers were also trained as Global Buddies leaders. These volunteers started contacting their buddies over the summer period, with the newly expanded programme officially starting in September 2020.
During the month of September all supergroups and smaller buddy groups met on average twice per week using online platforms. The most successful event so far has been the Buddies Tandem Café that took place on 9 October. Although it can be particularly challenging having 3000 students distributed over 12 different time-zones, the programme is proving to be a fantastic way for students to continue socialising with international people from around the world who are also studying with The University of Edinburgh.
A survey will be circulated in early November to gather feedback from Buddy Group Leaders and International students. This will allow the Global Students team to better understand what students think about the programme and how to continue to increase engagement rates over semester two.
Other new digital programmes available to students
Unibuddy is an online platform which has been made available this summer for prospective students to chat with student ambassadors. Unibuddy gives them the opportunity to chat with a range of our current students studying across different subject areas about their student experience. A potential aid to student recruitment, Unibuddy as a communication tool can offer an insight into student life. Questions/concerns that prospective students might have can be answered and thereafter, be better placed to make an informed decision on choice. Find out more about UniBuddy.
eTandem Global is another digital programme launched over summer, coordinated by the Study and Work Away team in collaboration with the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, which offers students a practical language exchange in the wake of the Covid-19 restrictions. The programme aims to facilitate students to develop their language skills in a meaningful way as well as provide a space for social and cultural exchange. Read our feature about e-Tandem Global.