LIFE AS A BUDDY – MARTINA GUARNACCIA : A MANAGEMENT ENGINEERING STUDENT TELLS US ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE AS A BUDDY
After you have spend months researching where to study, through online research, Webinars/ blogs (like these!) etc. finally it is time to move abroad. But then suddenly your excitement can turn to nerves, obstacles and challenges.. all part of studying abroad (which personally I think is an important part of growing your confidence and character). Politecnico di Milano helps in these first months and offers a unique service to International students: the Buddy System.
What does a Buddy do? They are students already enrolled in our university, who are matched with foreign students to assist them from the phase prior to their arrival in Italy and for the first months of their stay. They are the most challenging months for people who come from a far-away country and need to adapt not only to a new academic environment but also to a culture and traditions often distant from their own.
To introduce you to the Buddy experience more closely, we met a student who had this experience last year, and who wanted to tell us about it. Her name is Martina Guarnaccia, she is a third-year student of management engineering, and she is going to graduate shortly.
HI MARTINA! HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BUDDY SERVICE?
Thanks to an email that was sent to all the students, which explained how the project worked. And it immediately caught my interest.
WHAT THEN PROMPTED YOU TO APPLY TO BE A BUDDY?
I wanted to jump into something new. It seemed an interesting idea because it was also an opportunity to practice my English. And above all it would enable me to meet new people and learn about new cultures.
AND IS THIS ACTUALLY WHAT HAPPENED?
Yes, definitely. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. Just imagine that my friends were really envious because they wished they had applied to do it too.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE STUDENT YOU WERE A BUDDY FOR
His name is Mateusz, he is Polish, he studies design and was here on Erasmus. He discovered the programs of Politecnico di Milano through an informative Webinar (or Online Open Day).
We started getting to know each other a bit before he came to Italy. In mid-February, we exchanged contact details, then he arrived in early March and stayed until the end of June.
WHAT DOES A BUDDY ACTUALLY DO?
They show new international students how things work at the Politecnico and help them to find their feet when they first get here. It’s difficult at first at university for all new students, even more so for someone who arrives from abroad and finds himself immersed in Italian culture for the first time.
My first job was to act as a guide, helping Mateusz to navigate the classrooms, labs, lectures and exams. If he needed to know anything, he sent me a message on WhatsApp asking for help. Even when he couldn’t understand someone who was talking too fast, he sometimes recorded it and sent me the audio so I could explain what they were saying.
WHAT ABOUT FREE TIME?
In addition to the academic side, there is obviously also social life. I introduced him to my friends, we met several times after lectures for lunch or aperitifs, to show him a bit of life in Milan outside of the university lecture halls.
I showed him around Milan. He also came to see me in Monza; I took him to the park of the royal palace. He was captivated by the squirrels, which were running about although it was very cold.
The Buddy department also sent us regular ideas for fun group activities, to do together with other students and other buddies.
SO, YOU FORMED A GOOD FRIENDSHIP WITH MATEUSZ?
We became friends right away and we continue to stay in touch even now that he is back in Poland.
At Easter, he came to my home for lunch, where he met my family. My parents have always been open to new people and cultures. He was so lovely, he showed up with roses for my mum and wine for my dad.
My Sicilian grandmother was there, who does not speak English. I tried to act as a language intermediary, but there was almost no need. She told him riddles in Sicilian and he had fun trying to repeat them. He was also a source of great satisfaction for my family in the kitchen: he absolutely loved Sicilian cooking!
We have formed a really lovely friendship, which will last, even if it is just to say hi and ask each other how we are. Will we see one another again in September, in Milan, Warsaw, London? Who knows!
TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU
At a certain point, he had to go back to Warsaw. When he came back to Milan, he had to move to a new area. I went to pick him up at the airport and found him standing in the middle of a pile of huge boxes that didn’t fit in my little Panda. We really had no idea how to get all these clothes in the car, and we spent the journey laughing, jam-packed in the middle of packages and things flying about from one side to the other.
HAS THIS EXPERIENCE ENRICHED YOU?
At the end of this period as a Buddy, I can say that I am really happy with the experience. I did not expect to find someone who also wanted to form a friendship, as well as needing practical help. It also depends on the mutual attitude of the people: in our case, we were lucky.
It is a project that benefits both sides. “You help me in English and I’ll help you in Italian,” we said to each other. Practising English daily helps a lot in getting to grips with the language. He even learned some Italian.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS PROJECT TO OTHER STUDENTS AT THE POLITECNICO?
As you’ll probably have gathered, definitely yes.
After meeting Mateusz and seeing what a lovely bond we had created, my friends were really interested in this project. Even my parents are always asking after him now.
I wanted to jump into a new experience that would also allow me to practice my English and get in touch with new people and cultures. My expectations were even exceeded.
MATEUSZ HAS NOW RETURNED TO WARSAW, BUT HE WANTED TO LEAVE US A MEMORY OF HIS EXPERIENCE…
I learned about the Buddy system from my friends who were on Erasmus in previous years, and it was definitely a very helpful service.
Martina turned out to be very helpful. I didn’t think that much. She even helped me pick up my luggage from the first apartment and picked me up and my mom at the airport when she came to visit me. Additionally, through her I met other students from our university. It is completely different when you come as a tourist and don’t know anyone, and when you know someone local.
A great friendship was born for sure. I’m waiting for Martina to visit me in London or Warsaw!
A good reception can really be crucial for a student who comes from abroad. If you want to help out too, you can apply to become a Buddy, the companion who will be his/her point of reference before arrival and during the first period of acclimatization.
Join the next Webinar on September 22nd and find out more here: