Auburn's International Buddy Program helps global students join the Auburn Family

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Enrollment is not the only thing growing on Auburn University's campus. The international presence on campus is increasing more than ever with 1,354 international students representing 85 countries this past year.

A unique organization on campus provides a smooth transition into the Auburn Family for international students. The International Buddy Program, or IBP, had its early beginnings in August 2013, growing out of the English as a Second Language program when international students were paired with American students on campus. Seventy pairs of students were matched that semester, but now the organization has more than 300 members, making it one of the largest student organizations on campus.

"The program was created because we saw a need to have an efficient, yet personal way to make connections between international and domestic students," program adviser Katherine Williams said. "It is designed simply to connect people and let friendships form naturally as buddies spend time together in ways that fit their own interests and schedules."

The International Buddy Program provides the framework for international and local host students to create same-gender friendships with one another. Members are required to spend time with their buddies at least twice a month, but most pairs get together more often.

"It's my first time in America, so my buddy teaches me a lot of things that I've never known before," said Faissal Alhelal, an English as a Second Language student from Saudi Arabia. "He helps me learn English more and more when we hang out."

International students help American students paint a picture of what the world is like beyond life at Auburn by sharing cultures and celebrating new holidays.

Host buddies help the social transition for international students by engaging them in American customs and culture, shedding light on simple activities that are uniquely American, like celebrating Thanksgiving with family or taking trips to Walmart or Chick-fil-A for the first time.

Students fill out an application to join the International Buddy Program and buddies are paired based on similar interests expressed in the application. A "buddy reveal" takes place each semester to unite new and returning pairs along with events the program coordinates throughout the semester for buddies. The organization takes applications all year.

"I appreciate the program. It has helped me with every single thing," Alhelal said.

More information is available on the website or by contacting Katherine Williams at

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.