When was the club founded? Was it a student initiative, or was it created by the University?
The idea to create such the club came from ITMO's International Office, as each semester saw growing numbers of international students coming to study at the Univeristy. Buddy System as we know today was founded at ITMO upon the initiative of Meruert Nurysheva as an outcome of a project that won the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs grant competition twice – in 2018 and 2019. Our team currently includes Kseniia Strokina, Grigory Berezin, Vladimir Sashin and me. Meruert (or Mika) herself still remains involved in the club’s work. Together we are developing the project, applying for grants and working on other events. We are lucky that each of our team members is a specialist in their given field. Mika knows everything about grant competitions and how better to apply to them, and she also helps us with the document flow of ITMO’s club system. Vladimir took courses on how to promote products using social media, Ksenia, as a representative of the International Office, does all the student paperwork, while Grigory and I are responsible for various activities and offsite events.
How does one become a buddy? What do I need to know?
There are several simple steps you need to take to become a buddy:
- The application. Every semester, our team runs a competition for those who want to become buddies next semester. The start of the competition is announced on our VK page and Instagram, as well as over at ITMO.STUDENTS. To enter, you need to apply by filling in the application form that will be linked to the announcement.
- The interview. After the application period closes, we process all of the applications and invite students for interviews to assess their English language and interpersonal skills, as well as their ability to handle stress and other competencies. This stage also includes a creative task – our candidates have to make a quest in the city and give a presentation about St. Petersburg.
- The training. Those who pass the interviews are then invited to our lectures, where they prepare to work with international students by learning all the necessary information about what they need to do.
- And... action. All that is left then is to actually assist international students and attend the activities and events included in our timetable.
What are some things every buddy student does?
Some of the main responsibilities of a buddy are to:
- Welcome international students at the airport or railway station.
- Fill out their migration registration documents.
- Help international students move into their dorm/hostel/hotel/apartment (including sorting out all the necessary documents and medical certificates).
- Give a tour of ITMO’s campuses.
- Give a tour of the University’s research and non-academic centers, clubs and unions.
- Provide continual support to international students during their stay at ITMO.
What kinds of events are usually run by the club?
We host a lot of events, all of which can be found in the Events tab of ISU. Some of our major activities include Nationality Nights, field trips to Yagodnoe, tours of the city and its canals, as well as city quests and visits to parks, various sports competitions, and many more.
How do you find those international students who might need a buddy?
One of our coordinators is Kseniia Strokina, a manager at ITMO’s International Admission Office. She forms the list of incoming students together with their buddies and then curates our work during their stay. She also interviews everyone willing to become a buddy, and is always in touch with international students and their buddies, so that any problems that arise can be solved as soon as possible.
Do you work with other student clubs at ITMO or organizations in St. Petersburg?
Last fall, we started collaborating with several student clubs. We hosted board game nights together with GEEKMO, ITMO’s board game club, and organized a trip to an animal shelter together with Paws of Help.
As for other organizations, we are now actively participating in various flash mobs and competitions hosted by the National League of Student Clubs. It’s a great chance for us to show ourselves among other clubs not only in St. Petersburg but all over Russia.
The club has been very active during the pandemic. Was it hard to adapt to the online format? What kinds of events do you organize now?
Ksenia is our leader in this respect, as it was she who started Home Activities – a series of online events that we host on our Instagram. It’s quite a wide range of activities including yoga classes, dancing, morning workouts, cooking workshops, Ask Me Live Q&A sessions and much more. Just log on and join us!
What can an international student expect coming to ITMO University?
The international students who we work with get maximum help and support during their studies here. We always meet and welcome each of them, help them move in and purchase their SIM cards, as well as fill in all the migration papers. After that we help our students with any problem that may arise – from buying groceries to seeing a doctor. It’s worth noting that up until fairly recently we only assisted our exchange students or those enrolled in international Master’s programs. But now, starting next semester, we will be working with our international Bachelor’s students, too.