picFind a friend

While academics are important to your life as a student at the University of the Free State (UFS), meaningful friendship and culture-sharing (integrating) is also an important part of your experience. Adjusting to South African life can sometimes be a little hard. The Umoja Buddy Programme is a programme designed to help with the adjustment process by pairing newly admitted international students with current students at UFS.

Every year, the UFS welcomes around 1 909 international students across our three campuses who enrol for a wide variety of programmes. Students may be doing full-time undergraduate or postgraduate programmes or participate in study-aboard programmes such as Erasmus+ and Semester Exchange programmes.

Many international students find that their expectations of South Africa are very different from the reality of living in Bloemfontein in the Free State. To aid your transition to South African life and enhance your experience at the UFS, the Umoja Buddy Programme pairs NEW international students (like yourself) with CURRENT students at the UFS.

Students requesting an Umoja Buddy Programme ambassador have the opportunity to start their time here at the UFS with a friend they can hang out with, as well as help them acclimatise on campus. The Umoja Buddy Programme is a fun and easy way to learn about South African culture, and it is also a great way to share about your own country and culture. The programme provides both international and current students at the University of the Free State an opportunity for an enriching cultural exchange and allows both participants to gain a broader perspective on the world.

Who can apply to be a Buddy?

As a new international student at UFS, you qualify to be an International Buddy.

If you are a second-year student at UFS, you are qualified to be an Ambassador. If you wish to be an Ambassador, you will need to read more information regarding requirements and expectations through the official Umoja Buddy Programme section of our website.


The participants are expected to meet at least twice a month. The Office for International Affairs will host events each semester as well as keep you informed of campus events or local that could be fun options for you to attend. Relationships can be further developed through shared meals, community engagement activities, sightseeing and holiday celebrations.

The Umoja Buddy Programme is meant to provide an opportunity to promote meaningful friendship and intercultural exchange at UFS. Any inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour will not be tolerated from either the Wingman or the Buddy. If any inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour is reported, the participant at fault will no longer be permitted to participate in the programme.


Your ambassador should be very familiar with life at UFS. Ask them any questions that you might have about the campus or life in Bloemfontein. If you have questions about the best places to get groceries and furniture, or maybe you are wondering about certain cultural differences between South Africa and your home country, ask your ambassador. Your ambassador is a resource for you, but they also want to know more about you and your life. Share parts of your culture with them by telling them stories about your home country, playing them music from your culture, or making them traditional food that you would have with your family.

While you are strongly encouraged to regularly spend time with your ambassador, please remember that this programme is designed for friendship and intercultural exchange. Though friendship cannot be guaranteed, if you meet with your ambassador regularly, you will have many opportunities to learn about South African culture through their eyes and also share your own cultural experience with them.

How to apply

Interested in being matched with a current student at UFS? Want to learn more about South African culture? Want to share your culture with another student?

Apply to be a Buddy


Matching is based upon availability, personal interests, age and gender. We will do our best to make sure you are paired with an ambassador who has some common interests with you, but with whom you can also have meaningful cultural interactions.

Cultural differences between you and your ambassador are inevitable. Remember to treat these differences with respect. If these kinds of differences are leading to negative interactions with your Wingman and you are uncomfortable continuing in the programme, please contact Bulelwa Moikwatlhai (malob@ufs.ac.za) to discuss other options.

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