30 March 2022 | Story Bulelwa Moikwatlhai | Photo Supplied
International office
An international celebration. The Office for International Affairs hosted more than a hundred local and international students at the 2022 ‘Welcome to Mzansi’ event, integrating international students to life at the UFS.

On 18 March 2022, the Internationalisation at Home (I@H) portfolio in the Office for International Affairs at the University of the Free State (UFS) hosted its annual first-year international student welcome function themed ‘Welcome to Mzansi’ at the RAG farm. The function hosted more than one hundred local and international students who are part of the I@H integration initiative – the Umoja Buddy Programme. UFS students from the Arts and Culture division in Student Affairs set the tone for the evening with a drama presentation articulating a student’s first day in the UFS community, in Bloemfontein, and its surroundings. The drama showcased the diverse student community represented at the UFS.

A welcome video from the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof Francis Petersen, was shared with the students, highlighting how the past two years of the pandemic have equipped the students with key skills that they will use in the future. “I believe that the lessons you have learned will help you in the future, I know you will make an impact in your field. As a residential university, we welcome our students and staff back on campus in 2022 to learn, work, and socialise in a way that minimises risk but still provides our students with an on-campus student life.”

Prof Mudzi, the Director of the Postgraduate School, advocated the importance of furthering one’s studies. He stated, “You need to start working hard from day one of university education; the marks you get during your undergraduate years have a huge bearing on your future and your ability to progress to postgraduate studies, as it is highly dependent on the average mark you get at undergraduate level.” In his concluding remarks, Prof Mudzi advised the students to, “learn something new, engage with new people and cultures, enjoy South Africa, while succeeding in your studies at the UFS and working hard”.

Dr Hagenmeier, Director of the Office for International Affairs, delivered the keynote welcome address for the international students, with a brief introduction to the OIA staff. This, as outlined in his address, served the purpose of ensuring that students are familiar with the channels of communication, representatives, and office-bearers in specific portfolios under the OIA, as well as the functions of the OIA.

The evening ended off with musical performances by UFS students, while the attendees dined and networked over a hot plate of food. In the same spirit, the dance floor was opened. This was a very important part of integration, uniting the students regardless of their nationality, race, gender, etc. The students did not think twice about taking to the dance floor – seeing everyone dance made students who did not participate afraid that they were missing out.   

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