28 March 2024 | Story Anthony Mthembu | Photo Matome Mokoena
Umoja Buddy Programme
Umoja Buddy Programme (UBP) ambassadors and students involved with the programme enjoy their evening at the annual launch event.

The Office for International Affairs (OIA) at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently hosted the Umoja Buddy Programme’s (UBP) annual welcoming function. The event, which took place on 15 March at Rag Farm on the Bloemfontein Campus, was well attended by UBP ambassadors and international students involved in the programme, among others.

The programme pairs newly admitted international students (buddies) with current students at UFS (ambassadors) to aid social, cultural, and academic integration. The welcoming function took place after an official campus welcome by OIA staff of new exchange students from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and the University of Bremen in Germany.

“I was happy about the turn-out for the event,” UPB coordinator Lekiti Rantsane said. “Even though ambassadors responded, I did not expect so many to attend the event.”

The significance of the launch

According to OIA representatives, the event had several objectives: to welcome new UBP members to the programme; formally introduce them to OIA staff, with whom they will be liaising throughout the year; inform students of the resources available to them on campus; and welcome incoming international students.

Throughout the evening, attendees were addressed by representatives such as Bonolo Makhalemele, senior officer at the OIA, who welcomed the delegation to the function and briefly highlighted its significance. This was followed by various ice-breaker activities and a musical item.

The highlight of the evening for the international students in attendance was the opportunity to engage with UBP ambassadors and staff.

“The UBP launch was really exciting,” one student said. “I got to meet a lot of ambassadors and learn about all the cool things they’re doing.”

Future plans

According to Rantsane, the OIA’s Internationalisation at Home portfolio aims to complete several projects throughout the year. Its primary focus will be on training ambassadors so that they are well equipped to assist international students integrate into UFS.

Rantsane also indicated that the UBP will host several online and face-to-face dialogues with the ambassadors and the international students involved in the programme. These dialogues will centre on intercultural education and how this can be incorporated into UFS’s culture and curriculum.

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