When you travel overseas, landing in a new city can be both thrilling and daunting. You encounter new cultural etiquette, different ways of doing things and maybe even a new language. Adjusting to this new normal can be challenging – which is where La Trobe’s Alumni Buddy program steps in.
The program invites alumni living outside Australia to connect with La Trobe students studying on a university exchange, in order to ease their transition into another country. It recognises the welcoming role alumni can play in providing local advice, answering questions and being a friendly face in what, to a student, is a brand new place.
How the Alumni Buddy program works
As an alumni buddy, you’ll connect with a La Trobe student over email ahead of time. Then, when your student buddy arrives in your city, you’ll offer support as a local expert.
How you help your student is up to you. You can chat over email, catch up over a coffee, or even share a meal together.
To give you a feel for what you can offer, we spoke with Malaysia-based alumni buddy Fara Mohamed (Bachelor of Computer Science, 1999), who connected with current Bachelor of Law/Arts student Alyssa Britnell during her semester exchange to the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.
Friendship that spans countries and generations
For La Trobe alumna Fara, the choice to become an alumni buddy was easy.
As a member of the Persatuan Alumni La Trobe University Malaysia (PALTUM) Chapter, she knew getting involved with her La Trobe community could foster lifelong friendships. But she'd also seen firsthand the impact a local host can make through her family’s own university experiences.
‘My father-in-law was fortunate to have been hosted by an Australian family when he was a Colombo Scholar at the University of Western Australia,’ she says.
‘We still maintain a relationship with his Australian host family. They came to my wedding in Kuala Lumpur and we went to their children's weddings in Perth, Australia. It’s a relationship that now spans three generations!’
Fara was also conscious that having an alumni buddy could bring peace of mind for a student’s parents.
‘As a parent, I can imagine the relief I can provide to the other family, knowing their child is in safe hands on the other side of the world,’ she says.
Airport lifts and local food
Once she'd connected with Alyssa, Fara went out of her way to help make Alyssa's move to Kuala Lumpur smooth.
‘On Alyssa’s first day in Malaysia, we helped with logistics. We picked her up from the airport, took her for lunch with my family and helped her settle into her new university dorm. We also taught her about local foods, showed her where the nearest shops were and took her to buy essentials, like groceries,’ Fara says.
Fara also introduced Alyssa to her two teenage daughters, who quickly found they had a lot in common.
‘My daughter and Alyssa are both athletic and they’re both dancers. This gave them a lot to talk about, comparing experiences in their fields from two different countries.’
A network of cross-cultural support
Alyssa is similarly positive about her experience through the Alumni Buddy program. Knowing she had someone she could call on in Kuala Lumpur assured her she'd made the right choice to study overseas.
‘Having a buddy in my host country made me feel more confident moving to Malaysia for my semester exchange. Fara made me feel very welcome, helping me settle in and get the basic goods I needed for my residence. When I needed country-specific knowledge, her knowledge was invaluable.’
During her time studying in Malaysia, Alyssa developed close friendships with Fara and her friends. Being invited to spend Christmas with her alumni buddy was a special highlight.
‘I felt privileged to get to know Fara's family, as well as other La Trobe alumni in Malaysia, and attend events with them. We spent Christmas day with Fara and her friend, fellow alumna Rosita, who kindly shared her family and festive traditions with me,’ she says.
By bringing together La Trobe alumni and current students, the Alumni Buddy program demonstrates the warmth and connectivity of La Trobe’s global alumni network. Spread across more than 100 countries and over 50 years’ strong, it’s one of the most valuable communities you can be a part of.
Want to help a La Trobe student settle in like a local? Become part of our Alumni Buddy Program, by signing up as an International Alumni Ambassador today.