Auburn Family

International Buddy Program Connects Cultures and Forms Friendships

The term 'international relations' has a unique meaning on Auburn’s campus. In a small college town, global connections take shape as brunch, car rides to Kroger, and even a game of giant Jenga. Auburn University's International Buddy Program (IBP) bridges continents, countries, and cultures by pairing local and international students together to form meaningful friendships. Through the bonds formed, the program hopes to help international students become integrated into campus life and the local Auburn community. (Photo / IBP)

The International Buddy Program is a student-led organization. Founders Katherine Williams and Beth Anne Dawson, previous administrative associates in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, founded the program because they realized there was a need to connect international and American students. "What many of the ESL international students wanted most was to make American friends while they were here. Unfortunately, many of them left without ever really connecting with American students. To overcome this, IBP formed so that American and international students would have the chance to meet and become friends," said Williams.

Since it began in 2013, the program has grown to include 300 members with international students from 21 different countries. "The world is becoming globalized, and Auburn is too. The international student presence on Auburn’s campus is growing rapidly, and IBP provides the opportunity for local students to help new international students navigate their new home," said Williams.

Students have created meaningful bonds that wouldn't exist without IBP's help. "We have become good friends rather than just being "international buddies." We hang out a lot and genuinely enjoy each other's company," said local Auburn student Jorge Marquez. (Photo / IBP)

In addition to forming friendships, the program allows international and local Auburn students to learn about each other’s cultures. “It’s a unique and valuable experience for international students as they transition to a new culture and environment. It’s also a wonderful way for anyone to form connections with someone completely outside their normal friend group,” said President of IBP Anna Parsons.

Many friendships have exposed students to different cultures in unexpected  and fun ways. "We celebrated my birthday together, and he showed me how to do breaking dance, which was my favorite birthday gift," said international student Lang Zhou.

IBP accepts applications at the beginning of each semester, but since international students arrive throughout the school year, the program accepts and pairs buddies on a year-round rolling basis. More than 80 international students are on the waiting list to be paired, and the program is always in need of more male hosts.

IBP provides a special opportunity for students to form meaningful friendships that defy cultural differences. "I’m passionate about IBP because I love meeting people from around the world and learning about their cultures. I think it is important to understand the way that you are used to living is not the only or even necessarily the best way, and it is important to understand other people’s customs," said Parsons. "Plus, I love all the amazing friends that I have made through IBP and I love watching other people become friends too."

Those interested in getting involved with IBP can apply online by filling out a host student application or an international student application. Applications can be emailed to or turned in to the Student Center mailbox located in Room 3130, mailbox #53.

To learn more, visit the IBP page on Auburn's website or visit IBP located in the Auburn Global office in James E. Foy Hall, Room 332.

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