International and DLLL students share culture in ‘buddy’ project

Buddies Fernanda Cieri and Katerina Tetzloff

Travelling to a new country to attend school can be an equally exciting and daunting experience. The Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (DLLL) in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies has launched a new program to ensure the York experience is rewarding for international students by connecting them with Canadian students.

The Wor(l)d Cultures Buddy Project (WCBP) is a peer-to-peer project that fosters student community and cultural engagement by pairing international students with DLLL students who are interested in their country of origin and culture.

Fernanda Cieri and Katerina Tetzloff paired up for Italian studies as part of the new Wor(l)d Cultures Buddy Project
Fernanda Cieri and Katerina Tetzloff paired up for Italian studies as part of the new Wor(l)d Cultures Buddy Project

“The Wor(l)d Cultures Buddy Project is an example of experiential education in action, and one our department is happy to offer to students not only of DLLL but also for international students across the University,” said Professor Maria Figueredo, one of the organizers of the WCBP. Figueredo notes that more than 50 international students and an equal number of DLLL students registered in the pilot cohort.

According to Katerina Tetzloff, a second-year linguistics student who participated in the fall project, the WCBP offers a unique learning experience. “For me, language is nothing without culture,” she says. “The way in which things are expressed in any particular language is a reflection of the corresponding culture and national identity. In language classrooms I think that this aspect of language is lost, so [the WCBP] is great for that. You get to share cultures along with languages.”

Studying Italian and Spanish, Tetzloff was buddied with an international student from Italy, Fernanda Cieri, and has been practicing her language skills. “It has been great overall! I got to speak Italian for a few hours a week and really felt the language coming back to me,” she says. “My buddy is a native Italian speaker, so the practice was authentic. In addition to that, she is studying Spanish at York, so I was able to help her with her Spanish speaking and homework.”

Dan Fridmar and Jessica Marino paired up for German studies
Dan Fridmar and Jessica Marino paired up for German studies

Students in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies come from more than 100 countries, with rich life experiences and knowledge of their home culture and literature. By providing an opportunity for international and Canadian students to connect, the WCBP enriches the lives of international students through new friendships and a support system, lessening culture shock and improving their student experience. For DLLL students, the experience to learn about a culture, perfect their language skills and make a new friend is equally rewarding.

“Internationalization is key in today’s world,” explains Jessica Paola Marino, a fourth-year German studies and Spanish student who took part in the project. “As an alternative to going abroad, students can immerse themselves in a different culture and language thanks to the WCBP. It also helps international students become accustomed to our culture and to York. What better way to experience York than in your own language and sharing your unique culture.”

The first WCBP cohort included internationals students who represented a diverse range of countries: India, Italy, Japan, Colombia, China (Mandarin), Germany and Korea. This semester, the project will expand the countries represented to include other languages, such as Portuguese, Arabic, Cantonese, Russian and Swahili. The organizers also hope to engage international students from other countries who may be interested.

When asked what she would tell students contemplating joining the WCBP, Tetzloff says: “I would tell other students to join the WCBP because it is very beneficial for language skills, and you get to learn another culture while sharing your own. It is an enriching experience, and you build a strong friendship with your buddy.”

For more details and to register for the upcoming information session Tuesday, Jan. 14, students can go to The Wor(l)d Cultures Buddy Project website.