Leaving your friends on Main Campus in Philadelphia behind to explore an entirely new country can be daunting— especially when pandemic safety measures make it harder than ever to meet new people.
At the beginning of the semester, Ewha Womans University announced that classes would be online for the first month of the semester following an uptick in COVID cases this summer. I wholeheartedly support this move, but I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed thinking about how much harder it would be to make friends on campus. Even our orientation was moved online.
Luckily, I had planned ahead during the Ewha application process.
When filling out the external application after being accepted into the exchange program by Temple, I noticed an option to opt into the Ewha Peace Buddies program. Without much thought, I went ahead and checked the box— after all, I was excited for any excuse to get involved on campus.
The Peace Buddies program was designed to pair exchange students with a full-time Korean Ewha student to help with anything from culture shock to campus life. In Korea, it can be hard to mingle with the Korean students as an exchange student, so having a Peace Buddy makes bridging that gap so much easier.
Just a few days after arriving in Korea, I received my Peace Buddy assignment and was contacted by our group leader. She made a group chat for us to get to know each other a bit better before starting classes, which made counting down the days of our two-week mandatory quarantine much more bearable. I was already feeling way less anxious about starting my life on Ewha’s campus.
Finally, during the first week of classes, we were able to meet with our Peace Buddy groups. We made plans to meet on Friday afternoon for a campus tour and a cafe date, which would give us time to chat and get to know each other a bit better.
The weather was sweltering, but after already getting lost on campus a handful of times I was more than happy to oblige to a campus tour courtesy of our Peace Buddy. She showed us the facilities, gave us tips for where to find the best in-between-class nap spots (yes, those exist at Ewha), and introduced us to the famous dogs that greet students in the student center convenience store.
The fun continued at one of our Peace Buddy’s favorite cafes just past the main gates of campus. We sipped coffee, commiserated about the current global political climate, and ranted about how Korea’s standardized English exam was almost impossible even for a native English speaker to decipher. Before we knew it, we had gone an hour past our designated meeting time— a sign of a great time.
After just one meeting, I already felt more comfortable having a familiar face on campus. While I still have many adventures with my Peace Buddies group to come, I wholeheartedly recommend this program for any incoming exchange students who want a head start making friends at Ewha.