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Aaron Perfetti and Marlous Janssen have something in common: The Netherlands.
Perfetti, a senior in Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee, spent six months studying in the Netherlands. Janssen, a junior in Communication Studies, from Tilburg in the Netherlands, is currently at UT as an exchange student.
Through the Buddy Program offered by the Programs Abroad, part of UT's Center for International Education, the two have become roommates and friends. The Buddy Program pairs UT students who have just returned from studying abroad with new international exchange students. Pairs can communicate via e-mail before the international student gets to the United States and meet up once the student arrives.
For Perfetti and Janssen, the Buddy Program has been a perfect match. Perfetti said she and Janssen have so much in common they are like sisters. "It was love at first sight," she said, giggling. Janssen agrees: "Aaron should be nominated for the best Buddy award."
Both girls think that the key part of studying in a foreign country is assimilating into the culture.
"Accept it, don't fight it, then you'll enjoy it," said Perfetti, who enjoyed her study abroad experience so much that she now says, "the hardest part of going to the Netherlands was leaving the Netherlands."
Janssen said studying abroad makes you aware of the differences between cultures. "You have to learn that you have to adapt" to the new country.
For instance, Janssen said, there are many differences between her college in the Netherlands and UT. "The UT campus is way bigger, you cannot even compare it," she said.
Both women agree that getting around in a foreign country, on a foreign campus, can be challenging. And sometimes you need a buddy to lend a hand.
"You need someone to go grocery shopping with," Perfetti said, explaining that the experience of shopping for new and different foods is not something to be tackled alone.
Janssen said she misses the independence she felt in the Netherlands at being able to ride her bicycle a short distance to the store, and having Perfetti available to drive her to the store is a big help.
Janssen said she also feels comfortable calling on her buddy when she needs advice. "I feel like we really lucked out on the buddy thing," Perfetti said. Janssen concurs: "Yes, I think we are lucky. I really love her. She's so understanding."