A matching pair: Connecting the community of international and domestic students

How do you help international students overcome language barriers and feel part of a local culture, whilst also helping domestic students expand cultural horizons and get ready for a globalised working environment? What really makes a difference when you’re trying to build cultural inclusiveness into a student community?

The Pair-Up Program is a multicultural friendship program that encourages international and domestic student cultural exchange at UMass Lowell. Founded in 2015, the program hopes to bridge the cultural gap between international and domestic students through mutual interests and understanding.

You can watch the full recording of Patrick, Student Experience Specialist, discussing how the Pair-Up Program has helped bring the student community of UMass Lowell together, and his insights into what it takes for a program of this nature to succeed here. Keep reading for a summary of the ideas covered…

Building a diverse and networked student community

Who can join?

The Pair-Up Program is open to incoming international students, current domestic students and study abroad students attending UMass Lowell and the UMass Lowell Global Student Success Program (GSSP). In order for the program to be as successful as possible, it is important for international students to be paired with domestic students who have a good understanding of UMass Lowell and the Lowell community.

How does the program work?

The groups in the Pair-Up Program consist of one domestic student and two or three international students. Once the students have been matched, the new international students are paired up with the current domestic student while they are still in their home countries preparing to arrive in the U.S. in early August. This way the buddies can start communicating before the semester begins and get to know each other before the first meeting.

Why do people join?

The most common reason why students join the program is to make friends and learn about new cultures. The program is also promoted as a resume builder, mainly to domestic students, as it can showcase their ability to work with people from other cultures and build skills as a global citizen. When students move on from university, this is something that can set them aside. The program also gives students early admissions to certain programs on campus such as Leadership in Motion, the Office of Multicultural Affairs Ambassador Program, and the Diversity Peer Educator Program.

What does the program aim to achieve?

The mission of the program is to help international students overcome language barriers and feel part of the local culture. It also helps domestic students gain insight into different cultures, values and world-views and help them prepare for a globalised work environment. UMass Lowell and Lowell in general are very diverse with a strong history of multiculturalism. This program further encourages cultural inclusiveness in the UMass Lowell community.

What are students required to do as part of the program?
  • Students and their buddies are required to attend a monthly meeting. These meetings give students another opportunity to meet new people and also provides an opportunity for the Pair-Up Program team to reinforce the safe and respectful manner in which students are expected to behave in the program.
  • Students are required to attend one on-campus event each semester with their buddies. Events such as a Thanksgiving dinner are organised by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
  • Students are also required to attend one off-campus event each month such as getting a coffee or watching a movie.
  • The ambassadors in the program meet weekly where they discuss what they think is going well, what can be improved on, and what they would like to see happen.

Developing a successful and sustainable program

The initial success of the Pair-Up Program can be attributed to the extensive research which went into the program before it was implemented. During this process, the Pair-Up Program team learnt that the continued success of the program really relied on working closely with students and taking the student voice seriously. The program has been able to achieve this especially through the ambassadors and student surveys. By listening to students’ requests and advice in developing the program, cultural inclusiveness in the student community at UMass Lowell has been able to continually strengthen.

To continue the conversation, or for more information please contact patrick.lagan@globaluml.com