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Seniors welcome freshers online

Buddy Project bridges off-campus distances, sparks friendships

Sanchit Pradhan, Tanishaa Jain & Uzair Firdausi

When Kabir (name changed on request) took admission in Jindal Global University (JGU) this year, he was acutely self-conscious.

Reason? His age — Kabir is 26 years old in a class comprising mostly 18- or 19-year-olds. Worse: with classes moving online because of the pandemic, he could neither meet his teachers nor his fellow students in person.

But the Buddy Project held on Aug. 28 helped him get out of his shell. Now, he eagerly looks forward to the day when on-campus classes resume, and he can meet his new buddies beyond the virtual world.

“The Buddy Project is a great bridge between school and college,” said Madhur Arora, vice-president of the Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) student council.

It is a three-day orientation programme organised by senior students — second year and upwards — for their new juniors. This time, though, the pandemic cast a shadow on the project.

With students insisting on this tradition of JGU, buddies and volunteers were assigned, they were divided into groups, and led by seven chairpersons.

Arora, one of the chairpersons, said: “Freshers are unfamiliar with the environment on campus. The Buddy Project is a safe space, where they feel accepted.”

True enough: at the end of the workshop on gender, sex and sexuality, one student said they now felt comfortable enough to acknowledge their non-cisgender identity.

Some of the more popular events were “Talent Night”, “Treasure Hunt”, and “Themed Hangouts”.

While the first two are Buddy Project staples, the last one was a new idea. Chatrooms were created based on themes. Freshers could get together and talk about these.

These themes ranged from TV shows like Friends and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to a music-themed room called Riff-off. In another one called Dilli Dilwalon Ki, freshers from south Indian states were introduced to Delhi and north Indian culture.

“The idea of the chat rooms felt like a gamble,” said Shubham Gupta, one of the chairs and JGLS student council president, “because it depended heavily on self-motivated enthusiasm and camaraderie among the freshers.”

But the result delighted him. “The freshers were comfortable, confident, and enthusiastic.”

One fresher, Anirudha K Viswanathan from Bengaluru, corroborated this.

“People were a little awkward on the first day, the cameras were switched off,” he said. “But soon, they started switching on their cameras. I did too.”

He was sceptical about making friends like this, but now he is a part of several WhatsApp and Instagram groups with his new buddies.

“The groups are so active that if you put the phone down for 20 minutes, some 200 new text messages pop up,” he said.