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Tutor, mentor, buddy – who helps international students study abroad?

A student’s communication with a professor can often be limited due to his busy schedule. However,

in foreign universities, various educational assistance services for foreign students are widespread. Different people can work with you here: tutors, buddies, mentors, student assistants. It’s just that understanding who is responsible for what is sometimes not easy.

Let’s figure out who are all these people who do not lecture you, but help you study abroad.

who helps international students study abroad


A tutor at a university is a person who helps to build an individual academic trajectory. What does it mean? You can discuss your academic goals with your tutor. For example, you are studying international relations, and in the future you would like to work at the UN. A tutor will help you choose the programs that will later be required for admission to the master’s program in the areas in which the UN works: international development, gender studies, migration, inequality.

Most often, tutors are employees of the department where you study and may be as busy as the professor. However, their tasks include meeting with students and discussing their academic performance. In all foreign universities, the rules for communicating with tutors may be different. For example, here are the communication rules for students at the University of Reading and Bristol.

When should you meet with a tutor?

For academic advice, you should come to a tutor four times for semester, but you can limit yourself to four visits per year:

  1. At the beginning of your studies, in order to tune in to work and build your educational trajectory, choosing courses that will lead to your goal;
  2. Six weeks after the first meeting – before the first test papers;
  3. After receiving the first grades and feedback from the professors;
  4. Before choosing a course in the new semester;
  5. At the end of the semester or academic year, to reflect and think about what you want to focus on in the future

What to talk about with a tutor?

A tutor will help you start studying abroad as comfortably as possible. Together with it, you can set goals for the entire study, year or semester. He will tell you how the university and your faculty study is going, advise on activities worth visiting and even places in the city where you should go. In addition, you can discuss with your tutor:

  • how to write an essay and compile a bibliography
  • how to prepare for exams, public presentations, group work and defense
  • how to understand the teacher’s assessment
  • how to receive feedback and overcome obstacles on the way to your academic goal

Also with a tutor, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses and even formulate career plans.

Who can be a tutor?

Different universities differ. Sometimes it can be a young teacher, sometimes an undergraduate or a hired employee. Also, a specialty may not necessarily be called a tutor, it happens that the university has student assistants who perform similar functions.

Who can be a tutor?


Mentoring is more about professional development than academic achievement, and will be relevant for undergraduates or masters.

Unlike a tutor, mentors engage with students voluntarily, while tutoring is a profession. Mentors do not teach, but rather share their own experience, tell what internships they took, how they got into this or that company, what they learned from this experience. It officially represents many universities all over the world and also deals with language courses.

The most common mentoring practice is when successful university graduates become mentors. They went through the same program as you, they know all the professors by name, and can tell you not only about their studies on the course, but also about how their careers have developed. In the “mentor-graduate” format, many foreign universities work on the Graduway or People Grove platforms.

Mentors can also be senior students or already working people who are somehow connected with the university, such as at Westminister University … Mentoring can most often be within the framework of a mentoring program and have its own time frame: from a month to a semester or an academic year.

Mentors can provide a lot of practical benefits: help to write a resume, advise on how to develop leadership qualities or soft skills such as time management or public speaking. With your mentor, you can practice interviewing.

Finding a good mentor takes a lot of time and resources, but once you find such a person, it will become much easier for you not only to navigate the professional world abroad, but also simply feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. It so happens that such a formal relationship grows into long-term friendship and support.


Buddy is a local student who helps the international student to integrate during their first days in the country and university. A relationship with a buddy is the most soulful and informal type of relationship of all. The buddy system was invented in 2013 by students of the Erasmus + program. Today it is used in many universities around the world.

In different universities, you can get to know Buddy in different ways: somewhere you can make friends while still in your homeland through the university’s online platform, and somewhere you will meet on campus as part of a special event from the department for work with foreign students .

Buddy’s task is to introduce the student to the campus, the dormitory and its main services. Buddy will also help you to settle in a new city and country through specially organized cultural trips, parties or trips to nature by the university. Buddy can become your first friend on campus, and it is quite possible that in a year you yourself will become a buddy for a new international student.

There are many opportunities for development in foreign universities. I advise you to check in advance what is offered at your university and contact the department for work with foreign students. Make the most of this experience!