My best buddy: Building International Relationships

My best buddy: Building International Relationships
Michael Stucki (left) from Emmenbrücke, Lucerne, has been at Iveel Altansukh’s side all the way, as a Buddy to our international student from Mongolia: with his local tips, his social network, or table tennis.

Whether showing international students around the campus, broadening their own horizons or simply hanging around together: at the School of Computer Science and Information Technology, locally-based Buddies accompany international, in-bound students during their first year in Rotkreuz. It’s in this role that Michael Stucki has accompanied the Mongolian student Iveel Altansukh. Read on to find out how this is a win-win situation for them both.  

Deutsche Version

By Gabriela Bonin

Over 8000 kilometres separates the home countries of these two students. If Iveel wanted to walk from his home in Mongolia to Michael’s flat in Emmenbrücke, it would take him 66 days and nights. Iveel Altansukh, 21, comes from the Mongolian capital city of Ulaanbaatar a city with 1.5 million inhabitants. Michael Stucki, 25, lives in a suburb of Lucerne with approximately 30’000 inhabitants.

Both Michael and Iveel are students at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, School of Computer Science and Information Technology in Rotkreuz, Canton Zug. Iveel is currently an undergraduate in his second semester, studying International IT Management. Michael is reaching the end of his degree, in his sixth semester of Digital Ideation.

Half way round the globe: our Mongolian student Iveel Altansukh is over 8’000 kms away from his home town Ulaanbaatart.

No matter how far away their home towns are, these two students connected in the space of a few seconds, via social media. In fact, they had already connected before Iveel had even set foot in Switzerland.

Luckily: because when Iveel set off for Switzerland in September 2021, nothing went as planned. There were flight delays and he only landed at the airport in Zurich-Kloten a full day later than scheduled. After more than 20 hours of delays, he finally landed, exhausted, and headed out into the arrivals hall. How would be get to the train station? How to get a train ticket? How long would it take to finally get to his new accommodation?

Iveel is from Ulaanbaatar, where almost half of all Mongolian’s reside (Source: Wikipedia, by Zazaa Mongolia).

A friendly welcome is «really nice»

Michael knew what Iveel might be going through. At the airport as Iveel’s Buddy, Michael was ready and waiting. He was there for Iveel. «I know what it’s like not to be able to understand the simplest of signs, to be totally exhausted from travel and just want to go to bed» says Michael. He remembers his feelings very well when he went as an exchange student to South Korea – but there was no Buddy waiting for him.

This is why he applied to become a locally-based Buddy, to support in-coming international students. Michael is also very interested in other cultures and enjoys making friendships and connecting with people from other countries. He is now in the meantime also Buddy to a second international student, from Japan.

Iveel’s reaction to seeing Michael at the airport was that it was «really nice». It made him feel really happy. For someone like Iveel, setting off on a new chapter of life in a new country, having someone at your side can help you to be more relaxed.

Finding the right match can help to ensure success

Thanks to Michael showing him around, Iveel was able to find his way round campus quite quickly. He also found out quite quickly where to hang out in the evenings. Michael took Iveel along to a local table tennis club where he regularly plays and now Iveel has found new friends too.

In the meantime, Iveel has been living in Switzerland since September 2021, in student residence in Emmenbrücke, not very far from Michael’s flat. The two meet every few weeks. Iveel and Michael have many common interests: both love cooking and food, both play basketball and both enjoy going out for a beer in the evening with friends. «Nina matched us up well», says Michael.

He’s referring to Nina Blättler, who initiated the Buddy Programme and who is also the deputy head of the International IT Management Bachelor degree programme at the School of Computer Science and Information Technology. Students who are interested in the Buddy programme, both locally and internationally, are asked to state their interests and hobbies in advance, which then helps her to pair students up.

New international friendships are made

Successfully: the Buddy programme at the School of Computer Science and Information Technology was set up in 2021. From a total of nine original pairs of students that were set up by Nina Blättler, eight were successful from the outset. There was one pair that did not match so well, so a new Buddy was found and now this is working well too.

Nina Blättler is really happy that «her» Buddies get on: «Some of them go hiking together regularly, others join info events here on campus together or do fitness together at the local fitness centre.» This is how new international friendships are made.

Caption: Mongolia is a vast country. This can be seen by the sheer size of the largest central square in the capital city Ulaanbaatar (Source: Wikipedia, by Zazaa Mongolia).

The Buddy Programme is growing

Following on from its promising start in September 2021, Nina Blättler has plans to further develop and grow the Buddy Programme at the School of Computer Science and Information Technology.  In the not so distant future, in-coming international students studying on the new IT, Digitalization & Sustainability Master’s degree programme, will also be able to take advantage of the Buddy Programme.

Iveel is a fan of the Buddy Programme and the service-oriented spirit of the School of Computer Science and Information Technology: «We are kept up to date and well-informed about everything here», he says. «In Mongolia, on the other hand, even local university students can sometimes feel lost».

So, haven’t there been any misunderstandings between Iveel and his Buddy? They do come from different cultures and different worlds after all. «We’re all the same as people, though», says Michael, «which is why as Buddies, we’ve really got on well».

The trans-Mongolian railway passes straight through Iveel’s home town Ulaanbaatar. However, Mongolia does not have such a well-developed rail network as Switzerland (Source: Wikipedia, Bogomolov.PL)

There are significant differences, though, between the organisation, way of life and culture of each other’s countries: Michael has been very impressed by the photos of Mongolia which Iveel has shared with him: «Mongolia is very green and unlike Switzerland is extremely vast», says Michael. Iveel, on the other hand, is very impressed by the well-developed public transport network of Switzerland.

The two students chuckle: there is one small but surprising difference between them, and that’s how they play table tennis. «Here in Switzerland, you can play table tennis outdoors. In Mongolia, you only play indoors», says Iveel, «I could never have imagined playing table tennis outside in the open.»

Questions to the public: What do you think about the Buddy Programme? Would you like to be or have a Buddy? Please feel free to comment below.

Published on: 26 April, 2022

Reading tip: Find out the back story here: How Michael Stucki experienced his semester abroad in South Korea during the Corona pandemic.

Nina Blättler

Do you have any questions about the Buddy Programme? Feel free to contact Nina Blättler, who set up the Buddy Programme at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – School of Computer Science and Information Technology. She is also the deputy head of the IT-Management Bachelor degree programme as well as of the brand new . Phone: +41 41 757 68 11, email:

Study Internationally:

  • The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – School of Computer Science and Information Technology offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes in Intelligence & Machine Learning, Digital Ideation, Computer Science, Information & Cyber Security, International IT Management and Business IT.
  • At Master’s level students can study the in the fields of Engineering, Business IT, IT / Digitalization & Sustainability, Music and Digital Creation, Didactics, Media and IT and Digital Ideation.

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1 Kommentare

Indiana Jones

Good to read that the "Buddy Programme" has finally reached HSLU's School of Computer Science! Let's hope that faculty members pick up at least a bit of Michael's enthusiasm. This is how "Internationalization" is done (and not only talked/written about)!


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