What is the Buddy program?

Our very strength incites challenge. Because we work together.

The Buddy Program

The Buddy Program is one of ESN’s biggest and most ambitious projects. Its goal is to foster friendships and form close bonds between students, and to introduce incoming students to their new home here in Wageningen. It is an engaging way to introduce students to each other and to transform Wageningen into a fun, socially thriving environment. Over the years, the program has grown in both size and popularity and has proven itself to be worth joining.


The Buddy Program works just like a family. Students join family groups of 10 to 15 other students, known as Buddy Kids, who are supported by 2 to 3 more experienced students known as the Buddy Mentors. Groups then complete challenges and participate in different activities and events that could be open for everyone or specifically designed for the Buddy Families, each carrying points. The group with the most points at the end of the semester wins the Battle of the Buddy Families and the the grand prize.

The Realm of Cards

This year, the Buddy Program has been revamped and evolved. Starting from September, ESN Wageningen is proud to introduce The Realm of Cards. Compete against other families by completing different challenges and by taking part in activities designed after the four card suites. From the Diamonds that require intelligence and knowledge, to the Spades that focus on physical strength, cach suite represents a different theme and each number a different difficulty.

Will you manage to secure more points than other groups?
The choice is yours!

Each month, Buddy Families will receive their own custom email designed after this year’s card theme. These emails contain vital information such as upcoming activities, photos and standings of the Buddy Families. Participants in our activities will also have the chance to be features in exclusive promotional material on our socials, so make sure to tune in! Finally, Buddy Mentors can receive their free ESNcards as well as special discounts to Buddy-related events.


The challenges are announced at the start of the program and remain static until the end of the semester. They are divided into the four suites, clubs, spades, diamonds and hearts, which carry a different amount of points and each have a different theme:

  • ♣ Clubs: 10 points
  • ♠ Spades: 20 points
  • ♢ Diamonds: 30 points
  • ♡ Hearts: 50 points
The points amount towards the Battle of the Buddy Families. While most challenges can be completed multiple times, some can be only completed once and others require a minimum number of Buddy members from each family.
The ultimate challenge is the hardest yet most rewarding. For a grand total of 250 points, Buddy Families can guess each board member’s Face Card. Unanymous agreement is required; for if the guess is incorrect, a total 300 points will be deducated from the family, irregardless of their point count.

Join the Buddy Program!

Activity Posters

Buddy Experiences

Learn more about the experiences of Klaudia and Carlien!

The experience of Klaudia Gawronska, Buddy Kid

Why did you sign up to become a Buddy Kid?
I signed up to become a buddy kid because I was in need of social contact. All of the new international friends I made were a part of ESN and its buddy families, so I decided to give it a shot as well.



What were your expectations of the Buddy Program, and did they come true?
I hoped to be able to participate in some activities or to just meet some people within the family. That all came true and was better than expected until February, when the curfew was implemented. From then on, it was rather quiet and only now we are coming back to meeting up. Fortunately, by the time the curfew was implemented, I had already made some friends on my own.



How were the first weeks with your Buddy Family?
The first weeks were a bit different for me than for others, because I was added much later. Therefore, my buddy family already knew each other. That turned out to be no problem and we still had lots of fun. We participated in the laser game evening that was something very new to me (and totally not in my comfort zone!). We had some tea together, met up for dinner, pumpkin soup etc. It was totally lovely! 



What is the funniest thing that happened within your Buddy Family?
As we did not manage to meet up that often due to COVID-19, there were not that many funny things that happened and which come to mind. However, I remember when we made plans to make soup at one of the girls’ houses. She was not home by the time all of us had gathered to make the soup. She found us in her living room when she came back from jogging, completely baffled. Apparently, she had the hours completely mixed!

The experience of Klaudia Gawronska, Buddy Kid

What does being a Buddy Mentor mean to you?
Being a buddy mentor means to me meeting new (international) people and making new friends and doing fun activities with each other like celebrating sinterklaas, or mountain biking. And sometimes answering questions about how things are organized in the Netherlands. 


What did you feel your role as a Buddy Mentor was?
For me it was just being one of a new group of friends. I also tried to organize some activities like Sinterklaas and dinners with each other to make sure that it was a success. This worked really great until the curfew started; and our options of meeting up with each other were limited because of that. 


How were the first weeks with your Buddy Family?
Our buddy family started after the AID. We continued as a group within ESN. This meant that we already knew each other. A few people were added afterwards to the group by ESN. 


Which activities did you do with your Buddy Family?
It was kind of hard to meet up, especially the last few months with the curfew in place. But activities we managed to do, are: having a barbeque at my parent’s place, go for a small bike trip, chilling at each other’s places and having dinner with each other, celebrating sinterklaas, having an autumn saturday when we ate pumpkin soup and went for a walk to see the autumn leaves etc. And we also met/meet up in small groups within the family to have dinner or mountain bike with just two or three people from the family. So, in a nutshell ESN is a great way to make new friends and do activities that friends do with each other.


How often did you meet with your Buddy Family?
It really depends on the size of the group. Most of the time we met with just three or four people from the entire group, because of the limitations on group size. We did this every two/three weeks, maybe just for dinner. For a few of the bigger activities we were with one or two more, but those were really limited because of the rules


Q: Is it possible to be a Buddy Mentor while I have re-exams in the Summer/Winter AID?

A: Yes. Your fellow Buddy Mentor(s) can take over from you for that day. Make sure to check if this is possible before subscribing.


Q: Is being a Buddy Mentor hard?

A: No, being a Buddy Mentor is not hard. It means being friendly, interested in meeting new people and willing to help them find their way in Wageningen.


Q: Does being a Buddy Mentor take a lot of time?

A: No. The first weeks are usually the most busy since this is the time you get to know your group, or you join the AID. In the beginning, Buddy Families usually meet 1-2 times a week. This can include having lunch at university or going to an ESN kitchen. At the start of the semester and further on, ESN also organizes activities specially for the Buddy Families, to make sure that you get to know each other. As time passes Buddy Families usually meet once a week to once every two weeks. The Buddy Program is very flexible and it is up to you and your family to decide how often you meet. As a buddy mentor you do not have to attend every activity. We make sure that each group has 2-3 mentors. This means that you can also meet the students separately.


Q: Can I combine it with my student association, sports, studying etc?

A: Yes. Our buddy mentors are often also part of student associations such as Franciscus, Ceres, SSR-W and more, as well as being active in their study and sport associations.


Q: Can I be a Buddy Mentor if I am a bachelor student?

A: Yes. A buddy family will consist of Bachelor, Master and Erasmus exchange students. Erasmus students can be in their Bachelor or Master. As a Bachelor student you can lead a group of new students even if they are older than you. Past buddy mentors have also been bachelor students without having problems.


Q: Can I be a Buddy Mentor when I am an international student?

A: Yes. Buddy mentors can be both Dutch or international students. If you know Wageningen already and want to welcome new students to Wageningen you can become a buddy mentor. Note that you should be available for the upcoming half a year/semester if you want to become a buddy mentor.


Q: Do I need to always take the lead in my group?

A: The buddy mentors have to take initiative in the first weeks of the Buddy Program. When you know each other better, the buddy kids will take initiative as well to organize activities. However, this may depend on your buddy family. Some buddy families will need more encouragement and a more proactive buddy mentors. Over time the buddy family often becomes a friend group with both the buddy mentors and the buddy kids organizing dinners or activities.