Brief Account of My Study Buddy Experience

The thrilled, the confused, and the grateful

Kit Ostrihon
8 min readSep 7, 2020


Last term a stranger wrote me an email saying she is my APC Study Buddy, and despite knowing of the program, I could not tell how does it apply to me at first. I found myself inspecting the email for any clues of who is writing to me and if they represent my school or if they are — as they say, a student like me.

Looking closely at the name of the email sender, I could tell we might be coming from a similar part of Europe, but have I assumed that correctly?

I turn to my LinkedIn network to understand who is writing to me. I ended up amazed to see that the person who is to navigate me has studied in both in the Slovak Republic and the UK before embracing the Ozzie lifestyle in Sydney. I was impressed that someone with so much experience and a true global citizen would be assigned to share their knowledge with me. And even more that she offers to have a chat or assist me with questions regarding my studies any time! When does it ever happen to you that someone’s expertise would be at your disposal like that?

I received my email in May 2020, but I still remember feeling grateful for a person coming from a similar cultural background who has been so successful in their studies and living abroad connecting with me. It meant that I could relate to a role model and learn from their journey. Even if you tend to learn anything from anyone and love getting inspired by people’s experiences, it feels extra special if you can see yourself in a tiny piece of someone’s path in life or career. It means that whatever dreams you might have, there is someone similar to you that have already achieved them.

Going to school in the city, I have always focused on my studies and making the most of the curriculum, and just a handful of times met a person who would unveil their cultural identity as Czech/Slovak. I suspect a lot of people who had enjoyed short summers most of their lives, chose to study in the Manly and Bondi instead of any of the two city campuses. I have found the greyness of the city oddly comforting and the campuses perfectly convenient for being close to any tech meetups and events that were happening at the time.

Transitioning to the online learning, I got to interact with all my schoolmates not just from the city campus or Sydney, but all over Australia and overseas. Suddenly, we were discussing activities and topics not as a small class, but together as an international group on a big scale! I have to say I have learnt so much from my schoolmates’ experiences and expertise. I truly admired everyone that decided to participate in the class, because even just showing your face in front of a group of strangers on Monday morning takes guts!

Enjoying the first time of the Virtual Learning Experience a.k.a the VLE got me thinking that there are still people who might find themselves struggling to adjust to the learning style. Hearing from everyone about their experiences related to the curriculum made me realise that I wish more people shared their opinions and expertise. Is it possible that some students might still need assistance to make that happen? With each week passing, I thought about the importance of having a mentor more and more.

The advert for being a study buddy implied a simple equation: the more study buddies, the more students supported. Did I have any idea what it involves to be a study buddy for a whole term? No! Was I scared to apply? Yes! Did I see how gentle guidance and encouragement from my teachers improves my life and likely the lives of all students attending their class? Certainly! I was determined to become a supportive force and help my peers too. Eventually, I picked up just enough courage to apply.

How does being an APC Study Buddy work, you might wonder? I can tell you the account of how it felt for me.

The Thrilled

The excitement came first. About eighty study buddies for the term gathered in a video meeting to learn how and what can we do to help others. Everyone seemed to be so passionate about supporting others and keen to start! People wanted to make the most of the training and learn how to help people isolated at home to socialise with other schoolmates virtually, and how to connect to create networks. Our nationality and campus location came into the mix to make everyone feel included. Our students should see that they can relate to us, and we would likely understand more of their perspectives. We were to contact them at least three times during the term and help them with any questions they might have about their learning experience. To support each other in answering these, the group chat for study buddies began.

Sharing ideas for emails, suggestions for social events of APC and asking and answering questions as a group of buddies turned out to be a great initiative. When you share an issue or an inquiry, everyone learns from it. If two heads are better than one, tens of them are even better! Study buddies embraced the chat to the maximum — we got to collaborate and solve issues without contacting APC Student Services for answers. Not only is it surprisingly empowering to come up with an idea together, but also seems to build a great community.

Learning #1:

There are no limits to your initiative.

The Confused

Our first task was to introduce ourselves to the students and explain how we can assist them. Everyone loved writing the first email and awaited the replies with anticipation and excitement. Some of us created chat groups specifically just for the students in our care to be always available for any questions or to chat.

Then came the first — shall we say, blow! Why is no-one replying? Our study buddy chat was overflowing with disappointment. “Did I do something wrong?” and “I have zero replies.” was the common theme of our online discussions for a couple of days which felt like weeks.

There is a Czech idiom which translates as having misfortune sticking to your heels. And that is almost as some of the study buddies described their tough luck when revealing their deep secret: as students, they received an email from a study buddy of their own, and they have never replied! They were explaining the zero reciprocity as a sign of a learning circle closing as it showed them how it felt not to receive any replies.

Gradually, we collaborated and came up with a bunch of ideas of how to make emails more elaborate and fun, sharing social events and tips with the students. Over time and with more rapport with the students, it seemed that more questions and replies had been coming into our inboxes.

Learning to appreciate each email and each reply from other study buddies has been a transformative experience. If I had any regrets at the time, it was not asking my study buddy in the preceding term more about them! How much could have I learn, if I engaged with them more, invite them for coffee, or ask them about their life and career journey? If I could travel back in time, I would certainly give myself a pep talk!

The learning from this part of the study buddy experience could become a selfish statement: Always reply to your study buddy. It is not a robot writing you emails. But looking back — rather than that, I want to give my future self better advice on meeting people.

Learning #2:

Use every opportunity to learn from each other.

And The Grateful

Do you like cold calling? Do you like picking up your phone to answer if you are not sure who the person is, or what they want? Now imagine, you are the person calling all the students in your care to ask them how they are doing — and suddenly, here comes the second challenge of being a study buddy!

You might have already noticed that I love to write — be it emails, articles, or anything that gives me time to think of my answer. Was calling with a bunch of almost-strangers my cup of tea? Would I call it fun? Not so much!

Partly to calm my nerves that I will be contacting someone unexpectedly, part to push myself to call — eventually, I hatched a little plan playing to my strengths. Why not “warn” the students of the call first in an email? If I were them, I would want to know who and why will be contacting me! Could I use my love of writing and sharing tips and ideas to sugar-coat the initial unpleasantness of a cold call?

I decided to mention the purpose of my call in two separate emails, including the information in the end — after I gave the students some tips about their studies and upcoming social events. I also made sure to address any worries by saying the call should not take long and that we are allowed to switch to Czech or Slovak if we needed. I put my phone number in a header so that they would know, who I am. Could this prove to work?

The strategy of lowering the anxiety of a cold call on both sides seemed to pay off! I have been happy to learn that most of the students did know who was calling them. Some even said that they were expecting the call because they read it in the email! How lucky was I? I have been extremely humbled each time someone said they have been reading my emails and appreciated being in touch. No, that is not accurate — I was over the moon! I was genuinely happy for each student who picked up their phone to let me know they are doing alright. Calling with the students has been lots of fun, and after the first fifteen-minute call, I realised that the feeling of anxiety had been a sensation of excitement all along.

I am ever so grateful for being part of a community of the APC study buddy experience, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to step out of their comfort zone, embrace the unknown, and support others. In the true spirit of the study buddy program and also my passion for volunteering in tech, if you are a student or alumni of APC, or come from a group underrepresented in tech, do not hesitate to connect with me! I would love to see where your journey takes you.

Let me leave you with the following learning and the last thought of this article.

Learning #3:

By experiencing the unknown, you are reducing the number of things you fear.

A person looking out of the window with a laptop and a cat, seeing some balloons on the midnight sky.
Illustration by the author.



Kit Ostrihon

I create things, and I support diversity and inclusion in IT. Opinions are my own. All my articles are free of charge to read.