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First Friends Program for Graduate and Professional Students

About the First Friends Program

The First Friends Program (FFP) is designed to help international, domestic, and undocumented graduate degree students integrate into the UC Davis campus community. The students who run the program—our “first frienders”—act as a mentor and friend to help new students excel in their transition to UC Davis. As a participant in the First Friends Program, each mentee receives support from current graduate students representing a wide range of intellectual and cultural backgrounds. In addition to participating in a variety of social events on campus, mentees will receive help from their mentors to access academic, social, and wellness resources on campus. This program is open to all graduate and professional students at UC Davis.

This program is offered through co-sponsorship between Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) and Graduate Studies.

What benefits does the First Friends Program have for you?

Being part of the program will help you:

  •  Enjoy peer support from current graduate students
  •  Gain academic support
  •  Gain knowledge about Davis
  •  Receive tips for academic success and support
  •  Form study and writing groups
  •  Have opportunities for intercultural awareness and exchange
  •  Receive tips for time management in your graduate student program
  •  Improve self-confidence and self-esteem
  •  Gain critical life skills for self-care as you move through your program
  •  And more importantly, make connections and friendships at UC Davis!

How to Apply

Graduate students from diverse cultural backgrounds are encouraged to apply! There are no citizenship or residency requirements.

Applicants must check the Statement of Commitment section of the application form to be eligible for the program.

This includes:

  • Maintaining enrollment in at least 12 units per quarter/semester
  • Attending both the International and campus-wide components of Graduate Student Orientation (GSO), offered the week prior to the start of fall quarter.
  • Attending the events and workshops organized by the program (minimum 2 per quarter)
  • Maintaining weekly or bi-weekly contact with your mentor
  • Providing feedback to the First Friends Program coordinators

Have questions? Please contact the Graduate Student Researcher for SISS ( or the Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean and Chancellor (

Applications for the upcoming cohort open in June. Chosen applicants will be matched with continuing students who have been specially selected and trained to work as mentors, and contact between mentors and mentees will start electronically in August. The two groups will meet in person during the first day of International Graduate Student Orientation (IGSO) at a special FFP kickoff event.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the First Friends Program (FFP)?

The goals of this program are to:

  • Introduce new graduate students to current UC Davis students for a mutual exchange of culture and friendship.
  •  Assist graduate and professional students, especially those from diverse backgrounds or other countries, in adjusting to life at UC Davis and the United States as smoothly as possible.
  •  Enhance graduate students’ satisfaction with their academic and social experience.
  • Provide an excellent opportunity for students to increase their educational experience, gain cultural insight, and make new friends with people from all over the world.

How do you match mentors and mentees?

Both mentor and mentee will fill out an application to be in the program. The applications will have questions that help determine the background, interests, preferences and other important information that will help us decide the best mentor-mentee match.

How do I know who my mentor-mentee will be?

You will be sent information about the student to whom you are matched via e-mail. The program coordinators will send an introductory email to both mentor and mentee to connect them.

How will I be in contact with my mentor?

The mentor is responsible for contacting the mentee and encouraging her/him to be involved in the program. The mentee is also responsible for staying in contact with their mentor and staying engaged with the program.

Are there any suggestions for activities that I can do with my mentor-mentee?

Here are some suggested activities:

  • Academic socialization such as exploring resources in the library, discussing writing styles and practices, attending a lecture together, etc.
  • Helping new students with registration and the orientation process
  • Looking around campus together
  • Shopping at the grocery store
  • Attending an athletic event at UC Davis
  • Going to a local restaurant together
  • Attending a family dinner/holiday meal
  • Attending International House events
  • Many other activities friends tend to do.

How often shall I meet with my mentor/mentee?

Both the mentor and mentee will discuss where, when and how often you want to meet and your level of involvement with one another. We strongly suggest that you meet at least three times in the first month and at least twice a month after that. Mentors are encouraged to invite mentees to the First Friends social events happening during the quarter.

How long will the mentor-mentee relationship last?

The commitment is for one academic year or one quarter (for short-term exchange students).  Nevertheless, your friendship could be life-long!

What if I don't get along with my mentor-mentee?

We will maintain regular contact with mentors and mentees in order to foster growth of the mentoring relationship and determine whether everyone's needs are being met. If problems in the mentor-mentee relationship cannot be resolved, we will help rematch you upon the mutual agreement of both parties. ​