First Friends Program

The First Friends Program is designed to help international, domestic, and undocumented graduate degree students integrate into the UC Davis campus community. The students who run the program, “the first frienders”, act as a mentor and most importantly as a friend to help you, as a mentee, excel in your transition process to UC Davis.

This new program is designed to assist international, domestic, professional and undocumented graduate students with integration into the UC Davis campus and U.S. academic culture by connecting entering first-year graduate students with a continuing graduate student mentor.

New Incoming Students:

As a participant in the First Friends Program, you will receive support from current graduate students from a wide range of intellectual and cultural backgrounds will help you access academic resources on campus. You will also maintain a close connection with them throughout your first year of study by participating in a variety of social events on campus. This program is open to all graduate and professional students at UC Davis.

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!

Becoming a Mentor:

Mentor applications open January 2018

This program offers continuing graduate students a valuable opportunity to gain intercultural leadership skills and to understand their role in a global community. Graduate students from diverse cultural backgrounds are encouraged to apply! There are no citizenship or residency requirements.

During the program, mentors serve as:

  • A Pre-arrival and Post-arrival connection with new international and domestic graduate students
  • A cultural interpreter to ease students from diverse backgrounds into social and academic life in Davis
  • A resource to explain and introduce new students to UC Davis services and resources

Qualifications to become a Mentor:

  • Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • Completion of one full university-level academic year (3 quarters) by July 2017
  • Ability to serve a minimum of a three-quarter commitment (spring & fall 2017, and winter 2018)
  • Dedication to service
  • Experience working, living or studying in a culture that is different from your own OR a genuine willingness to learn about different cultures and people


You must be able to commit to the following:

  1. Make a one year commitment: spring 2017 to the end of winter 2018.
  2. Attend one session of the GAC Fall Training, taking place early in the fall 2017 Quarter.
  3. Maintain regular contact with your mentees (contact will begin at the end of August 2017). 
  4. Engage in building a strong mentor community by attending the mentor community building and planning events taking place throughout the year, including:
    • Quarterly planning meetings (3 h each)
    • Team building activities (two in late spring qtr.)
  5. Assist with the International Graduate Student Orientation on September 7th - 8th and the Week of Orientation and Welcome (WOW Week), September 11th - 15th, 2017.
  6. Attend mentor group meetings in the spring, fall, and winter Quarters.
  7. Assist in key stages of the mentee recruitment process, as well as the next mentor recruitment process (e. g. reading and evaluating mentor and mentee applications, and attending interviews for future candidates).

Upon successful completion of the program qualified mentors will receive a small stipend, $400 at the end of the 2018 winter quarter.

For any questions, please contact Gabriel Castillo (

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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. ​