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Buddy Abroad game helps students navigate travel and wellness

DePaul University creates interactive game for study abroad students

Person with blond hair and glasses smiles while holding a game piece and has a colorful board game in front of her with the name Buddy Abroad on the box
Game designer Jes Klass designed the Buddy Abroad game with students, faculty and staff, to prepare students to study abroad. (Photo by Jeff Carrion/DePaul University)
CHICAGO — Traveling to London and Wales on a study abroad trip last summer, DePaul University sophomore Emma Brown found it easier to remember essentials, like a phone charger and sunscreen, thanks to playing an interactive game with classmates: Buddy Abroad.

DePaul University will publish and sell the game to help study abroad students prepare for traveling and learning internationally, focusing on practical tips as well as maintaining health and wellness. DePaul's Instructional Game and Innovation Lab developed the game with input from student workers, study abroad trip participants and the university's study abroad office.

“Playing Buddy Abroad was really helpful in a way that having a lecturer wouldn’t have been because it felt like you were actually getting practice,” Brown said.

The development of Buddy Abroad comes as U.S. colleges and universities are reporting an increase in participation in study abroad programs from pandemic lows, according to the Institute of International Education. DePaul expects enrollment in study abroad programs to return to pre-pandemic levels with more than 1,00​0 students participating this year.

In addition to practical tips on packing, a goal of the game is for students to understand the importance of tracking their own wellness while abroad and checking in on their classmates. Jes Klass, who heads the DIGI Lab, is the game’s lead designer.

“Companionship and camaraderie are things that we know are most helpful for students in their journey through college in general, but especially when they’re going to be studying in a foreign country together,” said Klass, who teaches game design in the Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media. “Getting to know each other ahead of time is really, really important.”

In the game, each player has a suitcase and backpack where they need to pack seven required essentials, and as many optional items as they can. Each turn, players draw group and individual cards describing a scenario that impacts players’ wellness meter. 

Staff from DePaul’s Study Abroad Office assisted in coming up with real-life scenarios, such as losing an ATM card or getting homesick, that students should be prepared for. The goal is for everyone to end the trip with a wellness meter above zero.

Colorful board game
The Buddy Abroad game is available for use at DePaul and is also for purchase online for those outside the university. (Photo by Jeff Carrion/DePaul University)

The general version of the game is appropriate for high-school age travelers, but the game also has an optional expansion pack of serious scenarios for college students. “This 18 and up expansion adds a discussion-focused element into the normal gameplay,” Klass said. Topics include discrimination, loss, conflict, and other serious events that students may need to navigate.

DePaul students, faculty and staff will have access to the game to prepare for trips starting this upcoming spring. Group study abroad programs face these type of challenges in developing group dynamics and handling unexpected situations while traveling, said Scott Ozaroski, associate director of program management in DePaul’s Study Abroad Office.

“This new Buddy Abroad game will be a great way to incorporate a fun group learning activity before the group heads abroad that will give students practical experience about how to pack and work together as a group to prepare for any challenges that may present themselves,” he said.

Members of the DePaul community can contact Klass or the Study Abroad Office to access the game without charge. For those outside the university, the game is now available for purch​ase online.


Jes Klass

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