More than Mentors
When Nancy Buist 88N and Christian Idiodi 05C met for the first time in 2004 as Emory Cares volunteers at the Atlanta Food Bank, they experienced what both describe as an instant connection.
“We hugged immediately,” Buist remembers.
Although they met by coincidence, they already had been matched up through the Association of Emory Alumni (AEA) mentoring program.
For more than a dozen years, Nancy and her husband, Bill Buist, have been mentoring international students, serving as their surrogate parents in the United States. Nancy, a nurse practitioner at Emory for nineteen years, and Bill, a commercial real estate broker with Colliers Spectrum Cauble, have been a source of support and comfort for five students, including Idiodi, who is from Nigeria.
Soon after they met on Emory Cares day, Buist took Idiodi and his girlfriend out to lunch, and their friendship continued to blossom. When Idiodi was selected as a Kenneth Cole Scholar, Buist attended the dinner and scholars’ presentation at the Carlos Museum. Another favorite memory is watching Idiodi cross the bridge at the Candlelight Crossover, when graduating seniors make the transition to alumni.
“[The mentoring relationship] was a wonderful experience right off the bat,” Idiodi says. “Nancy became like a second mom to me. It was an opportunity to immerse myself further in the culture and society as well as a source of support, and a place to get advice and talk about my career goals.”
When Idiodi graduated, the Buists hosted him and his parents for dinner at their home (pictured above).
“Of course you are always a little nervous, hosting an international family,” Buist says. “But his mother was a nurse, like me, so we had something in common. They treated us like his American parents. It was amazing how they transferred that trust, but I think these parents feel an automatic affection because we have been good to their children.”
More than ten years ago, the Buists connected with Julia Xu, an Emory graduate student, through the Atlanta Ministry with International Students. They, too, became very close, and the Buists hosted Xu’s family when they visited from China. Now a Harvard professor, Xu is “still our daughter,” Buist says.
“Bill and I never had children together, so these are our children,” Nancy says. “It’s an amazing love circle.”
For more information about the AEA mentoring program, visit www.alumni.emory.edu.—P.P.P.