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Virtual Games, Real Connections

Pitt Global Ties has been living up to its name by creating ties between Pitt students around the world.

In collaboration with Pitt Global Hub, the group recently hosted an April game night connecting domestic and international students at Pitt. To stay COVID-19 safe, the organizations provided the U.S. students with a $15 GrubHub credit for dinner while engaging virtually with their peers.

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Women’s voices in hip hop, French and German conversation clubs and more: See more upcoming events sponsored by the Global Hub.

The night began casually with a chance for participants to unwind from the business of their days. As the start time neared, more and more faces popped up on the Zoom screen—some already with food, others still patiently waiting for delivery. Initial bonding occurred between bites as everyone discussed what they were eating and where they got it from. Many Forbes Avenue favorites, such as McDonald’s and Forbes Gyro, made an appearance, and thanks to the remote nature of the event, people also displayed their meals from restaurants in Chicago, New York and other places across the U.S. Smiles abounded and laughter filled the virtual room as a simple question about favorite foods became a lively discussion about the origins of shawarma.

Karen Lue, manager of Pitt Global Hub, said this was all according to plan.

“It’s nice to have the communal element” provided by the dinners, she said, since it gives participants a topic to talk about. Recognizing the difficulties this year has placed on the social lives of international students, Lue wanted to plan a fun event for students “to interact with people and just relax,” particularly between students near and far.

Breakout rooms where participants played games such as charades and Pictionary deliberately featured a mixture of both international and domestic students. Nicole Huang, a third-year computer science major and international student, said she enjoyed playing games in the breakout rooms and was glad that “this event gave [her] an opportunity to have conversations with different Pitt students.” She added, “Due to COVID, I haven’t gotten a chance to meet new people.”

As the inaugural manager of the Global Hub, which launched in 2019, Lue has now been in the position remotely longer than in person. Even after the pandemic, she envisions hybrid events like these becoming the new norm, especially for an internationally oriented organization such as hers. An upshot of the past year is that the hub has demonstrated the ability of hosting speakers and participants from all around the globe without the expenses of travel and lodging.

Lue said she is excited to continue hosting events, whatever form they make take, and stressed that as always, “Anyone is welcome to attend.”

This story was written by Justin P. Jones, a student reporter for Pittwire.