Thousands of new students swing through the revolving doors of the Cathedral of Learning every year, and this year those students came from 61 different countries.
On Thursday, international students gathered on the Cathedral lawn for the first Chancellor’s Reception for International Students, which the Office of Special Events hosted. The event welcomed 900 undergraduate and graduate international students who enrolled at Pitt this year, as well as 60 administrative and faculty members from departments including history, English and political science.
The event was held to engage international students in the Pitt community. This year, Pitt welcomed the greatest number of international students. In the fall 2015 semester, there were 822 international students enrolled at Pitt, according to the 2016 FactBook.
Although Pitt dubbed 2016-2017 the Year of Diversity, the Chancellor’s office had not made the connection between the reception and this year’s theme when planning the inaugural event.
“We were just looking for a great, nice event to welcome the international students,” Gallagher said. “But what a great year to start.”
Upon arrival, students were asked to sign their name and country on a welcoming banner. Professional photographers stood ready to take pictures of the students in front of a white backdrop, which read, “Welcome International Students 2016.”
As students snacked on cheese, fruit and desserts, they listened to live music and mingled with peers they met during International Student orientation week, which started Aug. 18.
Thirty minutes after the event started, Chancellor Gallagher greeted the students with “Hello” in several different languages, including Spanish, French and Hindi.
He congratulated the students on having the courage to come study in another country and encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunities that such a big change brings, such as joining clubs and organizations that would benefit from different world views.
“The secret to success when you’re dealing with all the change is to get involved,” Gallagher said in his speech.
Amy Buckle, a sophomore English literature major who’s attending Pitt as part of an exchange program at her university in England, said she chose Pitt from a long list of options because she wanted a “city experience.”
“It’s nice they have an event for international students because, especially as a sophomore, it’s nerve wracking to start at a new school,” Buckle said.
In order to calm their nerves, faculty members, including Meri T. Long, spoke to the students about their experiences with the University this far in the semester.
“The event will help make the transition easier, and it will let them know they have a supportive faculty to welcome them,” Long, a lecturer and academic adviser for the department of political science, said.
Jason Morril, a staff member at the Office of Special Events, said Pitt plans to host similar events that will encourage every student –– domestic and international –– to interact more with staff members. The events are still in the planning stages.
Gallagher said the University might plan an event to bring international and domestic students together. He said the goal for this year is to bring everyone in the University together.
“In the end, we become a family, we become connected by the university,” Gallagher said. “In the end, we leave with a common goal: to make the world a better place.”