Students get real about homecoming week

By Siddhi Shockey, Staff Writer

Homecoming is a staple of fall culture, featuring chilly football games full of fans warmed by school spirit. For seniors, this marks a final hoorah, and for first-year students, the first opportunity to show off their Pitt pride.

Traditionally, homecoming has emphasized the return of alumni back to campus to visit their dear old alma mater. But while homecoming at the university level is more focused on the alumni, undergraduates still have their interests in the week.

This year’s homecoming weekend starts Friday with the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ opening shootout for the 2018-19 season, Courtside at the Cathedral. After the game is the annual Homecoming Laser and Fireworks show, followed by Pitt Program Council’s casino night. After a night of lights, music and games, the Pitt football team will face off with Syracuse at the annual homecoming football game Saturday at 12:20 p.m.

Christina Hayduchock, a senior rehabilitation science major, is looking forward to attending the game and tailgating with her friends. In the past, Hayduchock has enjoyed to seeing the student body united in school spirit. In addition to this weekend’s events, Hayduchock also participated in Paint the Town, an event hosted by the Student Alumni Association Monday where students paint the windows of Oakland businesses with Pitt colors.

“I had a mini cameo in the video from Paint the Town this week. My ear pops up at 0:20 while I’m painting inside The O!” Hayduchock said.

This was Hayduchock’s first time participating in Paint the Town, but she’s glad to have gotten to know more of Pitt’s student body through her experience. Some of her favorite homecoming memories are about engaging with other Pitt students through school spirit.

“My favorite memory from Homecoming was the first homecoming game,” said Hayduchock. “By this time I knew all the lyrics to ‘Sweet Caroline’ and it was the moment I really felt like I was a part of the Pitt family.”

Traditions such as singing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” are staples of Pitt football games, designed to engage the crowd and create a sense of unity. These and other traditions — such as drumming on the backs of seats to hype up the players and the crowd — pull people into the spirit of the game.

Eleanna Melcher, a senior studying neuroscience, psychology and German, is considering attending her first football game this year. Unlike Hayduchock, Melcher isn’t planning on attending many homecoming events this year.

“The reason I’m not planning on doing anything Homecoming-related is that I’ve never been super into school-spirit kind of things — but don’t get me wrong, I love Pitt,” Melcher said.

Even though Melcher hasn’t gone to many school-spirit events during her time at Pitt, she somewhat regrets not engaging more with her Pitt community. She sees Homecoming as a great opportunity to show school spirit, even for undergraduates who may not necessarily be “coming home.”

“[Undergraduates] get the chance to express their school spirit and see what an incredible impact Pitt has made on so many others who choose to return,” Melcher said.

Even though they might not feel nostalgic yet like Melcher, younger students, like sophomore computer science major Connor Oswald, are still looking forward to homecoming events. Last year, Oswald and his friends attended the Homecoming Laser and Fireworks Show after hearing the sounds of music all the way from Towers.

“The Laser Show was one of the coolest events I’ve attended at Pitt,” Oswald said. “I really feel like it created a fun and unique atmosphere that really made everyone feel excited to be a Pitt student.”

Despite running late, Oswald recalls having a lot of fun at the show and feeling excited for Homecoming. For Oswald, it kicked off a spirited weekend of football and Pitt pride. Even though he doesn’t consider himself very involved with the Pitt community, he can still always be spotted sporting a plush Panther head hat at the football games.

“Homecoming gives people something to be excited about,” Oswald said. “It definitely inspires pride in our school and it can be a lot of fun.”

Whether students are having their first Pitt homecoming experience or returning back to campus, they seem to agree it holds a special place at this University. For undergraduates, from first-years to seniors, this can be an exciting weekend to engage with the Pitt community.

“If there wasn’t a point, we wouldn’t invite undergraduates,” Hayduchock said.