Hot food on wheels: International Week warms up Pitt


Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

A student pays for an order at the PGH Halal truck outside the William Pitt Union for Wednesday afternoon’s “International Food Trucks” event. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer)

By Shahum Ajmal, Contributing Editor

Colorful trucks with names like Wok of Life and Steel City Chimneys lined up outside the William Pitt Union Wednesday, attracting dozens of students with the smell of tacos, fresh fish and fried chicken, despite the chilling wind.

“International Food Trucks” was back by popular demand. The recurring event was one day out of the International Week — a celebration of international education and exchange, running from Oct. 13 to Oct. 20 this year and hosted by Pitt’s University Center of International Studies.

The week is a mutual effort between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. The two come to together to host International Week, which is then celebrated by students from universities and colleges across the nation.

The start of “International Food Trucks” at Pitt began in a planning meeting three years ago in an effort to translate food as a way to share culture while also giving small businesses within the Pittsburgh community a platform.

Shannon O’Reilly, immigration specialist and International Week committee member, and Genevieve Cook, director of Office of International Services and co-chair of the International Week committee, explained how UCIS’ effort in hosting International Week is just one of the many ways Pitt aims to prepare students to be globally informed citizens.

“Most people love food trucks, so the idea of celebrating various cultures through their cuisines at a food-truck event sounded fun,” O’Reilly said. “Food is a great way to share culture and a nice way to involve small businesses in our community.”

The event showcased the following food trucks — a Mexican truck called La Palapas, PGH Halal, which featured food to be eaten in accordance with Islamic traditions and laws, Asian food truck Wok of Life and Steel City Chimneys, a truck that offered Hungarian treats. The trucks accepted payment through only cash or credit card, which all went directly to the food trucks.

Sarah Connor | Contributing Editor
Food trucks park outside the William Pitt Union for Wednesday afternoon’s “International Food Trucks” event. (Photo by Sarah Connor | Contributing Editor)

“The variety and quality of the food trucks really get students, faculty, staff and community members exited,” O’Reilly said. “The novelty of having something different so close to campus is probably an attraction.”

UCIS didn’t always host a celebration of international exchange over the course of a week. Instead, more than 15 years ago, an event titled the “International Fair on the Lawn” was hosted by Pitt’s Study Abroad Office and the Office of International Services, running for one day.

“International Fair on the Lawn” promoted multiculturalism, and eventually Pitt’s Center for International Studies decided to bring in more programs and activities, turning the single-day event into a full week celebration called International Week.

As a whole, International Week utilizes many different individuals from the entire committee who have been working year after year to bring different creative and engaging education events to Pitt.

The event is led by UCIS but utilizes partnerships with Student Affairs, English Language Institute, Academic Units and others, according to O’Reilly.

OIS student worker Eric Higgins believes the event does a good job bringing all the different cultures that make up both the Pitt community and the greater Pittsburgh area.

“I think it’s important to showcase all of the different cultures — not only in the Pittsburgh area — but the ones that make up our Pitt community and our American community. It’s so important to just showcase them,” the senior linguistics major said.

The trucks themselves are not meant to be educational, but instead to open doors to other education events that are happening year-round on campus, according to O’Reilly.

This week not only brings attention to what students should enjoy about other cultures, but to show them what opportunities are available here on campus that lay out how one can become more aware and educated.

“There are study-abroad programs, area and global studies certificate and courses available, over 30 different languages taught at Pitt, internationally focused living learning communities, student organizations — and the University is home to over 3,000 international students from over 100 different countries,” O’Reilly said.

First-year global marketing major Erica Faulk sat with her friend, undecided first-year Hannah Heisler, as they devoured their tacos from the La Palapas food truck. Faulk stated that she and Heisler had heard about the event through the Study Abroad Office and then ran into it walking back from class.

“I think it’s a great way to show diversity, and I mean, the food is great, too,” Faulk said.

Her friend was also excited about the diversity of the food, stating it was a nice change from her usual routine.

“I usually just get a sandwich from Cathedral Cafe — and it’s not like their food is bad or anything — but this is such a nice change. It’s a great way to add some flavor and spice into my day,” Heisler said.