The Office of International Students and Scholars collaborated with Lehigh After Dark on Sept. 24 to put on a night of Speed Friending to connect on-campus and remote students via Zoom.
The event served as an opportunity for first-years and returning students to make new friends, engage in conversations and learn about clubs and organizations.
Some of the organizations in attendance included the Middle Eastern Student Association, the South Asian Students Association, International Voices, the Lehigh Immigration Coalition and the European Student Union.
Students were placed into rotating break-out groups for the evening and were provided discussion topics to stimulate thought.
Vicki Jagdeo, ‘21, is starting her second year as vice president on Global Union’s executive board. Global Union was one of many student-run clubs that helped sponsor the event.
Jagdeo said the Global Union is an “umbrella club,” meaning it has more than 50 member clubs below it.
“What we do to support (Office of International Affairs) is give them funding, but we also allow for collaboration between clubs, and we try to promote events that have to do with showcasing diversity on campus,” Jagdeo said.
Jagdeo said the Global Union organizes campus events throughout the year to unite the student body.
Speed Friending is a recognizable name for incoming students. Christian Koehlerschmidt, ‘24, virtually attended Camp Hawk last weekend and found Speed Friending to be one of his favorite parts.
“I think getting involved and making connections before we have the opportunity to go on campus is really helpful because you wouldn’t feel as left out,” Koehlerschmidt said. “If I were to come back next semester, I wouldn’t feel like I missed much of anything.”
Some students who attended remotely joined the Zoom call from across the world in alternate time zones. For Jasleen Sandhu, ‘23, an executive board member of the South Asian Students Association, the call began at 8:30 a.m. in Hong Kong.
Sandhu said the Speed Friending event showed much more engagement and small group interactions. She had previously helped plan trivia nights with Lehigh After Dark as well as the Big Fat Desi Wedding event in Lamberton Hall last spring.
“We plan to work with the Global Union more because it has a better outreach to freshmen and students in general,” Sandhu said. “We can also give prizes in a better way.”
Sandhu said it’s been hard to get a break from her school work because of the 12-hour time difference but was happy to see some of her friends on the Zoom call.
Malik Wahidy, ‘23, a fellow executive board member of the South Asian Students Association, found his experience to be fulfilling. He said he was thankful for the chance to hear from people in diverse organizations about what they are planning.
“A lot of people are usually within a bubble of clubs that interest them, so they aren’t exposed to a lot of other organizations,” Wahidy said.
Wahidy is the South Asian Students Association’s director of finance and has helped with event planning and engaging first-year students.
Wahidy identifies as Middle Eastern and is also part of the Middle Eastern Student Union. He said he feels the South Asian culture shares many parallels with his own and has learned more about other cultures from his interactions.
Wahidy said he’s built this network of cultural friends that come from different places around the world. The members of Global Union clubs highly encourage everyone to seek out new opportunities to learn as much as possible about what is offered at Lehigh.
Jagdeo said first-years should have an open mind when attending these events. .
“I think that events like this are super helpful to get involved or meet people because they’re intended for freshmen and people that have not formed those connections on campus to meet one another,” Jagdeo said. “A lot of clubs’ goals are to keep members engaged, whether that be old or new members.”
Wahidy said everyone is trying to make the most out of everything and would rather have people talk to each other than watch Netflix or something similar.
“It won’t hurt you if you lose 15 to 20 minutes finding out what an organization is about,” Wahidy said. “We’re trying to promote people feeling connected and help them to feel like they belong.”