International students came together to sing, eat snacks and socialize at Penn State Bridges International’s Karaoke Night at the HUB-Robeson Center Friday evening.
Mohak Shah, an international student from India, said he came to the event to help Penn State Bridges International, and to help other students like him “make new friends from around the world.”
“Meeting people from around the world is the best thing you can do,” Shah (sophomore-corporate innovation and entrepreneurship) said.
Although it was his first time attending a karaoke event, Shah said he was “excited.”
“I guess music is something which unites all of us,” he said. “I think karaoke is the best way to connect friends [and] socialize.”
As the undergraduate volunteer advisor for Bridges International, Tobin Simonetti shared a similar sentiment.
Simonetti described the organization as a “home away from home” for international students.
Although Bridges International is a Christian organization, it welcomes people from all faiths and backgrounds, and encouraged students to sing in their home languages.
“We wanted to create an event that was welcoming to all cultures [and] all people from different countries,” Simonetti said. “We know international students love academics, but we also know that they need time to just relax and connect with each other, to build friendships and meet Americans.”
At karaoke night, students sang a variety of songs, including tracks from artists such as Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Taylor Swift.
One student even sang a Japanese song, “Baka Mitai” from the video game “Yakuza 0.”
Simonetti described music as a “universal language” that allows people to connect and form relationships across cultural barriers.
“We wanted to create a space for people to come out and enjoy… getting to share culture with people from around the world here at Penn State,” he said.
Shah said adapting to a lot of the cultural differences in America was initially a struggle, but he eventually started to understand how things worked.
Through Bridges International, Shah said he’s met people from all across the world he never even knew he'd be friends with.
“We were doing community work, as well as socializing… I knew some people from Tajikistan,” he said. “And to be honest, when I was back home, I didn’t even know that country existed, and now I have a lot of friends from over there.”
Harshita Hingoraney, who is originally from India and grew up in Hong Kong, said that because she’s an introvert, meeting people in her large lecture classes was difficult.
“I’m mostly a person who likes to stay inside by myself, so I struggled to talk to new people,” Hingoraney (freshman-petroleum engineering) said. “I guess [Bridges] helps you to get out of your comfort zone and just talk to people you’ve never really known.”
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