Friday, July 19, 2013

Pittsburgh's Growing International Diversity Provides Pleasant Surprise to GlobalPittsburgh Intern

By Alex Bailor

“Global City” is not a term that many people would use to describe Pittsburgh, the former steel town USA.  Yet I am finding more and more that this term accurately describes the city and everything within it, despite what many people think may think.

GlobalPittsburgh Intern Alex Bailor
As an intern at GlobalPittsburgh, an organization which promotes Pittsburgh to the world, creates global ties with international leaders, thinkers, and influencers, and engages in citizen diplomacy for the United States, I am increasingly learning that Pittsburgh is truly global.

Through the many activities of GlobalPittsburgh -- the educational programming for international visitors that we create, the homestays for international students and professionals that we arrange, and the monthly events we hold for all Pittsburgh residents -- I have discovered that our city holds a wealth of globally concerned businesses, organizations, and citizens.  I am reminded of this on a daily basis through my daily activities and tasks at the office, but I get to see the actual representation of all of this at our events we sponsor, most specifically at our GlobalPittsburgh First Thursdays networking event.

As an intern, I have the unique opportunity to experience a little bit of everything at GlobalPittsburgh.  While it would be great to experience everything in full that GlobalPittsburgh does, because the organization holds multiple events every month it is impossible to see and do everything.  But I was told by everyone in the office that if I was to attend one GlobalPittsburgh event, it should be First Thursdays. I kept hearing “Just go!  I promise you won’t be disappointed,” or “You will have a great time.  You will be surprised who you meet.”  I have since attended two First Thursdays events and was pleasantly surprised by both.  My co-workers could not have been more correct in their sentiments.

At both events I met people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from all over the US and the world. People from California, Washington state, New Jersey, D.C., and other states.  People from Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, Mexico, and other countries.  People who are academics, students, business professionals, fashion designers, state-champion chess players, small-business owners, stay-at-home parents, and so many more.  Everyone has a different story to tell and has something different to offer.

Whether it is career advice, life advice, a suggestion for a new restaurant to try, a new neighborhood to explore, or a new book to read, there is something to take away from everyone in attendance.  Further, all of this information isn’t difficult to come by as it is extremely easy to talk to people at First Thursdays.  And while it may be a networking event, it is so informal that it feels as though you are at a friendly coffee shop talking with good friends.  The event has no dress code and no requirements, except that you have a good time and make some new friends.  Both times I have attended, I felt as though I had spent an evening talking with some of the most interesting and friendly people who live and work in Pittsburgh.  There is such an amalgam of people, viewpoints, and nationalities at these events, it is almost overwhelming.  To be honest, I never thought that Pittsburgh could hold such a diversity of people.

As a non-native Pittsburgher, I must admit that my old impressions of Pittsburgh were from the heyday of the industrial city.  I had images of steel mills, black skies, coal smoke -- all of the things that made Pittsburgh an industrial powerhouse.  And as a lover of history, I knew that Pittsburgh was a magnet for immigrants in the 20th Century, which resulted in ethnic neighborhoods that held strong ties to the home countries.  But I also knew that many of these neighborhoods had become less ethnic as the city lost population and that the diverse ethnic populations had long since assimilated.

My impressions, I have since learned after living here for three years, were wrong.  Attending the First Thursdays event was further confirmation that my perceptions were incorrect and reinforced in my mind that this city is truly global.

I will definitely continue to attend these events in the future and I plan to bring along friends.  As a rising senior at Pitt, I know that events such as these will be invaluable in my future, both professionally and personally.  It is always important to meet new people because you never know what they have to offer to you.  In some cases, it may be a job or a professional reference.  In other cases, these people may teach you something about the world and about yourself.

When you meet people who may or may not be like you, it broadens your beliefs and challenges you to think about issues in a way that you may not have before.  It is citizen diplomacy at its finest.  And what better way to meet new people than at an informal networking event?  Pittsburgh is truly a global- city and there is so much that it has to offer to its residents and visitors.  We only have to have the courage to get out there and take advantage of it.

The First Thursdays networking event is a great way to take advantage of everything this global- city has to offer and I sincerely hope that you will attend.  I know I will in the future, and I certainly hope to see you there.

Alex Bailor will be a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. He is originally from Lebanon, PA.

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