Project Pengyou welcomes new and returning students during its first in-person event since the pandemic
Members said they were excited to see high engagement among over games of Jenga and cultural exchange
With board and card games laid out, students gathered Tuesday evening in the Mary Graydon Center for a Speed Dating and Game Night held by Project Pengyou’s American University chapter.
The Project welcomed back returning students as well as a large group of new incoming members, mostly freshmen, for their first in-person meeting since 2019 – due to the coronavirus pandemic. Project Pengyou is a global project with a focus on bridging international students, especially Chinese students, with students in the U.S. There are more than 80 chapters launched nationwide, with more than 8,000 network members.
Many of the freshmen who joined said they were excited to be able to participate in activities in person, as they connected with other students. Paulina Tes, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, said she was glad to meet people outside her dorm.
Bailey Park, a freshman in the School of International Service, said she was excited to meet other students across different countries and ages through Pengyou.
The students in attendance were not the only ones who were excited about the gathering. The Executive Board members of Project Pengyou said they were happy with the attendance and participation they saw Tuesday evening.
“I hope all of the students [that gathered] today had fun and were able to meet people,” said Yuri Takubo, a sophomore and a member of Project Penyou’s leadership committee. “I know how hard it is to find and build a community, I hope that we could help people find one today.”
Ben Stah, a junior and the treasurer of Project Pengyou, said planning for the Date and Game Night was “absolutely incredible” for the members. According to Stah, the Project kept a very low profile in its activity during the virtual school year in the pandemic but the number of freshmen who joined the project has the members of the project excited.
Lizzie Wade, a senior and the club’s president, said the club will focus on more recurring events this semester. According to Wade, the Project is unique because of its high number of international student participation.
“Our job is to connect students, especially international students, together and help them find a space they feel comfortable with,” Wade said.
The Project was founded in 2009 after former President Barack Obama announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative aimed to increase the diversity and numbers of American students in China.
Project Pengyou aims to build “a global community of youth to transform U.S.-China relations,” according to their mission statement. Project Pengyou is a part of the Golden Bridges Foundation and is a U.S.-registered tax-exempt organization.
“We’re very open-minded and our space is non-intimidating,” Wade said. “Especially for international students that may be feeling anxiety from such a big change.”
The Project is planning a screening of Saving Face in collaboration with AU Pride, the Asian American Student Union and ZARON. Another event the Project will host is a Halloween Trick-or-Treating event down Embassy Row scheduled for Oct. 29.