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Travel The World Virtually As Pitt’s Nationality Rooms Celebrate Traditions

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
The Cathedral of Learning in Oakland is home to the University of Pittsburgh's 31 Nationality Rooms.

The University of Pittsburgh’s 31 nationality rooms are decorated for their respective holidays and just a click away.

The classrooms located in Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning reflect the culture and design from different countries around the world, but they are closed due to the coronavirus. Now, staff has prepared dozens of videos with crafts, cooking and music to view online.

“We're trying very much to continue what has been always very important for us, which is engagement with our community, celebration of cultural heritage and tradition,” said Belkys Torres, executive director of Global Engagement at Pitt’s Center for International Studies. “We’re just doing it in a different kind of way this year.”

Student tours guides have curated 5-7 minute tours of each of the rooms and their features, and cultural committee members pre-recorded videos that highlight different celebrations and traditions.

“This program has been really interesting because it has allowed us to appreciate the ways in which audiences that we typically don't reach when we have our one day in person open house, are now enjoying the experience in a new way,” Torres said.

Scottish Nationality Room Secretary and Pitt employee Susan Borowski sings and strums “A Winter Set” for its virtual open house. She said she tried to stay true to what would have historically been performed during the Christmastime season, even though the Scots didn’t celebrate the holiday for about 300 years (its Parliament didn’t allow for “Yule vacations”).

“Robert Burns, one of their favorite poets, actually wrote a poem called "A Winter Night" and I put music to it,” Borowski said. She also sings tunes about whaling and farming, popular past careers of Scottish people.

The virtual offerings also include Carpatho Rusyn folk dancing, how to wear a Kimono, and the Welsh tradition of “hunting the wren.” More information is here.

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.