WESTWOOD—Since the stay-at-home order was issued on March 19, Bridges Los Angeles offers USC and UCLA students as well as all the other members an online platform to talk to each other and creates various interactive activities for them to join by holding weekly Zoom meetings. Bridges International, which is a non-profit organization, aims to serve international students in the United States.
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, students in Los Angeles are still not allowed to go to schools. In order to keep providing them opportunities to chat with each other in English and accompany students to get through the chaotic and hard times, Bridges Los Angeles has moved their weekly gatherings online and continually served students. “Bridges offers multiple Zoom calls a week to international students as a way to connect, experience community, and have a safe place for deep cultural and spiritual conversations,” said Maurissa Harkins, a staff in Bridges.
“Students and staff communicate how they are doing and usually answer a fun question about themselves as a big group. After an online game, the students choose between the cultural and spiritual discussion group,” said Harkins. She said students will be placed into breakout rooms for 30 minutes for discussion. After the discussion time, everyone will return to the main session to share what they’ve learned from others until the end of the meetings. “I love communicating with students who I cannot see face-to-face and having the ability to have students in different countries on the same call!” said Harkins.
“I love meeting students from many different countries in Bridges! I greatly enjoy our conversations where I can learn about their cultures, families, beliefs, and perspectives on life. I always learn new things through these conversations. Bridges is a community where everyone feels welcome and can consistently meet friends!” said Cheri Lawrence, a staff in Bridges.
“I have enjoyed continuing to meet with Bridges International in LA through Zoom in this time of quarantine. In fact, joining the Bridges zoom call is one of the things I look forward to each week! I love that even now this community is a place I can both continue meeting new people and see people who know me and care about me. I am so thankful for this community!” said Elisa Engstrom, a member of Bridges.
“It is really a wonderful opportunity to join Bridges online every Monday. During quarantine, it is not easy for people to meet physically in person, but online Zoom meetings gather people together again remotely, with people all over America or even throughout the whole world,” said Copper Zhang, a member of Bridges. “As an international student, I don’t have so many friends here who are in the same time zones as me. It seems that all my friends back in China are busy. Bridges International really offers me a precious moment to talk to people and listen to others’ stories,” Zhang said she has made many friends at Bridges and Bridges is like a warm sun in the cloudy pandemic for her.
“I feel grateful that Bridges doesn’t cancel the weekly meeting. It is a difficult time for everyone, so I think having an opportunity to talk with others online helps us relieve stress. I enjoyed my time playing games and sharing my life with them. It’s nice to see everyone and their smiles,” said Mingyi Sun, a member of Bridges.
“By engaging students online in Jackbox games such as Guesspionage, spending time in hearing how each student has been, and engaging students in cultural or special discussions via Zoom breakout rooms, Bridges International is making the best use of Zoom during this pandemic,” said Arshine Kingsley, the student representative of Bridges International at USC. He mentioned that Bridges helps students from different cultures form meaningful friendships.
“The unique nature of a Bridges gathering is how multi-national the makeup is,” said Bridges in a statement. The goal of Bridges is to help international students fit into the environment that they might not be familiar with and make friends with Americans and people from around the world. “We want every culture to feel welcome.”