Most people associate the Gerald Manley Hopkins Building primarily with the Main Restaurant and Subway, but the real heart of the building is in its basement – where the Global Lounge is. Being an international student myself, the Global Lounge is a place I have been acquainted with since the day I stepped into Ireland, but for many UCD-students, I realise with a pang, this place is almost unheard of.
I decided to have a conversation with Sneha Vijayakumar, one of the Global Guides. If you haven’t heard about the Global Guides, they are the friendly, purple hoodie-donning folk that keep the Global Lounge in one piece.
Tell us about yourself and what made you want to become a Global Guide.
“I’m from New Jersey in the United States. When I decided to come to UCD, it was important to me that the people were kind and approachable. What I liked about the campus was that it was so student-dominated. I wanted to carry on this student image and felt that being a Global Guide put me in a position to do so.”
Describe an ordinary day at the Global Lounge.
“We have a calendar of events for the week usually as so many societies use the Global Lounge as a venue. Our duties revolve around making sure that the venue is tidy for these events. A big part of our job revolves around social media promotion of their upcoming events.”
UCD Global’s regularly posts Instagram stories on interesting series of topics like “Best Eateries in Town” and “Where to go?” (half-day trips).
Tell us more about the events and programmes the Global Lounge does.
“Most of our events are very casual in nature like coffee mornings, almost reflective of the student life here. Sometimes we do have formal events like Mahatma Gandhi’s 100th Birthday Anniversary where we had external guests. By and large our events are internationalised in nature, such as festivals of different cultures.”
At this point Sneha added an honest comment, “In UCD, people tend to socialise among people of their own ethnic groups and almost feel “uninvited” to the Global Lounge’s multicultural events.”
Tell us about a memorable incident that occurred during your time as a Global Guide.
“My best memory was during our Airport Welcome and Q&A Sessions. It was a wholesome experience seeing so many fresh faces arriving in a brand-new country as a student, and even as an immigrant. It made me relate to my own experience of arriving in Ireland and gave me an idea of what my parents might have experienced when they emigrated to America.”
“Though these new students would have had a world of figuring out to do by themselves, it also felt very good to be there for these new students!” She added.
How do you think you could get both Irish and non-Irish students to attend events at the Global Lounge, even if those events are culturally different from their own?
“We have recently allowed people to eat at the Global Lounge and we hope that would attract many as the Global Lounge is a great place to be. Considering Subway is just upstairs, we want people to feel welcome to come down here.”
With regard to reaching out to students to attend events, Sneha says that “At the end of the day, we don’t want to people to feel pressurised about our events. We are a very welcoming space and encourage meaningful interactions with our many casual events, so we hope people will be more comfortable coming here.”
The Global Guides share the view that the Global Lounge is for all students, not just international students, and hope that more will be receptive to attending their events. I thanked Sneha for her time and decided to check out an event that was taking place at the Global Lounge then – Erasmus Students’ Network’s (ESN) coffee afternoon. Federico Mambelli, the Auditor of ESN, told me that ESN enjoys a close relationship with the Global Lounge and they even promote each other’s events like their own.
The Global Lounge has played an instrumental role in the student experience of international students; however, their vibrancy seems limited to this very group. Given UCD’s colourful mix of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities, a lot could be done in bridging students of different ethnic groups – whether it is between Irish and non-Irish students, or within international students from different countries – together in attending each other’s festivals and truly bringing out the essence of cultural exchange.
As I reflected on this, I thought that I would have loved to attend GermanSoc’s Kaffeeklatsch (gathering over coffee) that happened at the Global Lounge that morning, but I would feel conscious of the fact that I might be the only non-German at the event. This is an issue students may face, as much as the excitement to learn more about another culture is deep-rooted in many of us.
While the Global Lounge has been a stalwart in bringing all the international students under one roof, the collative efforts of all students in furthering UCD’s name as “Ireland’s Global University” is needed in order to establish deeper intercultural and interethnic ties. If there is something to be done to improve cohesion, UCD Global could be a forerunner in leading such a movement.
Mallika Venkatramani – Arts & Lifestyle Editor