Global Engagement Portal

Connect with people around the world through conversation, music, art, food, and more.

The Global Engagement Portal at sunset


Thank you to everyone who joined us in Fall 2023 in the Global Engagement Portal!

This time around we hosted more than 60 hours of conversations with inspiring, encouraging, and engaging partners around the world. From Central America to the Middle East, and from South Africa to South Asia, our partners gave us new perspectives and new questions to ask of ourselves and others around us. 

From October 23 to November 16, 2023, we connected with portals in ten countries: Bangladesh, Barbados, Ethiopia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Uganda. (Our planned connection in Gaza City was cancelled amidst the war, but we are heartened to know that the curator is okay as of early December.)

We had more than 30 hours of open conversations about whatever topics came up among the participants (often music, food, politics, and school), and another 30 hours of conversations focused on one of five broad topics: climate change, education, health, innovation, and migration.

Thank you to our lead curator, Moira Ujda '25, for her tremendous work organizing the project this Fall. And thank you to our other curators as well, for making the conversations flow with such ease: Olivia Absey-Allen '27,  Chris Coad '25, Alyssa Eamranond '24, Vincent Sablich '24,  Tad Schaefer '26, Declan Soane '24, and Sophia Sohn '26.

See you all in the Portal next time!

Thank you to our Fall 2023 sponsors! 

Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences
Carroll School of Management
Connell School of Nursing
Lynch School of Education and Human Development
School of Social Work 
Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society
International Studies Program
Islamic Civilization and Societies Program
Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC)

Global Engagement Portal on O'Neil Plaza, Fall 2019

Media coverage

Connecting with the World
by Sean Smith, BC ChronicleNovember 9, 2023

Part of International Education Weeks, the Global Engagement Portal connects students with other people, cultures 

Almost every academic year since 2017-2018, members of the Boston College community have had the opportunity to immerse themselves in a unique real-time conversation with people in far-flung places across the world—ranging from refugee camps to schools to high-tech hubs. And once again, the Global Engagement Portal has come to campus to help make the planet seem just a little smaller, say organizers, and more connected.  [Read the full article...]


Global Engagement Portal Cultivates an Immersive Conversation Space for Students
by Lyla Walsh, The Heights, November 5, 2023

Students do not always have the opportunity to connect with people across the globe through genuine, meaningful conversations. It is even more rare that they have an immersive, intentional space that attempts to mimic the experience of an in-person conversation. The Global Engagement Portal allows Boston College students and faculty to have just that. “It’s an opportunity to see the humanity of the distant other, to meet with people in different life circumstances than our own, and to have real conversations with them,” said Erik Owens, director of BC’s international studies program and organizer of BC’s portal.  [Read the full article...]

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Laura Bianchi '23 reflected on her experience as the lead curator of the Fall 2022 Portal in this Student Voices essay

I became an IS major because I wanted to deepen my knowledge of the world and make real connections with people who live in different countries. I wrote my Common App essay about how I love to learn languages, and how a shared language can connect us in powerful ways to people with quite different backgrounds. This semester, as I took on the task of organizing the Global Engagement Portal, I felt motivated yet intimidated by the possibilities that the portal could provide. 

[Read her full essay here...]


Chris Coad '25 reflected on his experience as a curator of the Fall 2023 Portal in this Student Voices essay. He writes:

As a curator, my job was to help organize and set up the portal, and to guide discussions with our BC students and whoever was in the portal. The technology utilized in the portal, including an entire wall as a screen and surround-sound audio, made the experience truly feel like a sit-down conversation with friends. As most students who have experienced COVID school know, zoom calls can sometimes feel alienating. The portal effectively breaks down these barriers, allowing real bonding experiences with people around the world.

[Read his entire essay here...]

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What is the Global Engagement Portal?

The Global Engagement Portal is an immersive, high-definition internet video connection that joins two small rooms across the world to provide a sense of spatial continuity, allowing participants to engage with one another naturally, at real-life size, making eye contact. BC's portal is housed in a climate-controlled shipping container at the edge of O'Neil Plaza.

Created by Shared_Studios, Portals have been used for educational, cultural and artistic exchanges, conferences, shared meals, and much more.

Each session can accommodate 6-8 participants in the Portal. Multiple sessions can be booked, back-to-back or on different dates. Session times are 50 minutes long, to allow deeper conversations and full participation. 

Where will our Portal connect?

During the Fall 2023 installation, the BC Global Engagement Portal will connect with other portals in: 

  • Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia
    [At the Rotary Club, an association of business, professional, and community leaders.] 
  • Kigali, Rwanda  
    [at the Impact Hub public arts/social enterprise]
  • Nakivale, Uganda 
    [at Opportunigee, a refugee-led organization based just outside one of the world's largest refugee settlements]
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
    [At Maker's Valley community arts organization]
  • Bamako, Mali 
    [the innovative Kabakoo Academy, bridging high-tech and indigeneous knowledge]
  • Lagos, Nigeria
    [at the Sustainable Green Enterprise Initiative]

Global Engagement Portal meetings and meals