Chris Coad '25

Chris Coad

Returning to the Global Engagement Portal

When I learned that the Global Engagement Portal was coming back to BC this fall, I jumped at the opportunity to work as a portal curator. I had visited the portal multiple times last year, for class and on my own time. My first experience was speaking with Kurdish refugees in Erbil, Iraq, and it was nothing like I expected. I came in not knowing what it would be like to speak with refugees, and came out with a fresh and motivating perspective.  

The global engagement portal offers BC students the chance to have conversations with a plethora of different groups of people from a wide range of circumstances and cultures. As an International Studies major, having cross-cultural experiences is essential to gaining the global perspective that is so emphasized in our classes and the program as a whole. 

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.

 This year, I curated sessions with refugees in Nakivale, Uganda, and the Walkers Savannah Preserve in Barbados. Working as a curator allowed me to really get to know my fellow coordinators both here at BC and around the globe. To successfully coordinate these meetings, having a good relationship with those on the other side was essential. In this sense, my experience curating the portal was -- once again -- nothing like I expected. 

My most impactful sessions were with Albert and Jim at the Nakivale portal. The two, both from the eastern Congo, organize that portal for Opportunigee, an organization formed by and for refugees in the Nakivale refugee settlement. An amalgamation of the words opportunity and refugee, the organization aims to help refugees in Nakivale learn skills they can use to find jobs in and around the settlement, and to create a community of positivity that keeps spirits and hopes high. Initially, I thought it would be hard to broach difficult subjects in the portal, but Albert and Jim were very open with their experiences. I realized that the people I was speaking with wanted to share their stories with the world, and this was an opportunity not only for me to connect with people from a different culture but for them as well. We spoke a lot about culture and language at the camp, and my favorite memory of the portal came when Albert, who uses the stage name Palmesi Sauvage, performed for us some of his slam poetry. Afterward, a walk-in at BC shared one of her own poems. Our conversation about trauma healing through music helped me realize that despite our different circumstances, we as people still share so much in common.

The Global Engagement Portal at sunset

Only through the portal would I be able to have such a real interaction with someone halfway around the world. If you have the chance, the golden box at the top of the million-dollar stairs will give you an experience you won't forget. It's an opportunity to see the humanity in someone with completely different life circumstances, and have real conversations with them. It's a way to break down barriers and learn a thing or two about someone else’s culture. My time working at the portal this semester made me step out of my comfort zone and have a truly unique, global, and impactful experience.

Chris Coad '25
December 2023