UPenn Builds International Relations

After many weeks of planning, on August 5, two members of the Hangzhou No. 14 High School Quidditch Association in China met with five members of University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) Penn Pygmy Puffs in Philadelphia, Pa.

After many weeks of planning, on August 5, two members of the Hangzhou No. 14 High School Quidditch Association in China met with five members of University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) Penn Pygmy Puffs in Philadelphia, Pa.

Preparations for the meeting began when the team received an email from Eric Cheng, president of the Chinese quidditch team, which said that he hoped the two teams could meet to discuss the establishment of the teams in their respective countries, the growth of quidditch worldwide and the building of a relationship between the two. However, according to Ibi Etomi, president of UPenn’s team, the initial email was a tad troubling and confusing.

“The email was so out of the blue and he addressed us as ‘Penn State University’ (which was worrisome) but our board unanimously wanted to look into this. After responding to his message and making sure he actually meant the University of Pennsylvania [(which he did)] and not Penn State..., we decided we could definitely have this meeting,” she said in an email.

In his initial email, Cheng also mentioned that he was interested in having UPenn’s team visit his home country: “The potential of quidditch in China is really big, so I probably think that our two teams can [form] a great connection in the future and we can invite you to come to China one day, so that both your team and school will get lots of resources about China [in] both quidditch and education. We can be the first [ones to] set up an international relationship between two teams.”

UPenn then wrote a formal letter of recognition so that Cheng and his friend Kevin Shi could obtain visas. According to Etomi, they were not exactly sure what he meant, but the team’s IQA liaison and IQA staff photographer, Isabella Gong, worked with the IQA to create this official letter. After many weeks of preparation, Etomi, who wasn’t available to attend the meeting, reserved a room in the Van Pelt Library for August 5 at 6 p.m.

Etomi asked each team to make a PowerPoint about what it was like founding their teams and any additional info they thought would be important to include. She asked Britney Vazquez, UPenn co-founder and treasurer, to present on her behalf.

“Basically, each team had a PowerPoint presentation, and we just talked a little bit about our team histories and goals. No.14 High School has a much larger membership than [UPenn's] team right now, but it's pretty challenging for them to play against other teams, given that there's about three in the entire country,” said Lucille Alexander, UPenn fundraising chair, who also attended the meeting.

During Cheng’s presentation, he showed a picture from their first recruitment meeting where they had made a big “Q” out of candles to attract interest in the team.

“They drew dozens of people and took a big group picture. I think it goes to show how the really positive vibe around quidditch can attract people to the sport even before any discussion of rules or competition,” said Barry Slaff, UPenn player. “Eric and Kevin also showed us pictures of their practices and their board introduced themselves to us in a video in which they wrote their names on a marker board, ultimately forming a ‘Q’ with the names. They talked about their competitions with a few other local teams and they lightly lamented having a loss to one of their local rivals.”

In addition to their formal presentations, the teams also took a picture together while they were exchanging their uniforms.

Bogart and Cheng exchange jerseys

“The coolest part was when we exchanged team jerseys with each other. We had a jersey exchange ‘ceremony’ on campus where Eric Cheng and I shook hands and handed each other our jerseys,” said Justin Bogart, UPenn captain and the IQA’s Mid-Atlantic coordinator for the referee development team.

Cheng said that he was very happy with the trip. He explained that he formed friendships and found that quidditch is “magical.” He also found some solutions to his team’s financial problems, and learned that his team will need to practice more for the players to become better at quidditch. On his trip Cheng also spoke with two IQA representatives: Karen Kumaki, international director, and Katie Stack, membership director. He had lunch with them and spoke about the development of quidditch in China. He also showed them some photos and says that he learned a lot from their conversation.

“I feel like the core of this meeting was fostering international magical cooperation. Connecting with our sister school in China—that was really awesome!” said Mary Kate McMullen, UPenn’s social media chair.