Home Away From Home: An International Student Guide to Pittsburgh

Robert Morris University
Washington & Jefferson College
culture shock
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By Kate H Knapp
Last updated on July 1, 2024

With authentic eateries, cultural businesses, and community centers representing many diverse cultures, this western Pennsylvania city ensures international students feel right at home.

The Pittsburgh skyline is seen over the region's three rivers at night

Pittsburgh — or “Steel City,” thanks to its industrial roots dating back to the 1700s — is thriving and stronger than ever with more than 86,000 students from all over the world calling it home. International students attending nearby Robert Morris University or Washington & Jefferson College will find a wide variety of authentic ethnic eateries, grocers, shops, community centers, and other businesses peppered among the city’s 90 distinct neighborhoods.  

Thanks to the wide variety of cultural businesses, international students combatting homesickness won’t have to go far to feel at home.

Pittsburgh’s International Neighborhoods

Though there are ethnic businesses throughout the city, the neighborhoods of Squirrel Hill, the Strip District, and North Oakland are particularly known for their diversity and cultural cuisines. Chinese, Indian, and Latin American students will find familiar flavors at their restaurants, shops, and markets. Shadyside neighborhood is also worth a visit for a variety of ethnic food, including Indian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, and others. 

Squirrel Hill

Located in the East End, the Squirrel Hill neighborhood (which includes Squirrel Hill North and Squirrel Hill South) boasts more than 1,100 acres of public parks, the Squirrel Hill Night Market (inspired by Asian pop-up night markets), and the popular Lunar New Year PGH

The neighborhood has a strong Jewish community, but Chinese and Latin international students will also find familiar scents, sounds, and goods in shops and eateries along Forbes, Murray, and Forward avenues. The eclectic mix of cultures is what makes this neighborhood unique and a great place to find a little piece of a far-off home. 

Squirrel Hill is constantly changing, but here are a few spots to check out:

The Strip District

Spanning one-half square mile that runs along the Allegheny River, the Strip District is the place to go to find food from around the world. The neighborhood’s converted warehouses and historical buildings are now home to international eateries and specialty shops. Walk along Smallman Street and Penn Avenue to find a wide variety of ethnic grocers, as well as produce stands and sidewalk vendors. International students are certain to find familiar flavors in this neighborhood. 

Top international spots in the Strip District: 

  • Asian Restaurants and Markets

    • Little Bangkok: Thai restaurant

    • Sambok Korean: Market with Korean ingredients

    • WFH Oriental Food Market: Asian grocer 

  • Latin Restaurants and Markets

North Oakland

Located within the city’s Oakland area, North Oakland spans all of Craig Street and falls between Neville and Bouquet streets. The neighborhood has a variety of small, cozy eateries serving Indian cuisine, as well as cuisines from other cultures. Indian students will find two markets that sell authentic ingredients, snacks, and spices. 

Best places to go in North Oakland for Indian flavors: 

  • All India Restaurant: North and South Indian Eatery

  • Bombay Market: Indian grocery store

  • Chaai and Chaatwala: Indian takeaway restaurant

  • Kohli’s Indian Imports: Grocery store and import shop

International Events

As the second-largest city in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh hosts many international festivals and holiday celebrations throughout the year. Some not-to-be-missed cultural events include:

International Community Centers

Though international students can find a taste of home throughout the city, a cultural center can provide a sense of community. Many host a variety of events and activities to help people acclimate to and engage with the American culture. Some centers to check out include:

Feel at Home Without Leaving Campus

Robert Morris University

Just 16 miles from downtown, Robert Morris University invites students from all over the world to study on its 230-acre campus. Spring 2023 welcomed international students from 27 countries.

The Center for Global Engagement (CGE) provides support for incoming international students, as well as offers “Global SET programs like Global Ambassadors, Conservation Exchange Partners, and the Global Village Living Learning Community.” 

Thanks to more than 100 on-campus student clubs and organizations, students can find shared cultures or interests including the Asian American Association, Black Student Union, and Indian Student Club, among many others. 

Washington & Jefferson College

Located on 65 acres in a small town just 45 minutes outside the city, Washington & Jefferson College is an ideal place for international students to live and study. The liberal arts college has been educating world leaders since 1781, and is ranked #48 in Best Value Schools by U.S. News & World Report (2024).

The Office of Global Education is a great resource for “country to college support,” and also encourages students to participate in college life through activities, sports, events, and excursions throughout the semester.

Student clubs and organizations are another great place for international students to find support while navigating their new surroundings, including the International Club, Asian Culture Association, LatinX Culture Association, Sister 2 Sister, and others.

Finding a Home Away from Home

With culturally diverse neighborhoods and ethnic businesses abundant throughout the city, Pittsburgh provides international students with a feeling of home. Head to western Pennsylvania for a prestigious degree — and an unforgettable study in the US experience.   

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