Coronavirus News: College students create online global friendship opportunity

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Sunday, May 10, 2020
College students create global friendship opportunity amid pandemic
Amy Freeze has more on the college students who turned an assignment into an opportunity for friendship around the globe.

ITHACA, New York (WABC) -- A team of computer science students in New York have mastered the art of making connections online and they turned a college assignment into a global friendship opportunity.

Three Cornell University students developed Quarantine Buddy -- a virtual way to make friends while stuck at home. Now their concept is catching on in some surprising ways amid a critical time of social distancing.

Junior Computer Science classmates Jordyn Goldzwieg, Sam Brickman and Alisa Lai reworked some assignments to come up with a timely creation, a website to connect buddies from all over the world.

"We noticed people were lonely and isolated and had no social outlets in person, we thought we could build a way for them to have a human connection," Brickman said.

Working together online but in true college-life fashion, they spent two all-nighters creating an interface and then shared it with some classmates and family.

In just weeks, the site has 6,000 users from 43 countries. They got a boost when the New York governor's office included it in a daily email as a way to connect.

The email read:

"To help curb loneliness and isolation during the pandemic, three Cornell students developed an app to help make a 'Quarantine Buddy' and connect people of all ages from around the world as we are all social distancing."

Users can go to the website and simply sign up for free. They get a match, or a new buddy, every Saturday.

"Users put in their age, gender as well as if they are looking for anything specific, and a buddy to work with, watch a movie or just someone to talk to online," Goldzweig said.

Brickman says it really is for whatever connection the user wants to make with a new buddy.

"It tells some people have to work with homework, on their resume, yoga, together that's a good thing you get multiple buddies." Brickman said.

The website has had some cool success stories. One match, two continents apart, happened and the buddies wrote a song together for Soundcloud.

While it make sense some similar interests or even comparable ages or locations will make a good match, the creators have found amazing stories -- one pair of buddies is 50 years apart.

It was an unlikely match-up with lasting results. College student Sheldon Brown from Chappaqua was feeling lonely and reached out to get a match. He was connected to 77-year-old Pam Silverstein of Ithaca.

"My mom is a nurse and has been keeping all her hours at the hospital. It's been tough for her job risks and also I'm by myself most of the time. I was going down a dark path of loneliness," Brown said.

Silverstein was looking to connect with someone too.

"I think it's hard for a lot of people and the day I met Sheldon it was definitely hard for him," Silverstein said. "I think that this is teaching us quarantine buddy had to be humans again."

Sure, it might seem unlikely to connect with someone that is five decades different in age, but Brown says it's been a real comfort.

"I'm 21 and Pam is 77, but meeting up with her has been great," Brown said.

They have discussed things like Brown missing his summer internship and the disappointment around missed opportunities.

Silverstein has worked with young adults most of her life and said she would like to meet Sheldon in real life.


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