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Alumni find their way 'home'

Homecoming celebrated
on campus and overseas

Matching the Bearcats with archrival Louisville in the season following UC's Orange Bowl appearance will certainly rouse excitement for Homecoming on Oct. 24. Nevertheless, Homecoming is more than just an exciting football game.

It's the one day when thousands of alumni from across the country and around the world come home to renew friendships, share laughs about the good old days and show off their alma mater to children and families. Although the Homecoming schedule had not been announced at press time, alumni and their families can stay busy all day long with a parade, college events, games at the Bearcats Family Zone, as well as festivities hosted by the Alumni Association.

But what about those who can't make it home? Whether they're in Cincinnati or halfway around the world, our alumni can be persistent -- and creative -- when it comes to bringing Homecoming to life wherever they are. Last year, honors for celebrating Homecoming the farthest away went to Dominic Berardi and his friends in China.

Bearcat Homecoming 7,000 miles away

Last fall, Dominic Berardi, Bus '07, was in Beijing, China, working as the business development manager for EduGlobal China Ltd. Finding himself a little homesick, Berardi, a former member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, decided to organize a Homecoming party.

The problem was, there weren't a lot of people in Beijing who watched American football on TV, let alone claimed allegiance to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. And though Berardi had some fraternity brothers from UC who wanted to visit, he knew convincing them to miss Homecoming during the Bearcats undefeated football season was going to be difficult.

"We used to say in college, the most wonderful time of year comes twice: Christmas and Homecoming," Berardi says. Nevertheless, he urged his friends to come and sealed the deal with a secure feed to watch the UC Homecoming game live on the Internet. "I even hedged my bets by assuring them we would import Skyline Chili."

group of alumni in China posing for photo

Dominic Berardi (center front) celebrates Homecoming in Beijing with these Bearcats: Ryan Lobello (far left), Jim Kostura (in back row in gray UC shirt), bar owner Nick Ma '96 (holding a Skyline can next to Dominic), Amanda Mohar (behind Ma) and Nick Trelka (front row, far right).

Fortunately, Berardi had the perfect place to host a UC Homecoming party -- the bar of Beijing-local and UC alumnus Nick Ma, A&S '96, and a former Phi Delta Theta member. Ma owns several well-known restaurants and bars in Beijing.

"Two of the most popular places, Rickshaw and the Saddle, are located in the heart of Sanlitun, Beijing's nightlife capital," Berardi says. "Ironically, before I knew the owner, I used to go to Rickshaw to get comfort food. A couple of menu items remind me of Uncle Woody's, Papa Dino's and other Clifton hangouts."

Berardi and Ma had met each other through a mutual alumnus in Hong Kong, Brian Brenner, Bus '96, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. All three shared a common affinity for Bearcat football.

"When I decided to move to Beijing in 2007, I didn't know anyone living anywhere close to China," Berardi recalls. "I reached out to Jen Heisey (director of UC Alumni Affairs), and she helped me connect with a couple of guys she thought would share common interests."

As it turned out, they shared not only interests but also similar college careers. In a way, Berardi was following in the older alumni's footsteps. Before moving overseas in 1997, Ma and Brenner were both presidents of their fraternities, members of UC's Spirit Honor Society the Men of Metro and were huge Bearcat fans. Each of the three left for China shortly after graduation with little more than a backpack and a sense of adventure.

More than a decade later, both Ma and Brenner have established themselves firmly in the ex-patriot business communities in Beijing and Hong Kong, respectively. Referencing the personal and professional development opportunities they shared through their Greek experience, Berardi explained, "I continue to learn a lot from them. They became like my adopted big brothers in Asia."

Despite being 7,000 miles from their alma mater, the three recreated their own version of the UC Homecoming tradition they enjoyed as undergrads in the UC Greek community. Other Bearcat family members present for the festivities were Nick Trelka, Eng '05, Sigma Alpha Epsilon; Jim Kostura, Bus '06, Sigma Alpha Epsilon; Ryan Lobello, DAAP '05, Sigma Alpha Epsilon; Amanda Mohar, A&S '06, Theta Phi Alpha; Ryan Newman, DAAP '05, Sigma Alpha Epsilon; and former DAAP adjunct professor Ericka Hedgcock.

The rest of their Homecoming party included friends from Australia who were interested in American football, Cincinnati chili and "why we have so much pride in our school," Berardi says.

For a graduate who didn't know anyone on the Asian continent two years ago, Berardi succeeded in staying busy and surrounding himself with familiar faces so he wouldn't get too homesick. "Fortunately, there was a lot of Bearcat spirit in Beijing to keep me pumped up," Berardi says.

"Teaching a room full of Aussies and Chinese the UC fight song has to be one of my coolest experiences abroad."


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