Helping newcomers meet new people and adjust to a new city

This was a semester long, group project, done for the client, Cognizant. While my group members (Emily Su and Linna Griffin) and I had roles in every step of the process, I played an especially heavy role in research, concept development, and short video you will find below. 

Fika is an app that helps newcomers meet people, engage with their community, and make lasting friendships, through in-the-moment meetups, called "fikas."


Problem Space

In response to a very open ended prompt, my group became interested in the growing international population in Pittsburgh. We decided to investigate the hardships of newcomers and began the quest to answer the question: How do newcomers develop communities of support upon arriving in Pittsburgh?


Research Methods

Generative Make Tool & Observatory Research at PRISM

We attended and participated in a PRISM dinner to meet newcomers first-hand and get an inside look at what they are going through. At the end of the dinner, we passed out a short activity for them to complete. 

Literature Review

We researched work written on moving to a new city, the sense of belonging, and combating loneliness.

Existing Technology Analysis

We studied existing technology meant to bring people together, such as Meetup, Tinder, Facebook, Pokemon Go, and online forums. 

International Student Interviews

We conducted interviews and did directed storytelling to learn about what the first few months in Pittsburgh are like

International Student Survey

We created an online survey for international students to answer our most basic and straight forward questions. It received over 30 responses.

PRISM Staff Interview

PRISM is a community group that provides support for internationals in Pittsburgh, by holding events like open house dinners, English conversation sessions, host family connects and inclusive outings. We interviewed their main staff to learn about how they help newcomers feel at home.


Research Highlights

Many people opened up and gave us great insight into what it's like be new in Pittsburgh.

"I felt like I belonged in Pittsburgh when I got involved in sports."

"I didn't feel comfortable asking questions or for help because it was awkward."

"Once I found a group to explore the city with, I felt like I belonged."

"Loneliness is one of the biggest things we want to address. We provide a community through mutual struggle of settling in with introspective discussions, English practice, and providing where we can."

- Scott, founder of PRISM


Research Synthesis

After combing through our research, we synthesized our findings by creating concept diagrams, journey maps, and models to help us understand the problem space. We arrived on these three main insights that helped us pick out the problem, and eventually the final concept.

1. Meeting people and overcoming loneliness are the hardest parts

2. People build strong bonds through shared interests

3. Exploring a city enables a person to feel comfortable and gain a feeling of belonging



Newcomers need a way of meeting, getting to know, and forming relationships with people who are willing to share their culture and community. The use of proximity, spontaneity, and shared interests can help people meet and get to know each other.



Inspired by the Swedish institution for social breaks in the workplace, Fika is an application for creating, discovering and attending events in the user's area. Using proximity, spontaneity, and shared interests, Fika creates organic social environments that can lead to meaningful relationships and lasting friendships.

Use Cases


Student org recruiting
Student org events
School events
Study groups

Public Events

Community outreach


Social gatherings
Pickup sport games
Sport game watching
Interest meetups


Company events
Company hangouts




Final Screens

Discovering Fikas


Adding people


Future Considerations

How might we design more specifically for the safety and security of the user?

How might we foster continual relationships between users, or empower them to pursue connections on their own?


More to come!