Coffee and Conversation Hour fosters cross-cultural connections

The weekly social allows international and domestic students to bond and learn about new cultures

A weekly meet-up helps international students at ASU find two of life's simplest pleasures: coffee and conversation.

Coffee and Conversation Hour helps grow communities and build relationships between international and domestic ASU students every week over free snacks and beverages. Hosted by the International Students and Scholars Center, the event happens every Friday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Services Building Amphitheater.

Drew Ross, manager of the International Student and Scholar Experience, said Coffee and Conversation Hour was created for international students to meet one another in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

“As much as we celebrate the differences that our international students have, it’s important that we acknowledge there are similarities between all of our students, faculty and staff as well,” Ross said. “The chance to not only meet and interact but to learn about different people I think is very important.”

Ross said that events such as this one remind attendees that no matter where they're from, they’re all part of the ASU community. 

“There’s 10,000 students from international countries here at ASU,” Ross said. “We just wanted to give a chance for people to meet students from different countries, learn different languages, learn different cultures.”

ISSC also provides many other events and resources for international students and scholars, including weekly academic skills and employment workshops.

B "Brett" Brimmer, a senior studying Chinese language, said he has been attending Coffee and Conversation Hour since it began a two years ago. 

In the past, the event would only attract around five people each week, Brimmer said. Recently, the weekly gathering has attracted so many people that it had to be moved to a larger space to accommodate the crowd.

“That was a really cool moment,” Brimmer said. “We didn’t ever think we were going to get that many people to start coming.”

Brimmer said connecting international and domestic members of the University helps build a sense of communal belonging. 

“I feel like a lot of times for international students it’s really hard to find those comfortable spaces because you kind of get scooted to the side if you’re not really outgoing or if you’re not the most comfortable with English,” Brimmer said. “I think it’s a great way to network and communicate and just really see other people from other walks of life.”

Feng “Lindy” Gao, a visiting international scholar, said she’s only been to Coffee and Conversation Hour twice but will continue to attend in the future.

“It’s the best way to improve our communication with other young people and enhance our English,” she said.

Gao said her favorite part about the event is how easy it is to approach and talk to other members of the University.

“I think it’s a terrific thing,” she said. “I feel the warmth in here.”

Members of the community talk about their cultures and families at Coffee and Conversation Hour, Gao said, but beyond that they also comfort one another during hard times and homesickness. 

“We do not know each other but smiling is the first language we make familiar with each other,” Gao said.

Reach the reporter at Kimberly.Rapanut@asu or follow @kimrapanut on Twitter.

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