Coffee hour allows students to mingle, diversify
Published: Thursday, September 2, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 2, 2010 00:09
The International Center kicked off its weekly coffee hours with a welcome back mixer on Wednesday afternoon.
Students from different ethnicities and backgrounds lounged around the center, which is located in Student Union Room 307, and chatted as if they were old acquaintances.
Many took advantage of the snacks and the interactive game room. Friendly rivalries and alliances were forged as students competed in chess, foosball, and ping-pong. The various cultural centers contributed a soundtrack for the event. The sampling of international music created an upbeat atmosphere.
Fritzie Dy, a 5th-semester business major, and Shu-En Lee, a 7th-semester political science and sociology major, are both exchange students from the National University of Singapore. They were able to meet up with Norman Chieng, a graduate student in the pharmacy school.
The three of them thought that the get together was a great way to adjust to the UConn campus. All three also agreed that they would be checking out other cultural events in the future.
According to the Department of International Services and Programs' website, this semester there are 285 international undergraduate students enrolled at UConn. DISP Director Robert Chudy said that normally 90 percent of the international students are in the graduate school.
The majority of these students are from China, India, and Turkey. Students, however, come from every region in the world and, despite their cultural and geographic differences, they are all ready to mingle and adapt.
"Food is a common denominator," said Chudy. The welcoming ambience of the International Center helps, as well. "We offer a pleasant way for people to meet their peers from other countries. There are no political agendas here."
Chudy also likened the various cultures on campus to flowers. He called this international melting pot the "UConn Garden," which he tends to by providing students with the opportunity to showcase their cultures. He is already planning the annual spring World Fest while Laurie Tomkins, DISP's program assistant, has already chosen the themes for the rest of the September coffee hours. These themes include campus-wide involvement, community outreach, and Bangladesh.
Tomkins said that the weekly events usually draw a crowd of 50 to 60 students. She attributes the high attendance rate to the eagerness of pre-existing students. She said that they help to "create interest in the program," and that they truly make it a "home away from home." But, Tomkins said that she would like to see more American students come to the center and help their international peers improve their communication skills.
Chudy also said that American students should feel welcome in the International Center because ultimately, everyone is international in some respect.