Coffee Hour connects students with different cultures

Is there a gap between international and domestic students?

UO senior Anna Sanders believes sometimes there is. She said a reason for this is that students with different backgrounds sometimes don’t know how to approach each other.

“I’ve noticed with my classmates that if we have an assignment where we have to talk with international students, they’re not sure where to start,” she said. “Both sides don’t really know how to start a conversation.”

UO exchange student from Japan, Kenta Ishikawa, agrees. He said that cultural differences can make it difficult for people to make connections with each other.

“My roommate likes music especially from the 80’s but I don’t know anything about those songs,” he said. “He also likes American TV games but I don’t know American TV games. He tried to teach me it but he used more deeper American words so it’s hard.”

Sanders said that even with the current cultural divides, the potential for the gap to close is growing.

“I mean there’s so much opportunity now for people to cross that gap,” she said. “All it takes is for them to reach out and try.”

One group trying to facilitate its close is the International Student Association, a group that aside from helping international students adjust to life in the U.S., aims to foster healthy relationships between different groups of people.

For over 20 years, they’ve been hosting an event, Coffee Hour, where any student or member of the community is welcome to meet for food, drinks and socializing. It used to take place in the Mills International Center, but students now meet in the Ford Alumni Center every other Friday from 4 to 6 as the popularity of the event is growing. The first Coffee Hour of winter term broke a record with over 450 attendees.

“We really want to connect people together,” ISA co-president Ina Song said. “Not only international and domestic students, but different nationalities as well.”

This collaboration comes in the form of co-sponsors of Coffee Hour from different student groups on campus. In winter term, the Chinese Student Association and Arab Student Union co-sponsored.

ISA Outreach Executive Joe Zhao said that a variety of cultures are represented at Coffee Hour, students’ home countries ranging from France, Sweden, China and numerous other places.

“Our purpose is to bridge the gap between international students and domestic students,” he said. “And that’s mainly why we host these events.”

Ishikawa said that at Coffee Hour people can exchange cultures and understand each other’s worries.

Sanders said that Coffee Hour is a lot about catching up with friends, too, Ishikawa being one of them.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a huge gap as of now,” Song said, adding that Coffee Hour helps people understand the importance of diversity.

“I feel like at the end of the day people are just people,” Zhao said. “If you put yourself out there, people will come together and treat everyone the same. It’s true that we have differences but we’re all students here at the University of Oregon and we can all come together here as a big family.”

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Anna Lieberman

Anna Lieberman

Anna is currently a news reporter for the Emerald.