International Coffee Hours are more than just a free cup of coffee. The events are about exploring the different international cultures on campus.
The events are held by the Office of International Student Affairs, a department created to support the success of international students. They occur three times per semester, each showcasing a different country through food, music, decorations and activities.
International Coffee Hours are meant to create a space where both international and domestic students can come together and be exposed to other cultures, said Leah Hetzell, ISA’s director. The office has highlighted India, Albania, Venezuela, and Korea in the past.
“We really want to not only support just international students but also to bring American and international students together,” Hetzell said. “One of the ways that the idea came about was to have a space where we could bring together the community at Temple to learn about other cultures…and to have a public space where they can come monthly and be together and everyone is welcome.”
The events are a model used by many universities, but Hetzell said ISA customizes the events to make them fit the Temple community.
“For us it’s all about the student interest and involvement…It’s really driven by what students want to see and are passionate about,” Hetzell said.
Marena Ariffin, ISA’s assistant director, said she hopes attending the coffee hours will open up people’s minds.
“In many ways it’s very educational for a lot of people,” Ariffin said. “Some of the countries that we have highlighted…are not objectively portrayed well in the news. So, when we bring these [countries] to life during our coffee hours, you get to see another side outside of the politics, which is important.”
The International Coffee Hours have brought together many students who otherwise may never have met, Ariffin said. She often hears about international and domestic students meeting at the coffee hours and forming lasting friendships.
“I think that that’s also another goal that we’re hoping to push forward with the coffee hours, that it brings together international students and domestic students to have conversations and get to know one another and you know, if they get a friendship out of it, even better,” she said.
ISA highlighted Brazilian culture at its most recent International Coffee Hour on Sept. 10 in the Student Center.
Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse in Center City, provided authentic Brazilian cuisine for the event. Volunteers taught the history of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art. ISA also worked with members of BRASA, the Brazilian Student Association, to provide various activities, like Portuguese language-learning.
For Hetzell, the labor it took to organize the Brazil coffee hour was worth it when she saw the room full of students, engaging with one another and learning about Brazilian culture.
“The music was so chill and everyone just kind of seemed happy,” she said. “And that’s the feeling we look forward to with these coffee hours because in that moment it’s a lot of planning. It’s a lot of work. I feel like we’re creating a thing [where] people feel like they are transported.”
Manuela Sobral, a junior tourism and hospitality management major and the vice president of BRASA, said she felt an immense sense of pride organizing the Brazil Coffee Hour.
“A lot of my American friends came to stop by, and it just always feels special to be able to share with them where I come from and who I am,” she said.
Students felt transported at the Brazil Coffee Hour, Sobral said.
“All my Brazilian friends came up to me and they were just like, ‘Wow, I feel like I’m home,’” she said. “And that was like, the best thing I heard. I was so happy to hear that because we planned it with so much love.”
ISA’s next International Coffee Hour is on Oct. 1 to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, which raises awareness for the LGBTQ community. The event will focus on gender and sexuality inclusion on a global and cultural perspective.
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