Friendships and conversations are brewing through weekly Coffee Talks at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Launched as a pilot project in April 2016 by Student Involvement, the program brings together domestic and international students to explore life on campus, cultures and anything else that comes to mind during hour-long chats in the Nebraska Union.
On Nov. 14, students from Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Vietnam and the United States came together for a discussion. Some students were there because they had classes that required them to attend an extracurricular activity, and some were there simply because it piqued their interest on social media or at a booth at a fair.
Many of the students that attend Coffee Talks are a part of Nebraska’s Intensive English Program. They use it as an opportunity to hone their conversational English skills with native speakers while discussing American culture and seeking answers to any questions or concerns that they might have that week.
Veronica Riepe, director of Student Involvement, said the program was designed intentionally with international students in mind, and that its goal was to provide them with an environment where they would feel comfortable to practice their English and meet new people.
“The major reason [I come to Coffee Talks] is to develop my language and to hear native speakers talking,” said Ibraham Alqasem, an international student from Saudi Arabia.
During the Nov. 14 meeting, students discussed their stress over an upcoming English exam, sports, travel costs and cultural collegiate expectations. Riepe offered her advice when needed, and Illinois native Olivia Klein shared her insight on American traditions and norms with the international students.
International students also shared experiences from their home countries, commenting on how soccer and baseball were their sports of choice rather than football, and noting the difference in campus culture between their native universities and Nebraska.
Though students are a majority of the attendees at Coffee Talks, director of student involvement Veronica Riepe said everyone on campus is welcome to join. In the past, faculty and staff have popped in, as well as family members of students looking for a way to build a community in their new city.
“Anybody can come,” Riepe said.
Coffee Talks are 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. every Monday and Thursday in the Nebraska Union. Participants should meet in the raised platform area across from Subway to partake in the conversation.