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OISS Coffee Hour allows domestic, international students to interact

October 2, 2018

Domestic and international students can meet each Friday to have free coffee together thanks to one of MSU's programs held in the International Center. 

Coffee Hour is a program that offers students of different nations space to make connections with each other. It's organized by MSU's Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS). The program provides attendees free coffee and tea from 4 to 6 p.m. each Friday.

International student and media and information senior Fatma Alsaif started to attend Coffee Hour when she was a sophomore. She met her best friends there. 

“It's kind of a very rewarding experience,” she said. 

Three words on the program's posters present its main theme: “Coffee," “Culture” and “Connect."

“This is not only open only for international students, but also domestic students, faculty, staff members as well as community partners,” said Vicky Wai-yee Lee, an international student advisor and student engagement coordinator of OISS.

“We don't actually have a particular agenda or presentation that we hold during Coffee Hour, it's more like we provide the space,” Lee said. “We provide you coffee and tea, so people just come up with their own topics to talk about.”

Alsaif now has an international orientation and programming internship at the OISS. Her job with the Coffee Hour is to make sure every guest is having fun and nobody is left out.

When Alsaif first came to the U.S., she said she had a hard time trying make new friends inside and outside of her classes.

“Because everyone just wanted to stay with themselves and don't talk to everyone,” she said. “But I wanted to go to events where I can meet people who wanted to make friends and wants to talk to people.”

One of Alsaif’s friend told her about Coffee Hour and how great the experience there could be. 

“I give it a try and I met a lot of nice and kind people,” she said. “I made friends that I hope that they're friends for life.”

Linguistics sophomore Jenna Sexton had her first visit to the Coffee Hour Sept. 14. 

“I tried to convince some friends to come with me and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, we'll go,’ but they decided not to at the last minute,” she said.

Sexton said she was a little scared because she wasn't sure if she'd find a place to belong. 

“I was just a little nervous, you know, 'What if no one wants to talk to me?'” she said. “But as soon as I walked in, someone came up and they talked to me and I found a place to sit down and they included me in the conversation. I didn't have to sit in silence.”

International relations senior Tyler Perl is a domestic student. He said the reason for the relatively low involvement of domestic students is a lack of exposure. 

“The domestic students who come to Coffee Hour are the ones like dedicated, who are like involved in some sort of like engagement program or just have an interest in international studies,” he said. 

Perl said international students appear in the International Center more frequently than domestic students. 

“Domestic students don't often get that chance to come here often and see because this is where like most of the time Coffee Hours are advertised,” he said. 

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Lee’s goal is to grow interaction between international students and domestic students.

“I think this is particularly hard,” she said. “It's a grounded base of theory that you tend to be with people that have similar background to you and so it kind of makes sense that international students from a particular country or culture tend to hang out with people that has similar background with them.”

Sexton said she's happy to see people at all different ages excited to talk to each other. 

“Fear is something that's really hard to get over, especially if it's the fear of being different,” Sexton said. “You miss out on what you don't do, you know? You don't want to regret not going and not making new friends.”

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