Southern Miss’ International Student and Scholar Services hosted the first International Tea Hour of 2019 on Thursday, Feb. 7. In celebration of Chinese New Year, both international and domestic students enjoyed traditional Chinese dishes and learned about Chinese culture.
Director of International Student and Scholar Services Suzanne Omran got the idea of an international coffee hour from her time as a graduate assistant.
“[International Coffee and Tea Hour] is an idea that has existed in international offices all over the United States,” Omran said. “Basically, it’s an opportunity for student organizations to present themselves to not only our international student population but also to the general student population.”
Omran said that the employees at the International Center began coffee hour about a year ago, but they were not as large as this one.
“We started it quite conservatively, with a soft launch that we just started from within our office,” Omran said. “Before this one, [International Tea Hour] has been so much smaller, but now we’ve started advertising more and pushing it to Student Leadership Involvement, not just the international student associations.”
Junior interdisciplinary studies major Shanell Brent, who works with the International Center, said the goal of International Tea Hour is to help students connect with each other.
“This event is kind of an effort between all of the students and employees at the International Center,” Brent said. “We want this to be an open space for international and domestic students. We want to allow students at Southern Miss to be able to come together and talk about not only our differences, but also our similarities.”
Omran agreed that giving students a social opportunity to talk and learn about one another is important in a university setting.
“Any time you can find connections and common ground is so important for understanding,” Omran said. “The main goal is getting students outside of the classroom, providing them with food and letting students learn something about one another. Hopefully, we can also help them learn something about a topic like Chinese New Year.”
Junior sociology major Michael Matrick attended the Chinese New Year celebration and said that he believes inclusive events such as International Tea Hour are important for locals to attend.
“This is my first time coming to International Tea Hour, but I think it’s super cool. I think the International Center needs to start doing this more often. It’s important that people from this part of the country, or even from this part of the state, need to be exposed to other cultures,” Matrick said. “It’s really easy to come to this kind of thing because it’s fun and relatable, so I think it’s important for students to utilize events like this.”
Brent went on to describe the International Center’s goals for future International Coffee and Tea Hours.
“Today we focused on Chinese New Year to bring attention to the fact that there’s not just the American New Year; there’s more than that. In the future, we’re going to have a different theme each time—we’re really excited for March because we will be celebrating the Indian Holi festival. I think it’s important to have a community among the students here,” Brent said.
There will be another International Tea Hour held in the RC Lounge on Thursday, Feb. 14 to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
photo courtesy All Events