Coffee sessions embrace cultural traditions

by Torrey Bailey, Contributor

“Someone from Scotland, someone from India, and someone from Australia all walk into a room …” said Veronica Perondi, the program coordinator at San Diego State’s International Student Center.

It sounds like the beginning of a joke. However, Perondi was referring to the average turnout for International Coffee Hour at SDSU. In fact, students from about 50 different countries attend this event every Friday.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 4.16.50 PMThe International Student Association created this event so international and American students could get the inside scoop on each other’s home country. At each International Coffee Hour, a foreign student presents the characteristics that make his or her native country unique.

“Whether it be a little treat from their country that they make or a presentation, it’s really nice to see how much they love their country and how much they want to share it with everyone else,” International Student Association Coffee Hour Coordinator Mirna Farhat said.

French students once chose to play songs from their favorite rap artists, while Indian students performed a traditional dance during their presentation. Last semester, Malaysian students shared an exotic and spiky fruit called a Durian and Scottish men ran around in kilts.

Although students never know what they will find at the coffee hour sessions, music, food, and traditional dress are most common.

“It’s any way students want to share what they see their culture as and how they want to share it with other students,” Perondi said.

Farhat said discussing and questioning the world’s customs is encouraged among students to help break down stereotypes.

Sometimes students debunk their labels, while others admit to them.

“Italy had a good one about Italian stereotypes and Italian drivers,” Perondi said. “(The Italian students) said, ‘Okay most of them are true, but here are other things you don’t know about our country.’”

The International Student Association teaches international students American traditions as well. Near Thanksgiving, students share a turkey dinner, and around Halloween they carve pumpkins.

“When you get to meet people one on one from a certain area or country and you realize that we are, at the end of the day, all people and we are all compassionate and we are all friendly and sociable, that’s what it is all about,” Farhat said.

Perondi said many of the same students attend every week, but there are also new faces every time.

The International Coffee Hour has become so popular that presentation time slots fill up within the first two weeks of the semester. The International Student Association even had to start a waiting list to accommodate the number of students wanting to share their culture.

These events are open to all students, and dollar donations are appreciated at the door in order to help make the International Coffee Hour sessions possible.