The International Coffee Hour takes place every Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. in the North Pod of the Memorial Union. The event is hosted by the International Student Association and attempts to brings together University of Maine students to celebrate different cultures with food and conversation. The group aims to create a welcoming environment for all students and give them the opportunity to be a part of something unique.
The event serves as a more casual and less exclusive gathering than a campus organization meeting. At the start of the event, there was no question of its success. The dozens of attendees were happy, hungry and excited to be there. Students filtered in and out in large groups, hugging one another and chatting with new and old friends alike. The event was more than just a Friday afternoon snack in the union; it created an international community in the center of campus.
Students filled nearly every seat in the North Pod, gathering to enjoy this week’s offering of cultural cuisine. Every International Coffee Hour is hosted by a different campus organization. A group signs up for the opportunity to share elements of their culture and hosts the event with help from the International Students Association. Since no organizations were available to lead this weeks coffee hour, International Students Association Club President Zarni Chanapatdaychaporn brought his home country to the North Pod.
“I come from Thailand, so I decided to host it. Thailand’s food is normally spicy and sour, so I brought a spicy chicken salad. Another food is a salad noodle, which is the vegetarian [option], and I brought a Thai tea, mixed with milk and those were the foods for today,” Chanapatdaychaporn said.
For the first time the International Coffee Hour held a raffle, which may become a weekly part of the event. Two winners were selected from the crowd and each left with a beaded bracelet from Thailand.
“We try to keep changing [to] improve the coffee hours. I think that every event should always improve, so we added the raffle, [and] do more advertising,” Chanapatdaychaporn said. “[One] goal is having more [of an] audience, but my main goal is to engage international students with American students. We [have started] to see a lot of new faces every week.”
Organizers stayed after the food and the initial crowd was gone, chatting with attendees and answering their questions. Many students were grateful for the good food, conversation and the positive environment. The students involved in organizing the evening took pride in its success. At one point, Chanapatdaychaporn decided to capture the evening’s festivities with a photo.
“This is kind of lame but … I want to [take a] selfie, take a picture with all of you … just want to, you know, send it to my mom,” Chanapatdaychaporn said.
As UMaine grows, so does its cultural knowledge and diversity within the student body and faculty. Solidarity is an important part of every community, and International Coffee Hour is a weekly event that fosters that kind of unity on campus.