Coffee and Culture is a new series created by the Office of International Programs in partnership with the newly-reformed International Bears Association.
“It’s basically a way for international students and professors to share their home countries’ coffee and culture with students and perhaps faculty and staff from around campus,” Rebekah Anaya said. Anaya is Mercer’s study abroad coordinator and the creator of Coffee and Culture.
The first Coffee and Culture meeting was held last month at Z Beans. Two students from England, Renay Miller and Zoe Beasley, were invited to discuss their home country for the first official meeting.
“We invited students who were interested in studying abroad in England specifically to go, in addition to it being a general invitation,” Anaya said.
The second meeting of the Coffee and Culture series was about Vietnam.
“I reached out to Mercer on Mission staff to say that we were doing it about Vietnam and to spread it to all of their students who might be interested in doing a Mercer on Mission in Vietnam,” Anaya said.
Any interested students are eligible to attend the Coffee and Culture events. The last Coffee and Culture series was held on Oct. 24 at the Honors House on the edge of Ash and College Street. Anaya said she hopes to get more student involvement at these Coffee and Culture events throughout the semester.
“There were nine of us for the first one, which actually fit perfectly in that space, but the next one we’re going to have a little bit more space to fit even more students,” Anaya said.
This event representing Vietnam was led by Mercer student Kathryn Nguyen. Vietnamese coffee and pho were sampled at the event.
The next country to be discussed is Nigeria, but the event will be somewhat different because a professor will be hosting it. The event is planned to be held at the Honors House, but the time is yet to be announced.
“The professor is planning to bring banana chips, and we’re going to have coffee and tea available since the event is called Coffee and Culture. But the professor was explaining to me that in Nigeria, they actually don’t drink a lot of coffee or tea because of the hot climate, so it is more of a colonial thing that the British or the Spanish brought to wherever they invaded,” Anaya said. “It will be an interesting aspect of the culture to talk about.”
The country was chosen with help from the newly formed International Bears Association on campus.
“IBA wanted to do a country in Africa because it was a completely different continent than the two that we had already,” Anaya said.
Mercer is home to a total of 75 international students, according to Richard Spivey, who is the International Student and Scholar Services Coordinator for the Office of International Programs. Seventy-one of these students are degree-seeking students while four are within exchange programs from the United Kingdom. These 75 students represent numerous countries including Saudi Arabia, France, Brazil, India, China, Ghana and Canada.
Anaya said she developed the Coffee and Culture program to help incorporate international students further into Mercer life due to her own educational background and interests.
“My bachelor’s is in hospitality and tourism management, and my emphasis was food service. I also have a love for food. Richard had also mentioned the international students and the international faculty were also looking for a way to get more involved on campus,” Anaya said. “It also helps the study abroad side to get more students interested in going overseas when they see all these different cool places they can go.”
Anaya hopes that the Coffee and Culture series can be done once a month, with four events in both the fall and spring semesters.
“We choose our countries we talk about based on who responds to our email first. The two girls who did the England presentation came up to me during Bear Fair, so they were on it. We chose Vietnam because so many students want to do the Mercer on Mission in Vietnam,” she said.
While the IBA is having its own reformulation, the Office of International Programs is also reforming in a new location. The office will soon move from the third floor of Ryals Hall to the Connell Student Center under the breezeway.
“We will be much more accessible because right now, one, a lot of people don’t know where we are and two, there is no elevator. Anybody with disabilities couldn’t get up the stairs. We will always go meet with these students anywhere on campus, but it would be better if we have a spot where everybody can just come on in,” Anaya said.
This transition is important due to the increase in students wishing to travel abroad and gain further insight into different cultures. The Coffee and Culture series is but one way in which Anaya said she hopes to spread this idea of inclusivity of culture and internationalization.
“We want to emphasize a broad perspective of the world,” she said.