The International Affairs Office (IAO) and the Human Resources Department (HRD), in a unified effort to engage academic support personnel (ASP) in improving support services for international students, conducted a C.O.F.F.E.E. in the C.A.F.E. session at the Lemongrass on October 30, 2019.
The COFFEE, which stands for Common Opportunities for Further Enhancement and Engagement, is an HRD initiative which aims to improve services to stakeholders through periodic dialogues and gatherings. Meanwhile, the C.A.F.É. (Cultural Awareness for Friendship and Engagement) is a subset program of the Global Connections, which is part of the larger International Student Development Program. It is a venue for open and informative conversation about various cultural topics, and aims to cultivate cultural awareness, friendship, and engagement. It was created to address one of the gaps that was found in the 2018 IAO-initiated research titled, Understanding International Students: Their Problems, Concerns, and Challenges. The said research found the need for an enhanced engagement among international students and their local peers, as well as with the academic support personnel, particularly those with direct interactions with the international students.
In this academic year’s first CAFÉ session, exchange student Lena Schear talked about her home country, Switzerland. During the session, she talked about the languages spoken in her native country, customs and traditions, including the apéro feast Swiss people partake of during family gatherings and on special occasions. True to the CAFÉ session’s goal of authentic cultural immersion, the guests were treated to a delicious Swiss gourmet of cheese, grapes, dried apricot, and air-dried ham. To complete the apéro ensemble, Ms. Schaer, together with Chef Jun Lunasin of the Culinary Institute, made delicious and beautifully braided Swiss bread.
The gathering was indeed meaningful and memorable for the participants. Lena shared, “the gathering was a great experience for me because I learned a lot in the preparation process and I hope the audience also had fun learning some things about some cultural differences and facts about Switzerland.” She added that, “the event was very well organized, and the atmosphere remained relaxing and fun.” Jiro Taguba, Coordinator from the Strategic Communications Office, shared the same observation, saying “….yung ambiance relaxing; may feeling na I can talk to the international students freely. Sosyal yung food. I was brought to another place. The food added to the vibe.” [Translation: The ambiance was very relaxing. I had this feeling that I could talk to the international students freely. The food was classy. It brought us to another place. It added to the [Swiss] vibe]. Meanwhile, Ms. Sigried Joy Catubao, staff at the Arts and Cultural Affairs Department, shared that the event was “Mas organized. Mas engaging. Interesting yung topic because of the foreign culture presented.” [Translation: It was organized. It was more engaging].