International Coffee Hour highlights international students from Sri Lanka


On March 5, students from Sri Lanka gave a presentation about their home country’s culture.

International students Priyasha Fernando, graduate student in civil/environmental engineering and chemical engineering, and Pallikonda Arachchige Wickramasinghe, graduate student in biology, spoke at the event over Zoom.

The two girls are from the same city of Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Fernando played a clip that highlighted many features of Sri Lanka.

“So what are you thinking? You want to go there right now,” Fernando said.

Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia and the 25th largest island in the world. It is one-third of the size of Kansas, but the population is larger. The country was named Sri Lanka in 1972, while it officially is referred to as the “Democratic Socialistic Republic of Sri Lanka.”

Sinhala and Tamil are the two main languages of Sri Lanka, with English as the “linking language.” There are also four ethnicities and religions, with Sinhalese being the most common ethnicity and Buddhism being the most common religion.

Fernando said the things she misses most about her home country are all the fish and being able to eat fish all the time. Before 2009, she said, there was danger all over and she did not feel safe.

“Now I feel safe and can go anywhere,” Fernando said.

Wickramasinghe highlighted many events, along with sports and other notable festivals that the people in Sri Lanka celebrate. She said Vesak Full Moon Day (Festival of Night) is one of her favorite festivals to be a part of.

“Nighttime is the bright time and the time that I love the most because we make lanterns,” Wickramasinghe said.

She said the transition to the U.S. was different because the cultures are different.

She also mentioned the difficulty of getting used to the different seasons throughout the year, as Sri Lanka only has two seasons: rain and drought. She gets to experience all four seasons here, including seeing snow for the first time.

Previously, this event was held at the International Student Center where a cup of coffee and a traditional sample of one’s traditional cuisine culture was given, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic all of the coffee hour presentations are held virtually.

“This is what I miss the most, sharing a country’s food during these coffee hours,” Charles Barden, forestry professor, said.

Noah Brendemuehl, who joined the event but has never even been to Kansas, said he loves tuning into the International Coffee Hour.

“I love to travel, and that has been quite limited due to the pandemic,” Brendemuehl said. “One of the silver linings of the virtual reality is that this program is able to reach a broader audience than it would have in pre-COVID times. … The program has been fun, informative, and a wonderful way to gain insight on another culture. When possible, I may even make a trip out to KSU to attend one live.”

Stacey Bailey, an advisor for International Students and Scholar Services, explained how students are selected to present at the International Coffee Hour.

“We first reflect on which countries have been represented, as we don’t repeat for five years,” Bailey said. “We then send out a request to our student population to see who may be interested in presenting.”

The next coffee hour event will take place March 26 at 4:00 p.m. via Zoom, where the featured country is Indonesia.