Coffee Hour gives cultural immersion of other countries from home

Students listen to Yasameen Akbasri, sophomore life sciences and pre-dentistry, during International Coffee Hour in Manhattan, Kan. on Sept. 22, 2017. (Archive photo by Blake Reid | Collegian Media Group)

Five times a semester, Kansas State students and faculty can sip up more than just coffee during the International Student and Scholar Services’ Coffee Hour. This program allows international students to present their country and culture to others.

Lauren Benavidez, K-State graduate student in agricultural economics, presented her home country of Nicaragua on Sept. 24. Benavidez gave insight into everything from geographical facts to beloved holidays. Viewers could interact with the content through polls and trivia quizzes during the presentation.

Benavidez, born in Estelí, Nicaragua, highlighted national traditions like performances of El Güegüense and the celebration of La Purísima. El Güegüense is a fusion of theater, song and dance that pays homage to colonial-era folklore. The feast of La Purísima, or the Virgin Mary, is celebrated on Dec. 8 and honors the country’s Catholic influences with treats and dance.

Benavidez also spoke on traditional foods like the quesillo — white cheese wrapped in a tortilla and topped with pickled onion — and gallo pinto — a combination of red beans, white rice and diced onions. She said preparing a presentation for Coffee Hour gave her the opportunity to revisit her favorite things about home.

“[My favorite part was] the opportunity to share my country from the perspective of being abroad,” Benavidez said. “At first, I was nervous, but then I relaxed during the presentation and really enjoyed it.

Coffee Hour participation is not strictly limited to the Wildcat community. Nadeeshani Ratnayaka, graduate assistant of International Student and Scholar Services and head of the program, said participants tune in from all over the world.

“Coffee Hour is open for anyone who’s interested,” Ratnayaka said. “We’ve been hosting sessions virtually since March 2020, so we’ve actually had people joining from different countries as well — especially the friends and family of our student presenters.”

Past meetings have featured many different parts of the globe as K-State’s international students represent over 100 countries. Ratnayaka said the program gives viewers the chance to explore other countries without the financial burden and public health restrictions acting as barriers.

“I believe the Coffee Hour program sort of lays the foundation for people to be excited and interested in learning about another country, and its culture and traditions because they are all very different from one another. … Personally, I have been very inspired,” Ratnayaka said.

The Coffee Hour program will continue virtually and meet from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on select Fridays throughout the fall and spring semesters. Prospective participants can learn more about Coffee Hour and tune in to the next gathering on Nov. 5 for a presentation on Ghana.