International Coffee Hour returns

Those interested in learning about different countries, continents and other places around the world might consider attending an International Coffee Hour presentation

This Tuesday’s event included a presentation by Fresno State students Chieh-Ju Lin and Lin Qiang Xiang on Taiwan, a small island nation east of China.

In the presentation, Lin and Xiang, both originally from Taiwan, discussed facts about the country, such as its population and dominant religions. They also noted that 95 percent of people living in Taiwan have national health insurance, which only costs $20 a month.

Xiang, a linguistics major, said he hopes students, faculty and the community will not only learn something new but become more interested in Taiwan.

“Hopefully everyone can get to know Taiwan a little bit more and maybe find Taiwan fascinating to travel to one day,” Xiang said.

The events, which have been going on for a number of years at Fresno State, consist of one-hour presentations by students, in which they present information on a country they are from or have visited.

The presentations take place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday at the Henry Madden Library in Room 2206. There is time after the presentation for a Q & A period and announcements. Coffee, tea, cookies and other snacks and refreshments are provided.

Some topics discussed include: where a student’s country is located on a map, the history of the country and the country’s educational standards along with its culture, food, politics and religion. In addition, students also talk about why they came to the U.S. and what similarities and differences they have noticed.

The goal of the presentations is not only to inform the general public about different countries, but to also help international students with their presentation and public speaking skills as well as help them practice their English in front of others.

Jamie Jones, the international student adviser and the adviser for the coffee hour presentations, says the events will also help international students build up their confidence and get involved in other clubs and events on campus.

“This is all about professional development, developing students skills and a way for them to help build their resume and show that they are doing things outside of their courses,” Jones said.

Jones feels that it also serves as a way to educate others on countries with which they might not be familiar.

“There’s a lot of different countries represented on this campus, so we want to make sure that we are representing the student population,” Jones said. “We also want to highlight some countries that people might not be very familiar with like Slovakia, which I bet a lot of people couldn’t even point it out on a map.”

Jones said the events are a great way for not only students, but also the community, to gain knowledge about other people and places around the world and the issues they face.

“If you look at the numbers, the percentage of Americans that have passports is strikingly low,” Jones said. “So if this opens up the world to them then I think that adds value to our community and helps educate people about other places and what they’re like.”

There are a total of 12 counties that will be presented on this semester, including: Colombia, Philippines, Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, Slovakia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Jones said that she and the coffee hour coordinator highlight different countries and continents that haven’t been covered in the past academic calendar year. They also try and have a presentation on historic months for a particular ethnic group such as Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September into October.

“We made sure we were highlighting some Hispanic countries like Ecuador and Colombia,”Jones said. “Then also from South America, we have Brazil to fit in with that type of group, and so that way that group can also highlight our coffee hour on their schedule as well.”

She said students who want to talk about a country they are not from can do so but will need to have some type of connection such as having studied abroad there. In any case, students are highly encouraged to find a partner who is from the country they want to present on.

“A prime example is we had a student that did some type of military-type training and wanted to present, but we wanted to make sure that we were getting a full view of the country, so we just asked him to try and find a student that was actually from that country so we can have an unbiased perspective,” Jones said.

In addition to the coffee hour presentations, Jones and others hold an international panel each semester with usually one-study abroad student and multiple international students, and they have an open discussion about internationally popular topics.

Dr. Melanie H. Ram, a political science professor at Fresno State, said she hopes students take advantage of the opportunity and learn something about another country.

“It is an opportunity where students can go listen to other students who are from another country and hear them talk about what they think is interesting about their country and something about the culture,” Ram said. “It is a very diverse environment, and there are students from all different countries there, and every week you can learn something about a different country.”

Phillip Gonzalez, a senior majoring in communication, said this was his first time going to an International Coffee Hour presentation and hopes to learn something new.

“I had no idea what to expect, but I hoped I’d learn something I didn’t know before,” Gonzalez said. “I like to keep an open mind.”

James Aghaei, a business major who was also a volunteer at the presentation, said he loves learning new things about different countries and even ones he didn’t know existed.

“Sometimes I don’t know a country exists, and then they talk about it,” Aghaei said. “Then I’m like wow that is beautiful. Sometimes they make you want to travel there.”