Grab a cup of coffee with culture

Pratik Sharda is a finance major from New Delhi, India. He is in his second semester at Fresno State and he is the student coordinator for the International Coffee Hour.

International Coffee Hour is a program that has been running for 14 years and is held every Tuesday in the University Student Union.

The main goal of the program is to get international and local students together, as well as faculty and community members.

The idea, Sharda said, is to get every person possible to expand his or her knowledge about other countries.

Each week, in USU 309-317, an international student or faculty member gives a one-hour presentation on a different country. On Feb. 27, Dr. Rose Marie Kuhn, a French professor at Fresno State, gave a presentation on Cuba.

She was able to give the presentation on Cuba because she traveled there for a conference. Kuhn explained that because she is a teacher, she was able to bring back some items from Cuba to show her students. Some of the items she brought to the presentation were musical instruments, books and cigars.

Most of the presenters are international students, who present on their own countries, Sharda said. However, sometimes there are professors who will give a presentation about their own countries of origin, or like Kuhn, a professor who has a background or interest in that country.

“We learn about the political and economical aspects of a country,� Sharda said. “The presenter will talk about exports, food and tourism.�

In the past, Sharda said, International Coffee Hour has focused on large countries. This semester however, some of the presentations are on smaller, less known countries. On March 20, the presentation will be about the Czech Republic and the following week will be about Cambodia.

What the program lacks, Sharda said, is the participation of local students. Mostly the people who attend are regulars who have been attending for years and students who are interested in traveling.

At one of the first coffee hours of the semester, there were about 65 people in attendance. On February 27, there were only 15 people in the audience. Sharda said that he had heard a lot of discussion about midterms and that could be why there was such a low turnout.

On March 6, Sharda is scheduled to give a presentation about his native country, India and its rising economy. Sharda will talk about India’s population, its regions and its different religions.

In the last 14 years, the program has not changed days or venues, Sharda said. He hopes to get more people involved in the upcoming weeks.
“It’s an amazing experience,� Sharda said. “Learning about international business and travel.�

The presentations are great for students who have never been outside the United States, Sharda said. It gives them a way to visit those countries and learn more about the culture, as well as the tourism, economy and experiences of others.

This semester, there will be a total of 12 presentations total. Beginning on March 6, the countries to be covered are India, Kenya, Czech Republic, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Canada.

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