Campus Spotlight Society & Culture

On the Bulldog Beat: Brewing Connections

Katie Bonilla strikes up a conversation as students continue to filter into the Victor K. Wilson Memorial Hall Ballroom for International Coffee Hour (Photo by Navya Shukla).

For half a century, International Coffee Hour has been bringing UGA students together through cuisine, music, and conversation.

It’s a Friday afternoon in the center of campus, and a line of students wraps around the staircase outside the Victor K. Wilson Memorial Hall Ballroom. The clock hits 11:30 a.m., and the doors open. Scents of coffee and cooking spices fill the air. Upbeat music welcomes the attendees for International Coffee Hour.

A student grabs a coffee before settling in for the coffee hour activities. (Photo by Navya Shukla)

International Coffee Hour is a weekly program led by UGA International Student Life, inviting students to learn about new cultures while enjoying coffee, food, and good company. Last year, the program celebrated its 50th anniversary, making it one of the longest-running events of its kind across the United States.

“A lot of international students, they have no way to connect with people from here, so coffee hour is a great way for people who have no chance to connect, to connect with domestic students,” says Thomas Gorissen, an office assistant for International Student Life and a third-year management and international business student.

In mid-November, the Indian Student Association hosted the coffee hour, bringing chana papri chat, a traditional crispy street food with chickpeas, potatoes, and chutney, to share. Flags from around the world draped from a railing above as students snacked and socialized. Circles of chairs invited conversation and the forging of new friendships.

“I have a few friends who have been coming for a long time. They said it was fun and you get to meet a lot of cool people, so I decided to check it out. They’ve proven to be right,” says Amelia Hunt, a fourth-year student studying animal science and biological sciences.

Sitting in big circles encourages International Coffee Hour attendees to meet more people and form new friendships. (Photo by Navya Shukla)

Coffee hour regulars and first-timers alike settled in together while members of the association led an interactive game quizzing students on their knowledge of India. Continuing the entertainment, music from popular Indian cinema played, and students began to dance in the center of the ballroom. Claps and cheers resonated as attendees from various backgrounds joined in learning the spirited dance moves. Through moments like this, the program teaches attendees about other cultures while also giving them a space to celebrate their own.

“Because we are international students, we want to find people we can relate to,” says Sakshi Seth, president of the Indian Student Association and a graduate student in computer science.

Vivia Ruwala was one of many attendees dancing to Hindi music at International Coffee Hour. (Photo by Navya Shukla)

Each week, a different International Student Life organization signs up to host a coffee hour. Other campus and community partners, such as UGA Student Transitions and the Office of Global Engagement, have also hosted coffee hours, sharing information about their resources and opportunities.

Victoria Euler, a third-year student studying biological sciences, has been an International Coffee Hour regular for more than two years. “My favorite part is how each organization that comes here brings something new, something different,” she says.