International Tea Time connects UB students from different corners of the world

Anthony Crowe considers himself a minority instead of an international student, as he believes he is one of few who can truly call themselves American.

Crowe is an American Indian who came to Buffalo from Montana to continue his education. He may not be international, but he understands the sentiment – Native Americans used to be broken into tribes, which were like their own little countries.

Crowe, a sophomore undecided major, was one of many students who attended International Tea Time on Monday. The event is held weekly in the Intercultural and Diversity Center in the Student Union throughout the year, including during the summer.

“Tea time taught me to have an open mind about different cultures,” Crowe said. “I come to the meetings every Monday. My first time here was very welcoming and because I’m a big people person, the group just grew on me.”

Tea time is open to all students, though it’s geared toward international students. Snacks are purchased at international grocery stores and various types of tea are provided.

Elena Yakunina, a psychologist at Counseling Services, created International Tea Time in order to promote friendship amongst international and UB’s domestic students.

“Its hard for international students to make friends sometimes because they stay in their own group of international students,” Yakunina said. “Its also hard because it sometimes difficult for them to approach Americans too because they don’t know what to say.”

Yakunina herself was an international student and understood the difficulty of making friends.

She said attendance to the program varies throughout the semester but at least 20-25 people usually show up. The event isn’t meant to be overly time consuming, rather, just a way for students to get to know one another.

“People don’t have to stay the whole time,” said Yakunina. “I’d probably recommend staying about half an hour to get to know folk and have a little bit more of a meaningful conversation but people sometimes stop in between classes to just play games and chat with others.”

Some of these games include UNO, Pictionary or charades – games that can be played across the language barrier between students.

Bowen Shen, a second-year masters student in computer science, is an international student from China. He heard about International Tea Time last semester and decided to try it out.

“One of the first friends I made here was Mike,” said Shen. “Mike was learning Chinese so our friendship started from that.”

Shen had difficulty making friends, since his graduate classes are so large and his English isn’t proficient.

He said that the small group has helped him gain some confidence in his English and creates a space for him to practice.

“Our director is very nice, patient and willing to teach you how to improve your English,” said Shen.

Shen feels fortunate to have found International Tea Time where he is able to learn more about the culture he’s been immersed in as well as teach others about his own.

Yakunina believes the event serves a greater purpose than just helping international students. It can be used as a tool for all students to get to know one another and to learn about cultures outside their own.

“It’s also a good group for students who are interested in learning about diversity and different cultures,” Yakunina said. “International students have a lot to teach U.S. students who are interested in learning languages or about different cultures.”

Tomas Olivier is a features desk editor and can be reached at