What is a person to do when three students enter your office and ask for you to help keep a program alive that will help international and American students? You of course agree. Many moons ago WKU’s International Office began a conversation hour for International students to practice their English as well as interact with American students in a comfortable environment. This program began losing attendance and was being shut down, but three students wanted to fight to keep it alive. Bruno (ESLi alumni), Scarlette (WKU Graduate Student), and Kimberly (WKU Undergraduate Student) brought the request to bring this program to ESLi and see if it could survive.
We took some time to plan, find a location, and give it a name. We decided to have these sessions once a week directly after ESLi classes. We also decided to do it close to the ESLi classrooms so that emerging language students would take advantage of the opportunity available to them. We also chose the name Coffee Talk because it added another layer to the event (a chance to try coffees/drinks from around the world) and it is just a fun name.
The first Coffee Talk we made a pot of American Coffee, planned a song to start off with to get everyone moving and also to work in some American Culture, and finally a conversation topic to wrap up the event with. We set all this up in a very small conference room by the ESLi classrooms and hoped for an attendance of at least 10 people. During the very first Coffee Talk we had an attendance of about 42 people. We were filled in the room and out in the hall. It was a more than successful start of an amazing adventure.
That first night was in October 2014 and Coffee Talk is still going strong now in 2017. We have expanded from that small conference room, to a classroom, and finally to a larger conference room. We have done many different sessions over the semesters as well. One summer we highlighted a culture a week, we have done Relay Races focused on American culture (planking, tongue twisters, hula hoop, etc.), to even celebrating special occasions like birthdays.
Coffee Talk is structured to allow all students to have a fun learning experience about different cultures, practice the English language, and become a part of the American College Life. Each Coffee Talk beginswith a fun game;the game allows for students with weaker language skills to feel more comfortable to interact and use the language skills they have learned. Some games we have played include; reverse charades, chopsticks and M&M race, and spijkerpoepen (a Dutch game). We end the event with a conversation topic such as Family Structure, Cultural Differences, and Holidays just to name a few.
Coffee Talk is truly a student run event. Each semester 2-3 ESLi alumni as well as 2-3 American University students come and volunteer their time. I volunteer my time to advise these Coffee Talk Coordinators and to make sure the event is conducive to language learning and a comfortable environment for all students in attendance. The Coffee Talk Coordinators plan each week, run the event, and participate during each evening. Not only do these students get the opportunity to be a part of a multicultural activity, they also obtain the knowledge and skills of planning and executing an event with a diverse team.
Coffee Talk has grown into more than any of us could have imagined. Domestic and International students alike await each semester for Coffee Talk to begin. It has become more than a tool to practice English and a place to make friends, have fun, learn new things, and practice a language actively. It is like sitting at home and having that cup of coffee with the people you enjoy spending time with.
ESLi at WKU
Bowling Green, KY