Laurier International’s Coffee Club Programs Help New Students Adapt
Coming to a new country can be an exciting experience, but it can also be a very nerve racking one, because there’s a lot of change.
Laurier has approximately 1300 international students right now, so there’s no shortage of students on this campus who find themselves having to adapt to an unfamiliar environment. Laurier International is committed to making their experience as pleasant as possible — and they’ve created a fun way to do this.
Once a week, alternating between Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Laurier International hosts a “Coffee Club” event at the Laurier International Lounge.
At Coffee Club, students get free drinks and snacks, and participate in a laid back discussion that’s led by international student leaders — most of whom are international students themselves.
Sometimes, the discussions will be about Canadian culture; other times, they’ll be about cultures from far away; and occasionally, they’ll be about what’s going in students’ lives.
Coffee Club events are free to attend. If students go to eight of them, they can get a special designation on their Laurier Experience Record.
Coffee Club was started about two years ago by Mike Aguiar, an international student advisor for student engagement, who works with the international student support unit.
“We’re the ones that chat with students about things like cultural adjustment,” Aguiar said.
“My real focus is getting the international students engaged with the Laurier community — and that’s where the coffee club program comes in.”
The program has had a successful turnout over the past couple of years. About ten students attend per week on average, and they come from all over the world. China, India, Dubai, France, Russia and Zimbabwe are just some of places of origin for students that come to the events, and it allows for there to be a very wide range of perspectives in the group discussions.
“It’s great … It’s a very passive, easy way for these students to get connected. That’s what I like about them: there’s no barriers to entry — you just show up,” Aguiar said.
In fact, the events are not limited to international students. Any student can come out any week to have coffee, snacks and an opportunity make new friends.
Coffee Club has had a lasting impact on some of the students. Many of them continue to go to the events long after they’ve received a designation on their Laurier Experience Record.
“Everything started in Coffee Club,” explained Teddy Zhou, a third–year international student leader who periodically runs the events now.
“I talked to a lot of people from different cultures, and I understand myself and the other cultures better.”
“And then, because of that, I got really interested in working for this organization and get to know more people internationally — that’s why I ended up in this position, and in a lot of other positions as well.”