ESLI’s “Coffee Talk” event creates community


Students, both international and domestic, can come together once a week for a conversation and a coffee. Called ‘Coffee Talk’, the meet-up has brought together students from all over, something its coordinators see as an important part of WKU’s community.

“Back at home, KFC restaurant — we call ‘Kentucky’, not ‘KFC’. So the guy at the agency said, ‘Do you want Kentucky? And I say no, ‘I’m not hungry,’” said Maz Bukhary. “He said, ‘No, I’m for real. There’s a state called Kentucky.’ So I Google that, I found it and said, ‘Okay, let’s go to Kentucky. Maybe they have good fried chicken.’”

Bukhary is a Saudi Arabian student who came to Bowling Green to study at WKU. Before entering the university, he needed to achieve a higher level of English proficiency, so he entered and completed the English as a Second Language International program located on campus.

As a part of the WKU community, Bukhary has held leadership roles, one of them being a coordinator for Coffee Talk, a weekly gathering where students in the same boat as he was can support each other.

“The point of Coffee Talk is not just to practice English,” he said. “You can meet other people from different countries, Americans, so you can hang out with them and have dinner, coffee, play games. That’s a cool thing.”

Valarie Phelps, ESLI student director, said the gathering is structured with having an activity at the beginning as an icebreaker, followed by an opportunity to discuss interesting and important topics.

“We decided to break the time up with a game at the beginning, just to get everybody a little relaxed, and also to allow some of the lower level language students to able to do something that doesn’t require as much language,” she said. “That way, when we move to the conversation, they’ll be a little more comfortable with being able to talk and use what they have.”

And ultimately, even when numbers have grown and decreased, those that gather for the session enjoy what is considered a community.

“The other day, for instance, I saw one of our students in the parking lot and I was like, ‘Hey! How’s it going?’ and so it really becomes a family at Coffee Talk,” said Jordan Miller, an American coordinator. “We celebrate together, you know; we do life together.”

“I struggled a lot,” said Bukhary. “That’s why I need to help people so they don’t struggle as I struggled when I came here.”

The group welcomes all students to the weekly gathering. They meet Tuesdays at 3:15 in Tate Page Hall room 327.

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