Students gather every Thursday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the atrium of Garretson Woodruff Pratt to sip coffee, sample different teas, eat snacks — and celebrate diversity. UWTea Time is designed to allow students to gather, learn about different cultures and foster dialogue with one another.
Amber Hallberg, international student advisor in the International Students and Scholar Services, believes UWTea Time serves a unique role for international students and cultural learning.
“Our goal is to recognize and honor the cultural identities of our international student population while also providing opportunities for cultural exchange,” Hallberg said.
Starting this academic year, each weekly UWTea Time has a cultural theme linked to holidays or regions from places where UW Tacoma’s international students come from, along with traditions of the United States.
The food offered during the event highlights that week’s cultural focus. A brief explanation of the food, holiday or cultural theme may also be given to the students in attendance. The Oct. 5 UWTea Time, for example, discussed and celebrated Mid-Autumn Moon Festival — a festival celebrated in a number of East Asian countries. The snacks served included moon cakes and mochi along with a short introduction to how the holiday is celebrated in each country.
The next four UWTea Time themes are: Halloween on Oct. 26, Native American Culture on Nov. 2, Thanksgiving on Nov. 9, and Hanukkah and Christmas on Nov. 30. Previous themes this academic year included Taiwan and Diwali.
Founded by ISSS in 2012, the event was designed for the international student community at UWT. The time was meant for these students to meet each other and talk with the international student advisor.
According to their mission statement, ISSS serves F-1 International Students — international college students studying in the U.S. with a student visa — with “non-immigrant immigration advising, programming, and support.” Serving approximately 300 international UWT students, ISSS provides various resources and events including workshops, UWTea Time and info sessions.
Diversity of students and cultures is a hallmark of UWTea Time. Jeff Cohen, executive director of the Office of Global Affairs, explains the event is about “informal interaction between students, faculty and staff.”
Both Hallberg and Cohen want UWT students to know that all students — international or not — are welcome to this event.
Cohen believes students interested in other cultures and study abroad opportunities should be particularly interested in participating. UWTea Time allows for cultural exchange which fosters dialogue and respect for other students’ cultures.
“It’s a great way to exchange small tastes of the world at UW Tacoma,” Hallberg said.