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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Connecting cultures

International students face many challenges when acclimating to a new environment. These challenges often include making friends and speaking the common language. Talk Time, an event held by the Campus Christian Fellowship, aims to tackle both of these challenges.

Talk Time is held every other Friday with different assigned topics of conversation and often involves a meal. Western Alumna Cayla Barke is a CCF member who helps plan the events.

“Talk time is a non-religious event that’s hosted by CCF as a way to welcome international students,” Barke said.

The purpose of the event is to bring both American students and international students together for a meal accompanied by conversation and new connections.

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“I’ve met a lot of international students who don’t have a lot of friends and feel really uncomfortable on our campus,” Barke said. “I think that sometimes American students feel this distance or this wall like they can’t go up to international students and make friends with them because of the language barrier.”

“We can know about each other’s culture. We can share the loneliness of international students, so it is important to share that thinking and to talk to each other.”

Suzuka Nakagawa

Barke said she hopes events like this break down that barrier and help international students feel more comfortable.

Talk Time’s most recent event was held Friday, Nov. 18. The event revolved around the theme of Thanksgiving, complete with a Thanksgiving inspired food.

Conversations about Thanksgiving varied from personal stories to explanations and discussions about the holiday itself.

Senior Haruna Suzuki helps plan Talk Time events, which are open to those wanting to talk and learn about other cultures, and for international students who want to practice their English and make new friends, Suzuki said.

“It is important for international students who came to the United States and don’t know where to find friends and want to have conversations with American students,” Suzuki said.

Students gather at the Talk Time event Friday, Nov. 18., 2016. // Photo by Anjali LeGrand
Students gather at the Talk Time event Friday, Nov. 18., 2016. // Photo by Anjali LeGrand

Conversation topics are different at every event.

“Usually it’s related to what’s going on in the season,” Barke said. “It’s related to what we think people would want to talk about and what their needs are.”

Previous discussion topics included Thanksgiving, politics and friendship, Barke said.

Attendee Hope Kenyon said the dinners are a way for people to share cultures. Kenyon had an experience with this herself at her first dinner, where she met two students from China and connected with them based on her own visit to the country, she said.

Talk Time wasn’t originally started by CCF, Barke said. It has been an on-and-off event for about 10 years.

Attendee Suzuka Nakagawa, an international student from Japan, said Talk Time has helped her feel more comfortable speaking English and has helped her make more friends.

“We can know about each other’s culture,” Nakagawa said. “We can share the loneliness of international students, so it is important to share that thinking and to talk to each other.”

Suzuki said she has noticed that most people attend the dinners regularly.

Barke hopes these events help bring a sense of unity between students on campus and keeps international students from feeling isolated.

“Really what I hope is that American students and international students hang out outside of these times, so much to the point that we don’t need this type of event to make these relationships possible,” Barke said.

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