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International conversation flows across campus

February 17, 2016

Like great artists, musicians and writers throughout history, students, faculty and staff are sharing ideas and conversations over a cup of tea or coffee somewhere on campus, nearly every day.

On the fourth floor of Manoogian Hall, right after lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those seeking a mighty jolt of caffeinated deliciousness begin lining up outside the office of Raffaele De Benedictis (right), associate professor of classical and modern languages, literatures and cultures.

Patiently they wait as he prepares each of them a short cup of espresso, a custom he began more than 20 years ago.  He now uses a fully automatic espresso machine to brew a cup of goodness with a frothy top (the sign of a well-brewed cup, he says).

“I do it from my heart,” says De Benedictis. “It is good to take a break, and it provides a time for creativity and inspiration as we share conversation.”

While the espresso machine is whirring on Thursdays, another longstanding gathering, Russian Tea, takes place down the hall from De Benedictis. 

Laura Kline, senior lecturer in classical and modern languages and faculty advisor of the Slavic Klub, says weekly tea has been served since the late 1990s, when a student suggested having a conversation group. It has existed ever since, being served Mondays and Thursdays from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. for anyone who wants to practice Russian.

“The gatherings are a blend of WSU students, faculty and local residents, which always makes for interesting conversation,” says Kline.

Yuliya Harris of the Office of International Students and Scholars facilitates the International Coffee Hour, a twice-monthly lunchtime gathering in the Towers’ Residential Suites Living Room.

The informal forum features conversation, fun, and even games to introduce international students to phrases, American culture and holiday traditions, while boosting their confidence in speaking  and language skills.

“This coffee hour is about connecting students to each other as well as the rest of university; introducing them to things they would not typically learn in the classroom,” says Harris.

A recent game of Charades found a student acting out the phrase "Smell My Feet." Harris says none of the students knew the phrase, so answers included "smell the foot" and "smelly sock.”

The event is open to the Wayne State community, but Harris says attendance is primarily international students. 

“They can chat with other students, learn about resources around campus and the community, and enjoy light refreshments for free,” says Harris.

Over at the two Starbucks coffeehouses on campus there is a continual flow of coffee and conversation.  Although Danielle Krichevsky attends Russian Tea, she also stops for a Starbucks coffee, sometimes twice a day. She and Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority sister Jesiqua Hutchison take daily breaks at the Student Center and if the line is long when they arrive, they simply wait it out at a nearby table.

Krichevsky, a biology major, favors dark roast “all the time,” while Hutchison, a political science major, says her “go to” drink is a caramel vanilla latte.

Waiting in line for a black iced tea is never an issue for doctoral student Ed Rickard, who says the staff is always “very efficient,” regardless of line out front.

Topics related to China and Chinese culture are discussed on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m. at the Confucius Café, part of the WSU Confucius Institute.  The café is in the Maccabees Building, 5057 Woodward, until March 1, when it relocates to the institute’s new offices on the first floor of Manoogian. 

Each café hour features invited speakers who present programs on Chinese art and holiday traditions, or economic and social concerns.  Refreshments are served and native speakers of Chinese are on hand to help beginning, intermediate, and advanced-level students with their language skills.

Find the dates and times of upcoming gatherings at events.wayne.edu.