International Coffee Hour Inspires Insight Into Community and Culture
Aanchal Tangri is a Communications major and serves as an International Peer Mentor for the International Student Services Program. Originally from the Northern part of India, Tangri is one of seven presenters in this semester’s International Coffee Hour series which will continue to be offered online via Zoom for Fall 2021.
The series—which has been fostering community and culture at TMCC for several years now—has certainly gained a following. “The International Coffee Hour Series is one that faculty and staff look forward to each semester,” said Executive Director Dr. Natalie Brown. “It has really become one of our flagship events where we can come together and hear about different places, different perspectives, and ask questions through fun, informative presentations. I love how each presenter adds personal stories and details about their home country or a time abroad. This year, I am excited to see the variety of places we all get to explore together. I can't wait to see you all there to learn more about our colleagues, students, and places around the world!”
While the series will remain true to its roots of fostering community and culture, this semester International Coffee Hour will feature two guest speakers outside of the TMCC community: Tess Oprferman and Catherine Vieyra. Operferman presented at the inaugural event for Fall 2021, detailing her experience living as an exchange student in Chile. Vieyra will present her experience living in China while teaching English there.
Nikolics explained that Zoom has enabled Vieyra—who is currently teaching English in South Korea—to share a presentation. “I love the idea that we have someone from the U.S. teaching abroad in South Korea talking about a past experience about living in China,” said Virag Nikolics, who organizes the series.
In fact, Nikolics is thrilled that the online nature of the series has enabled her to open the series to a wider community. “Being virtual allows us the benefit of inviting speakers to present from wherever they want to present, whether that’s outside of the country or here right now. It doesn’t matter.” This semester, the series covers countries from four continents, two TMCC faculty (one “throwback” presentation for those who missed it), a TMCC retiree, two outside presenters, and two student presenters.
Tangri is one of two international students who will share insights with guests about her home country. “I’m going to be talking about my experiences from childhood, how my grandparents were a part of the India-Pakistan Partition...and how India became independent,” she said. Tangri’s relationship with her home country is—like our relationships to home often are—tangled in history, culture, language, and memory.
As many presentations in the series do, Tangri offers unique insights into a complicated country with regions defined by the cardinal directions, which offer distinct cuisine and cultural differences. “I am from the North, and I don’t even know how to cook the kind of food they do in Southern India. We each have our own oils they use and whatever is grown there,” she explained.
Her presentation will also tackle cultural stereotypes and essential aspects of Indian culture. For Tangri, respecting her elders is an essential part of her culture, and something distinctly different from what she has witnessed as an international student in the United States.
“Here, when someone turns 18, they move out of their parents' home,” she said. “I was so shocked to see this, because this doesn’t happen in my country. My grandparents lived with my dad until their last breath.” This loyalty to family is integral to a culture that holds expectations that what is given should be returned. This, paired with minimal government benefits, ensures the older generation will be cared for.
And yet, other aspects of Indian culture have evolved. Expensive dowries are a thing of the past; and if you wanted 5G connection on your cell phone, India had that well in advance of the United States.
The series, Tangri said, offers unique insights into the world’s many hidden corners that you won’t necessarily find in travel guides or websites. These are offered not only through the presentations, but the Q & A sessions which follow every presentation.
“I’ve attended a few Coffee Hour presentations before. It’s very interesting because people come from different backgrounds, they talk about the country and their own personal experiences. This makes me aware of the places I’ve not been to and that I may never travel to, but I will know something important about their culture. That’s why I really like the series,” she said.
Kofi Poku, an instructor in TMCC’s Business Department, returns to the International Coffee Hour series this semester with a presentation on Ghana, his home country. Poku’s presentation will be updated with insights he gained from a recent trip, while also showcasing the history, culture, beauty and wealth of this African country.
“I want to showcase that there are many exciting and rich things that can be found in Ghana,” Poku explained. “Ghana is the first country in the sub-Sahara to gain independence from the British, and many intellectuals and presidents have used Ghana, the first black country, as inspiration for their ideologies or social movements. Two examples of leaders who have done this are Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela.”
The country of 30 million which serves as the headquarters of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) is also an economic power; it was formerly called the “Gold Coast” for the reason of abundance of gold in the country. Ghana is presently a world-leading producer of gold cocoa beans. Ghana is also a soccer-loving country; their team has gone to the World Cup three times.
Ghanian culture is vibrant, instilling its citizens with the ability and desire to work hard and the intelligence they need to succeed that they take with them around the world. Their language is also spiced with proverbs and symbols. “Ghanian elders will not speak things in plain language,” Poku explained. “They always spice it with words of wisdom, so you have to decipher the meaning of what they are saying. For example, there is a saying in Ghana that ‘one head doesn’t convene for a discussion.’ This means that ‘two heads are better than one.’”
In 2019, the country also honored its history by marking the 400-year anniversary of the first slave taken from Africa by instituting a program called “The Year of the Return.” “A lot of Americans went back home to their roots, to be with their own people,” Poku said. “Ghana is a promiseland, even if it has its challenges. I’m proud to be Ghanian and to showcase its wonders to the world in this updated presentation.”
Despite the evolution of the series to include outside speakers and presentations from previous semesters, the heart of International Coffee Hour remains unchanged.
“What I love about International Coffee hour is how the series truly captures the authentic human experience of growing up in a country or traveling abroad and appreciating that each of us will have a very different lens through which we see the world,” said Nikolics. “Through the series, we’re able to embrace our differences and learn from one another, which I think is really important. International Coffee Hour continues to be a celebration of diversity.”
For more information about the International Coffee Hour series, see the upcoming events on the TMCC calendar or contact International Student Services at 775-337-5605.
SGA Adopts Dandini Blvd. Through Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful
TMCC’s Student Government Association (SGA) is living the hashtag #TMCCisCommunity through their recent partnership with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful which resulted in the adoption of Dandini Blvd. “Last year, the SGA hosted a park clean-up in Hidden Valley that was a huge success,” explained SGA President Darian Richards.”This year, we decided to work with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful so the SGA could be more involved in our community and help out in different ways.”
The SGA—and any other student organizations or individual students—will be able to attend three clean-ups per year of the adopted roadway. This offers students opportunities to gain community service hours, which are required of certain programs (for example: Men of Color Mentorship Program or students who receive the Nevada Promise Scholarship), but it can also be a positive aspect of a student’s growing resume.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” said Richards. “The SGA always embraces community events: after all, that’s how students find us...and TMCC is a wonderful place to be. We genuinely care for our students...and this shows that we genuinely care about our community.”
The SGA will publicize future clean-up events on Dandini, as well as other opportunities for students to gain community service hours through other Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful Events. In October, interested students can join the SGA for a park clean-up at the Sun Valley Community Park.
The SGA will be responsible for cleaning Dandini Boulevard for two years. After the second cleaning event, Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful will install a plaque naming the TMCC SGA as having adopted the space and keep it clean.