Students enjoy new tea—and new friends

Melanie Johnson and Elin Johnson

Students who want to make international friends and taste life in another country can do just that at a weekly tea hosted by the international programs’ office.

The International Tea Hour creates an opportunity for international students to meet American students, Matt Hiller, assistant director of international programs said.

Many students who travel abroad regret not making friends in their host countries, Hiller said. He created the tea to help close that gap for international students at Linfield, he said.

Seeing introverted international students light up and have great conversations with American students is his favorite part of the event, said Hiller. “The friendships students make while studying abroad often create lifelong memories,” he said.

The tea is also a way for American students to make new friends from around the world, he said.

Sophomore Alecia Barlow attends the tea because it allows her to connect and have fun with students who have either traveled to or come from a diverse group of countries, she said.

Barlow’s favorite thing about tea hour is that students can learn about various cultures and languages and bond over similar likes, dislikes and experiences that transcend language barriers and traditional customs, she said.

“Cultural events like this help break down barriers of how we view the world. With all the bad things that happen in the world that make media headlines, it’s small events like this that will help us better understand one another,” Hiller said.

Tea served at the event comes from all over the world. Some are gifts from international guests or people on campus and the rest he buys from the Velvet Monkey tea shop downtown, he said.

The event features a different tea each week. Some of the more unique teas featured in the past were from areas not known for their tea, such as an organic Russian caravan smoky tea and yerba mate from South American, he said.

“Tea hour gives me a chance to drink delicious tea and relax by taking a break from studying,” Barlow said.

The tea began with less than half a dozen participants in spring 2017 and now averages 25-30 students each week.

“There is a good core group of students who come each week, but new students show up every week,” Hiller said. “The more the merrier!” he said.

Barlow encouraged other students to “stop by for a minute or an hour to drink some tea, make origami and network with cool people.”

The tea is from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. every Thursday in room 120 of Walker Hall.