Conversation Café downtown unites international students

People+connecting+at+the+Conversation+Caf%C3%A9+on+Monday%2C+March+2%2C+at+%22the+loft%22+in+Santa+Barbara%2C+Calif.+Recently+celebrating+their+3+year+anniversary%2C+students+got+together+to+meet+new+people+from+different+cultures+and+to+have+a+good+time.

Marissa Jimenez

People connecting at the Conversation Café on Monday, March 2, at "the loft" in Santa Barbara, Calif. Recently celebrating their 3 year anniversary, students got together to meet new people from different cultures and to have a good time.

BENTE VAN ANDEL, Channels Staff

Fresh and familiar faces were welcomed with open arms during the spring meeting of the Conversation Café last Monday March 9.

Every Monday international and American students come together at 4:30 p.m. at Ocean Hills Covenant Church, also known as “the loft,” to meet new friends and improve on speaking English.

An American student, Stephanie Mings, started the Café. While studying abroad, she was alone, homesick and isolated as a minority in the country she lived in. She came back to Santa Barbara and realized how many international students faced the same thing she did and wanted to find a way to help.

The Café is widely advertised all over campus and Mings is trying to get more City College students to come by spreading the word and sending out e-mails. Despite all the effort, very few internationals at City College take advantage of the Café.

“I would probably go if I had heard more about it,” said Jessica Pozza, from Italy. “It’s just that none of my friends have really heard of it and I think this college is just too big and there’s already so much going on.”

The loft where they come together is located on State Street above Sur la Table. The open loft has multiple seating areas; sofas and tables with crutches are filled with shy but smiling faces. There is a big table with lots of food and free coffee, tea and water.

“This is my third time here and I enjoy making new friends and sharing stories and free food,” said Westmont student Luke Donne. “There’s just an incredible vibe here and I really like it.”

There’s people walking around, getting snacks and introducing one another. Students are getting seemingly more comfortable and real conversations are starting to evolve. With a good mixture of American and international students, everybody seems to be getting along really well.

After about 45 minutes the group was called together and it was time for introductions. Everybody had to stand in a circle and form groups with the people that were born in the same month. Instead of introducing themselves, students had five minutes to talk to the other person and introduce their partner.

After everybody had taken a turn it was time for a game. Students were divided into three groups and had to draw what was given to them on their card. It came down to a race and after a few rounds the first group won and everybody went back to talking in small groups.

“This is my first time here and I really like it,” said Westmont College student Rachael Sternhagen. “I’ve already met a couple of cool girls and I’m definitely coming back next week.”

Over the last 3 years, the Conversation Café has had over 4,000 students from around 18 different countries join them.

“We have seen people come together from to different countries and have lasting friendships,” said Mings. “I am happy to say that the Café has touched many lives all over the world and made the study abroad experience for these students a whole lot richer.”