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International Women’s Coffee Hour provides safe space for deep conversations

On the last Tuesday of each month, students gather for social, cultural and personal discussions at the International Women’s Coffee Hour. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, the event will commence once again, gathering students of various genders and ethnicities to engage in relaxing and important conversations.

The coffee hour is hosted by the Ohio University’s Women’s Center with assistance from the OU Office of International Student and Faculty Services, or ISFS. Habiba Abdelaal, a graduate assistant at the Women’s Center, organizes the monthly events. Abdelaal explained that the purpose of the gathering is to provide security for both international and domestic students.

“We are trying to create a space for international students and allies so even local students who are interested to know more and to speak with international students,” Abdelaal said. “We want to create a safe space for them to come and share their stories.”

Abby Conder, an international student adviser with ISFS, works to support international students. Since the event is not targeted solely to international students or solely women, Conder expressed that the diverse experiences of the students forge deeper understandings of different perspectives. 

“It’s an environment for all global citizens to feel comfortable,” Conder said. “Most of our international students are graduate students, and they’re very busy with their research, so it’s harder for them to connect. So this is an opportunity for them to bridge a gap, and that’s really great to see.”

Conder, who frequents the coffee hours each month, expressed her fondness for the collaboration of the students as well as for the divergent topics discussed. 

“Every month is different, which is exciting because it’s a new dialogue,” Conder said. “Sometimes the conversation is really deep and meaningful, and other times, it’s just a fun outlet for when you’re stressed. This is our hour to enjoy ourselves and enjoy each other.” 

Occasionally, the meetings will have a specific theme for the hour for students to converse about specific traditions from their culture. The upcoming coffee hour will have a dancing theme, where participants can share historical elements of dance in their country through discussion or performance.

Analee Davis, a sophomore studying English and Spanish, elaborated on the importance of acknowledging the typical conventions of other countries, especially in regard to issues facing international women. 

“I’m from Guatemala, and we’re a very patriarchal society, so women doing stuff is not a thing yet in Latin America,” Davis said. “So I think it’s important to have these discussions amongst international women because you have to bring awareness to a topic that’s very contemporary.”

For Davis, creating platforms like the coffee hours for international students to share their experiences is significant to recognizing the privileges that others may have.  

“People in the United States are given fantastic opportunities that you don’t necessarily get internationally, which is why a lot of international students decide to come and study in the U.S.,” Davis said. “And being a woman who’s not from the U.S, you’re at another disadvantage, so being able to discuss it is so important to raise awareness of it all.”

While the purpose of the event has serious undertones, Abdelaal said it serves primarily as a safe and relaxing area for students to find comfort. 

“It’s all about creating space for students and empowering them and giving them the skills to be leaders in the future,” Abdelaal said. “So whatever they want to talk about, we can discuss over tea and coffee together.”


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