Chai Chat offers more than just tea

Megan Thorne
Members of the international club sipped tea and ate cookies while discussing the stresses of the semester Wednesday afternoon. The Counseling Center pairs with the International program’s office to put on the monthly event.

Students grasped ceramic mugs, hot tea swirling around their tired eyes Wednesday afternoon.

College can be a time of high stress for some students.

For international students, not only is the normal stress of college present, but they must also navigate learning a new language, becoming acclimated to new foods and understanding western culture.

Ashley Evearitt decided international students needed someplace to share what they were experiencing.

The counseling center staff therapist co-created Chai Chat, a monthly event for members of the International Club, allowing both international and American students to drink some tea and share the ups and downs of life the first Wednesday of every month.

Evearitt said the counseling center partnered up with the international programs office to create Chai Chat with hopes of making students more aware of the resources offered to them.

“International students tend to not have a whole lot of connections outside the international program,” Evearitt said. “We created Chai Chat with hopes of connecting students with someone from the counseling center. We want them to know they have a safe place to come and talk about all the things they are dealing with.”

Evearitt said the perception of mental health is not always as accepted in other countries as it is in the United States.

“In some countries people do not see a therapist unless they have very serious issues,” Evearitt said. “And what ends up happening is students don’t know they can come and talk to us just about everyday stresses and anxieties. When they finally do come see us in the counseling center, the issues they have been dealing with have become something far worse than if they had come talked to us sooner.”

Evearitt said she hopes Chai Chat will bridge the gap.

“I think having someone from the counseling center in Chai Chat helps students realize the counselors are real people too,” Evearitt said. “They see me every month and build relationships with me. Students are much more likely to walk into a counseling center if they have a familiar and friendly face to come see.”

Evearitt said normalizing counseling will help students feel less ashamed and scared about walking into the counseling center.

“We’re just regular people,” Evearitt said.

French international graduate student Coralie Lowicki said she has been involved in Chai Chat since last semester.

The business administration, art and communication master’s student said she originally joined as part of her job in the international programs office.

“What we talk about during Chai Chat depends on the day,” Lowicki said. “Some days we talk about culture shock. Some days we talk about food, or other cultures, or our classes, exams and just school in general.”

Lowicki said it was not easy coming to America at first.

“I struggled with two main things,” Lowicki said. “The first was I didn’t know anyone outside the international program. The second was the food.”

Lowicki said stepping outside her comfort zone was difficult.

“It is so easy to spend all of your time with students who are also from other countries,” Lowicki said. “We are all in the same boat. When I first came to America I was very unconfident in my English, and I was afraid people were going to think I was some crazy girl who didn’t know how to speak English. But the whole point of studying abroad in America is to understand the culture and spend time with Americans. I think it kind of defeats the purpose if we only spend time with international students.”

Lowicki said International Club is not just for international students.

“I want to see more American students join the club,” Lowicki said. “We want that collectively in Chai Chat and in the International Club. People think you have to be from another country to join, but we want everyone. We are in America and we want Americans to join. We want to understand them and we want them to understand us.”

Lowicki said she thinks it is a great idea to have the counseling center partner with the International Club.

“When you decide to study abroad, it is always going to be a big step,” Lowicki said. “Some students might struggle with it more than others. I think it’s important that international students know they have someone they can go to talk to that can help them.”