It was a cloudy Thursday afternoon. It was slightly chilly, and the sky seemed like it was ready at any second to open up and start pouring out rain. This wasn’t the gorgeous, slightly chilly apple-picking weather that is imagined when people think of the fall, but rather was a freezing and atrocious day.
Despite the day outside, there was an event occurring in the Learning Commons in the library that would warm anyone’s heart. Every Thursday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Writing Center, an event called, “Thursday English Afternoons,” takes place. This is usually abbreviated as “T.E.A” and for this reason, tea and other refreshments are served to all those who stop by. The initial goal of TEA was to allow international students and English Language Learners to gather together to practice informal English speaking skills, but it has evolved in to so much more and it attracts a decently sized audience. Benjamin Remillard, Academic Support Specialist and Tutor Coordinator, describes how this weekly event is “A great opportunity for students of all backgrounds to come together and learn from each other in a number of different ways: whether it is academic skills, conversational English skills,or tips on how to navigate around the college campus, TEA is a great and safe environment for us to get to know each other.”
Laura Thal, Diagnostic Projects Coordinator and Academic Writing Coac, is the creator of this event. She noticed that, generally, international “Students [can find themselves] really struggling to make connections with faculty outside of academic conversation. It is hard to bond with professors over some American interests like football, so instead [they end up] only talking about academics. There’s no personal connection, TEA creates that informal connection.” Laura also credits the work of Kathryn Anastasia, a Professor of English and First Year Seminar. The two have worked together to really make this a successful program in the Learning Commons. Laura also states that this is “Not just language immersion, also a cultural immersion,” because the group comes together to celebrate holidays and discuss any events.
This event is a combination of both faculty and students, and laughter can be heard echoing around the room. Words cannot describe the energy and positivity in these conversations, and this is only stronger for birthday celebrations. For example, it is common to see Junior, Xintao Cheng, bringing snacks for the group. Sophomore, Xinye Chen, is known for sharing special treats from Asian locations and bringing this new exposure to the group. She jokes about how we may be “missing out on a lot” and perhaps a field trip to an Asian supermarket is needed! Freshman, Alexis Duddy, found herself going to TEA for the first time revently, she mentioned how she felt very welcomed and engaged with the group.
It is important to note that while there are many “usuals” who come to every meeting, new people are always welcomed. Be sure to find the time to stop by and have some of Laura’s special “Birthday Cake” flavored tea. You really get to meet students that you may not have interacted with otherwise. Laura Thal sums it up when she says “We are a community. We love to evolve and grow. Everybody is welcome. Speak whatever language you want, come on over!” It’s not just staff that encourages students. Sophomore, Ahmed Al Mashni, says that he finds himself in the Learning Commons quite frequently, joking that “I live here!”
For more information about the Learning Commons, check out this article!
To discuss TEA, reach out to Laura Thal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Regis College Residence Life – https://twitter.com/RegisMA_ResLife/status/921117050571026433