A college campus can be an intimidating place for students new to the post-secondary experience, but for those who are also new to Canada, it can be a very lonely place as well.
Coffee Club, a bi-weekly, on-campus meet up, is working to create a community at Mohawk College for those who left their own communities thousands of miles away. Operating out of J137, Coffee Club draws students from around the world who are looking for a chance to meet new people.
“I felt there was a need,” said Mohawk employee Maria Bracalenti, who started Coffee Club in May. “I love working with international, marginalized populations and for a lot of international students [Coffee Club] helps with language development. But more so, it’s sort of to get to know people, networking, to feel a little bit more comfortable in their environment.”
According to Bracalenti, the club typically attracts between six and 15 students from all over the world. Coffee, tea, and snacks are provided, and discussion topics run the gamut from religion to family life and everything in between.
“It brings out the similarities between the cultures and the backgrounds and nobody’s afraid to ask questions,” said Bracalenti. “It’s very nonjudgmental, very open, very relaxed, and the students will go and they’ll see each other in the halls and they have an instant connection.”
That connection isn’t always easy to find elsewhere on campus. Gohar Ghazaryan moved to Hamilton from Armenia only six months ago and attended her first Coffee Club this week in the hopes of meeting new people.
“When you’re new in Canada, I think all the people that are newcomers have the same feeling as I have. You feel a bit alone and you need to be surrounded by the people and it doesn’t matter what you are talking about,” said Ghazaryan. “In Armenia you never have this feeling of loneliness. The families, the friends, the connections between the people are really very close. Sometimes here I see that the people say ‘Oh I’m tired, I have no time for my friends’, but over there you are always involved in the community and I miss it very much.”
Those who have been coming to Coffee Club for a while seem to have forged a similar sense of community to the one Ghazaryan was missing.
“This meeting is important because when you see others in class you don’t spend time talking this way,” said long-time Coffee Club member Leda Barreto Fermandes, who was a lawyer in her home country of Brazil before moving to Canada. “You talk about assignments, you talk about teachers … but you don’t talk about what’s inside your soul, all your doubts about something. And when you are here, it’s different.”
Coffee Club meets every other Wednesday from 4:30-6pm in J137 and is open to all students.
“It’s fabulous for the international students or new Canadians or immigrants,” said Bracalenti. “But it’s also good for the domestic students because they learn so much about other people.”