For a few hours last month, Deet’s Place was transformed from its normal cafe decor into a room lined with handmade red Chinese lanterns, the smell of kung pao chicken, and the bustle of people eager to absorb a new culture.

On Feb. 22, the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Virginia Tech (VTACSS) served Chinese foods, demonstrated Chinese dances, and hosted games for the Virginia Tech community as part of the International Cafe Hour.

This event, hosted monthly by the Cranwell International Center at Virginia Tech, invites the university’s international student groups to serve food, decorate, and plan special events that showcase their country’s culture.

“The International Café Hours are meant for our international student population to share their cultures with the broader campus community,” said J. Scott Parker, marketing and communications director for the Cranwell International Center.

Since 2016, various student organizations, including the Pakistani Student Alliance, German Culture Club, Malaysian Students Association, African Student Association and many more, have showcased their countries. On March 22, which is the next International Coffee Hour at Deet’s Place, students with the Indian Students Association will be featured. Admission is free and open to the public.

During the recent Chinese association cafe hour, students handed out samples of bamboo temple yurman tea, kung pao chicken, and stuffed lotus root with sticky rice. They also had games, Chinese alphabet stations, and Chinese zodiac calendar reading. One of the Chinese games was Touhou, which involves a player throwing an arrow into a wooden stump.

“Touhou is my favorite game to show people and it is really funny to watch people play,” said Yaqi Zhang, a sophomore chemical engineer and a member of the Chinese association.

Outside of Deet’s Place, five women wearing white held a taiji sword demonstration. With low music in the background, these women performed a type of martial arts with precise movements and focus.

Fawna Zwart, assistant director for campus and community engagement at the Cranwell International Center, is the person primarily responsible for making the event happen.

“We set out to create an event where students would submit two recipes of sweet and savory dishes and have the ability to showcase their culture, provide a welcoming environment, and share their traditions, customs, clothing, music, and a PowerPoint showing visitors what their country looks like,” said Zwart.

For the event, students are given a small budget from the Cranwell International Center to order decorations and to fund other aspects of the cafe hour. The past cafe hour events have drawn 100 to 200 attendees.

The organizations that participate in the International Cafe Hour usually take part in the International Street Fair, Parker said. This fair will be held  on April 28 from noon to 5 p.m. in the parking lot in front of Squires Student Center. This year, more than 40 student organizations will participate, and there will be cultural performances and activities for children.

“Predominantly, it [International Cafe Hour] is about making sure the campus community understands we have a lot of international students on campus, ” said Parker. “Part of that is understanding other people’s ideas and cultures. This is an opportunity to have the kind of discussions that build intercultural understanding in our students and faculty.”

Written by Haley Cummings

Students dance during the International Cafe Hour
Women perform a martial arts style dance during last month's International Cafe Hour.
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