Festooned with flags from dozens of countries from around the world, filled with tables of festive colors and smelling of food from different ethnic restaurants, the Henrickson Family Atrium inside the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Business hosted its first Global Cafe and Connection on Wednesday. The event was a chance for international and domestic students to interact with each other and dine on international cuisine as part of International Education Week.
For the first Global Cafe and Connection, about 90 students and staff came to learn what it entailed. Food vendors were situated around the perimeter and tables were set up around the atrium — each with a personal host who helped moderate conversation. The students were kept engaged with a game of Kahoot! over international trivia and prizes. Overall, the environment was very relaxed and open since the number of attendees was low and the students there were active and engaged.
The event featured four key speakers from the restaurants that provided the food for the event — Stur 22, UNI Curry Bowl and Rodizio Grill — and one student presentation.
Student speaker Devan Buescher, a junior management major at UNL, spoke on his journey to China. He said he accidentally attended a class meant for international students at the beginning of his freshman year, but was encouraged to stay in the class by the professor. The next semester he did the same thing, and accidentally attended yet another class meant for international students. Because of these accidents, he said he decided to study abroad in China and is going to intern this summer at a business in China.
In addition to Buescher, speakers from the featured restaurants gave presentations about the foundation of the restaurants and how they became involved in the business.
International Business Administrative Coordinator Mikki Sandin, the organizer of Global Cafe and Connection, had a few specific ideas for what she wanted the cafe to be.
“I came up with [Global Cafe and Connection] as a way to engage international and domestic students,” Sandin said. “I really wanted a chance for a small cafe feel for students to come together and have conversations around the table and maybe make a new friend.”
In total, nine different restaurants came to provide food. The food ranged from Rodizio Grill’s Brazilian cheese bread and roasted pineapple to Grey Whale’s sushi and crab rangoons. UNI Curry Bowl had four different curry sauces, ranging from the spicy Jamaican to the chocolate Japanese curry sauce. In addition, each restaurant had a friendly representative who was more than willing to explain what each food was.
“I have had a lot of experience working with vendors, so I wanted to give ethnic restaurants a chance to come to the college,” Sandin said. “I helped several of them become vendors for UNL, and as a result of that they got a lot of exposure.”
Sandin explained that many international students have a hard time getting off campus and exploring Lincoln on their own, so she wanted to use this time to help them explore new restaurants and make friends with domestic students.
“We’d like to do it again next year, and I was really pleased with the turnout,” Sandin said, “This was intended to be something a little more intimate like a cafe.”