On Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced that all public events and gatherings in Nebraska will be limited to 10 people due to COVID-19, and all in-person University of Nebraska-Lincoln classes and most events have been canceled.
But that won’t deter Coffee Talks.
Coffee Talks is an informal event that occurs semiweekly at the Nebraska Union. What started in the spring of 2016 as a way for UNL’s international students to practice their English in a safe environment, has now become a place where domestic and international students can learn about different cultures, according to Veronica Riepe, director of Student Involvement.
Coffee Talks, a Student Involvement-sponsored event, will continue through the rest of the Spring 2020 semester, despite campus-wide cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because many international students are unlikely to return to their permanent residence, Riepe and Dan Hutt, an academic success coach, wanted an environment where students could find community.
The group originally implemented social distancing practices in the Nebraska Union, but starting Monday, Coffee Talks will meet via Zoom, a site for video conferencing, for the rest of the spring semester.
“It’s vital our international students know we are committed to them and they will not be abandoned,” Hutt said.
Riepe said the decision to continue Coffee Talks during the pandemic was not a hard one.
“[It was] quite the opposite,” she said. “[Dan and I] wanted to continue to give them a place to gather and find community during these challenging times”
The students who participate also wanted to keep meeting, Riepe said. In the beginning, according to Hutt, they wanted to continue to meet even if it had to be remotely.
“We will find a way regardless,” Hutt said.
When they met in the union, Riepe said they did not anticipate issues as many students have returned home, and the union would be less busy.
To put social distancing into practice, Riepe said they wanted to spread out amongst the union while still being able to hear one another. Students can also break off in smaller groups if need be.
They also thought that since many students have returned home, it could potentially alter the average amount of eight participants per session.
Riepe said she thinks attendance may increase as most other campus events have been cancelled. And since classes will now be taught online, students who previously could not attend due to a schedule conflict will have the opportunity.
“The beauty of the event is that it’s all about relationships,” Riepe said. “It doesn’t cost us anything.”
Coffee Talks will meet on Zoom every Monday and Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to continue to provide
consistency and comfort during uncertain times.
“In a time where anxiety may be increasing, international students are missing their families likely even more,” Riepe said. “We want Coffee Talks to be one example of how much the University cares about our students.”
This article was modified at 5:35 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, to include new information about the Coffee Talks switching from in-person to online.