International students share culture over coffee

As Halloween and the spooky season end, Día de los Muertos approaches and celebrates the life of those who have departed.

On Oct. 28, the International Office at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), in collaboration with the International Club, invited students to International Coffee hour with a focus on Día de Los Muertos, the day of the dead. 

Fourth-year International Club Vice President Andrea Ultreras said “when I came back from studying abroad, I wanted to share my culture and experiences with other students.”

This is the third time the International Office has hosted International Coffee Hour. This time, they chose to collaborate with the International Club. The International Coffee Hour is hosted at the last Friday of every month and the two previous events have been more of an icebreaker meeting. 

“This is the first time there has been a theme for the event,” Ultreras said. “I like how they changed it up. I joined the club because I wanted to share my experiences from when I studied abroad. I haven’t seen Mexican culture here, so I think this is great. We were going to have an event on the main campus, but because of timeline issues, we couldn’t. Therefore, we decided to do this instead.”

The West Lounge at the old student center building was decked out with colorful Mexican paper cut-outs, which Ultreras shared in her presentation. “The event reminds them of their life and we want to guide them toward us. That is why Marigolds can be seen so much in October, especially at farmer’s markets. Marigold acts as a flashlight to guide them back to us.”

The handful of international students that had shown up were able to try the traditional Pan de Muertos. “The traditional Pan de Muertos is a sweet bread typical for the celebration. The shape at the top is supposed to look like skeleton fingers,” Ultreras explained through her presentation as students were able to look at the bread provided.

Julie Darde, an exchange student from France, was glad to see the event. “In France, we don’t celebrate, but we tried to do it for our Mexican exchange students one year. It’s great that CSUMB hosts something like this. This is my third time attending the International Coffee hour,” Darde said. “The best thing about this event would be the movie, ‘Book of Life.’”

Japanese exchange student Sakura Takeda said, “I don’t know much about this. I have only heard the name before. We celebrate something similar to this in Japan too.

“It is a little different, we call it Obon. We celebrate in summer and we gather with relatives and eat food. Then we go to the grave, pour water over the gravestone and clean it. We also put flowers on the grave and Senko,” Takeda said. Senko are incense sticks that they light after cleaning the gravestone. Obon is celebrated Aug. 13-16 in Japan.

“My favorite thing about this event is that I can meet many friends,” Takeda said.

The International Office is set to host their final International Coffee Hour of the Fall semester on Nov 16. While it is not the last Friday in November, they chose to align it with International Education Week, which is celebrated on Nov. 14-16. That week is designated to promote the diversity on campus that international students bring to CSUMB from all across the globe.

“We hope to be able to host more International Coffee hour events next semester, but it hasn’t been confirmed yet. I don’t see why it can’t happen, especially as there will be new exchange students here,” Ultreras said.

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