New and returning international students at Perkins were welcomed over tea and coffee, at the September 14 Community Hour at Perkins (CHAP), Tea Time with the International Students, organized by the Office of Student Life. Seven students from Korea, Kenya, England, Brazil, Canada, Ghana and India shared favorite teas and coffees from their native countries at the gathering of more than 40 Perkins students, faculty and staff.
Soohyun Suh, a student from Korea, shared packets of a sweet milk coffee and a sweet tea that’s prized for its medicinal properties in her native land. Suh, who grew up in a Presbyterian church, arises each morning at 4:30 a.m. to drive to her church in Fairview, north of Dallas, to attend daily 5 a.m. worship and prayer service. “It makes me feel comfortable and strong for the rest of the day,” she said.
Mykayla Turner, a new M.S.M. student, grew up a rural church in southwest Ontario, Canada, and is part of the Mennonite tradition. She brought a package of Tim Horton’s coffee. “I don’t know if it’s good coffee,” she said, “but there are Tim Horton’s coffee shops everywhere in Canada, and everyone is always carrying a Tim Horton’s!”
Fela Hnia-Um brought a fragrant chai tea from India. Hnia-Um, a Baptist pastor, described the importance of tea in Indian hospitality. “If I visit my friend, and if they did not offer me tea, I would feel disappointed,” he said.
Fernando Berwig, a first year M.S.M. student, admitted that he’s a bit homesick for his home country of Brazil. He talked about Carnival, the annual festival held a few days before Lent, and Brazilian musical traditions like samba. Brazil is a communal culture, so a cup of coffee might be shared at a gathering (although that tradition has been set aside during COVID.) He brought a special communal cup from home to show the group.
Faith Kubai, a second year M.T.S. student, noted that coffee is a significant cash crop in her native land of Kenya, a beautiful country with many different animals. Kubai is an ordained minister in the Methodist church in Kenya.
Richard Pokoo, a second year M. Div. student from Ghana, came to Perkins from a background in engineering. “Theology is an entirely different kind of study,” he said. “My professors at Perkins have helped me understand what I am here for.” Pokoo is working to establish a Methodist church in the Dallas area for immigrants from Ghana. “By the grace of God, we bought a house inn Cedar Hill just before the pandemic,” he said.
Ally Stokes didn’t bring tea from her home country of England, but she did contrast English Christmas traditions from those in America. “We dress up for Christmas – dresses and suits and ties,” she said. Stokes is married to an American; when her mother visited and discovered that Americans dress casually for the holiday, she joked, “I thought my mother’s head was going to explode.”
Faculty and staff members at the gathering shared their own international backgrounds. Sabina Hulem, assistant to the director of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence, noted that tea is also crucial for any social get-together in her native land of Poland. “We drink tea all day,” she said. “You don’t say, ‘Will you come to my party?’ You say, “Would you have tea with me?’”
Hugo Magallanes, associate dean for academic affairs, shared that he was born in northern Mexico and grew up across the border from El Paso.
“It’s great blessing to be here and to see our wonderful international students,” he said.
The Perkins student body includes a total of 21 international students this fall. Students hail from Cuba, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Tanzania, Indonesia and Singapore, in addition to those countries represented at Tea Time. This year, there are eight students at Perkins from Korea, including Soohyun Suh.