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Studying abroad provides students with opportunities for growth but comes with many challenges. Jaisy Kumar, a mental health therapist in Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), eases the transition for international students one cup of tea at a time.
Kumar hosts a support group for international students called Tea with Jaisy. As a former international student from India who studied at Grace University, she has experienced first-hand the challenges students face when studying abroad.
“It’s not easy to leave everything that is familiar to you and come to a completely different atmosphere where the culture is different, the language is different, the food, clothing and education is different,” Kumar said. “I went through the graduate education system of this country without having any of that support. I had to figure it out myself. It was challenging.”
The lack of support Kumar experienced as an international student led to her desire to create a space for international students to gather together and share their experiences. A few weeks into her career at UNO, Kumar did just that and started hosting Tea with Jaisy.
Each week, Tea with Jaisy attendees discuss the common challenges they face as international students, such as finding new friend groups and navigating different education and health care systems.
“We discuss cultural adjustment, things that are exciting in the host culture, things that are not so exciting in the host culture,” Kumar said. “We talk a lot about home sickness and how to deal with that.”
One of Kumar’s goals for hosting Tea with Jaisy is to provide students with an opportunity to connect with others.
“We miss home,” Kumar said. “We miss what’s familiar. We miss even the smell of our land. To have something and know for sure that there are others who feel the same way [helps] so they don’t feel so isolated.”
Tareq Alomar, an international studies student form Saudi Arabia who is studying cyber security, went to his first Tea with Jaisy session because he was looking for something to do on a Tuesday. After attending a few sessions, he’s become a regular attendee and enjoys meeting other students.
“I like the diversity and cultural differences and how people want to connect with each other,” Alomar said. “It’s like becoming family when we hangout together. Getting close to each other helps us understand other people and know more about other cultures.”
Tea with Jaisy is held on Tuesdays from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in room 241 in Arts and Sciences Hall. International students are welcome to attend and no sign up is required.
“If nothing, just sit back and sip a cup of tea or coffee,” Kumar said.