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Monthly event offers support for U of M international students over coffee

<p>The International Center at the University of Memphis // Photo: Jacob Wilt</p>
The International Center at the University of Memphis // Photo: Jacob Wilt

The University of Memphis Counseling Center partnered with the International Center to offer students time to chat with a professional through their events, “Coffee with a Counselor.”

The series began in January and will continue throughout the semester.

Janna Casillas is a psychology intern and counselor for the Counseling Center with a professional focus in multiculturalism and adjustment concerns. She was asked to be a part of the sessions because of her professional interests, as well as her personal background and experience working with international students.

“Coffee with a Counselor is a monthly, informal space for International students or other interested students to come and talk with a therapist about general life concerns, adjusting to college/the United States, and get tips for stress or coping skills,” she said.

The idea came about when the International Center reached out wanting to provide support for their students. The University of Memphis has free counseling for all students, but it is often overlooked, especially among international students.

“Since there can be some hesitation among students to seek therapy, we thought bringing the services to them in the form of a casual group would be the best way to reach international students and provide support for them,” she said.

Casillas empathizes with international students and the struggles they face in a new country. She left her home abroad and came to the United States for college.

“Students coming from different countries may need more support in adjusting to not only a new school, but a new environment, new language, and new culture. It can feel isolating, confusing, stressful, or scary trying to navigate the U.S. by yourself, so having support and people who understand or can validate what you’re going through is helpful.

While initially intended for international students, anyone is welcome to attend. The first event included students from the United States and students from abroad.

The sessions offer a space for students to have an open and relaxed forum to ask questions, get advice and have support from faculty and peers.

“Coffee with a Counselor is a laid back, casual time to talk to a therapist, gain support around daily stressors, find solidarity among other students, and ask questions about coping skills, psychology, and navigating the UofM,” Casillas explained.

The one-hour event is hosted at the International Center where Casillas and her colleagues discuss with students whatever they bring to the table all over a free cup of coffee.

“Since it’s very open-ended, it really comes down to what the students would like to bring to the group and what concerns they have that day. Dr. Luu and I are happy to provide tips and coping skills, reminisce about their home country, and check-in with how students are adjusting to being on campus,” she explained.

The International Center has several Coffee with a Counselor sessions planned for the semester. Their next event is March 31 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. More information about upcoming Coffee with a Counselor sessions as well as information about other events hosted by the International Center are listed on their website.

The International Center at the University of Memphis // Photo: Jacob Wilt

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