CS Communi-tea hour: A relief during the Pandemic

By Fizza Hassan, Staff Writer

A year has passed since the world went into an emergency lockdown suspending all forms of in-person communication for an indefinite period of time.

Realizing the impact of this mental health, Elizabeth Gonzalez, computer science undergraduate academic adviser, came up with the idea of hosting weekly Zoom hangout sessions called the ‘SOS Communi-Tea.’ This event has been serving as an outlet for computer science students to destress by connecting with each other through light discussions and games over a cup of tea.

Gonzalez said it provided the “opportunity to socialize, connect and network as new students get to share a common thread with the seniors who guide them on various platforms. Students want to hear from someone who has navigated through the years. It is a place where I have seen relationships begin.”

Running for a consecutive third semester this Spring, the social hangout values mental health as one of its core principles.

“We have a partnership with some of the RSO leaderships within our CS community that work in collaboration with us,” Gonzalez  said.

Melissa Chen, a junior in Engineering and member of the computer science mental health community, has been attending the social hours since April last year.

“We have been conversing with Ms. Gonzalez to help student’s mental health,” Chen said. “She reached out to the student organization and specifically asked us to attend.”

Chen said that she also admires the fact that she was able to hear the class experiences of other CS students during the sessions.

Omar Khan, a senior in Engineering, attended the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 sessions.

He said, “It’s a great way for the CS department students to get together, talk, interact, get to know one another and really have space to destress after a long week and stay in touch with people.”

The participation fluctuates depending upon the time of the semester. It increases during the middle of the semester when pressure builds up and students need a social timeout.

“After being alone for an extended period of time and then talking to people, having that extensive routine normality back in your life definitely helps in these difficult times” Khan said.

The discussions are flexible and guided by students with topics ranging from academics, change in classes, recommended to-do things on campus, places to be, video games and more.

“Ms. Gonzalez would come up with creative ways to have conversation starters or introduce a jeopardy board. We talked about common interests, experiences, even the weather. It is such a disparate group of people, most of us would never have run into each other otherwise,” Melissa said.

Students who keep returning to these sessions said the sessions helped them find their way back to normality.

“International students from China, India, Singapore also join us on occasions. Students who come back or see us few times in a semester, it is still meaningful for them to attend,” Gonzalez said.

Khan said since it’s all CS students, people are more inclined to talk to one another. He wanted to help cultivate this social atmosphere because he knew how it felt to not have people to talk to.

“During these meetings, I got the chance to meet new people that normally I wouldn’t have hung out with and I really enjoyed the opportunity,” Chen said.

[email protected]