By Kathryn Worrall and Ian Currie
International students from five continents have found a temporary home at Common Grounds. Though they met as a group for the first time less than two weeks ago, more than 25 students from around the world gathered Wednesday to support one of their group and his acoustic session.
Honfleur, France, junior Pierre Hatier performed three pop songs – Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and the Beatles’ “Blackbird” – on his guitar as well as one French song, “Une Seule Vie.” Hatier said he has experience “busking,” his word for street performing, back in Honfleur and said he was ready to perform for a crowd here in Waco.
“I was searching to go to a music venue and heard about Common Grounds,” Hatier said. “I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Other student performers followed his 15-minute slot, part of Common Grounds’ weekly Open Mic Night, but a large section of the crowd turned out to support Hatier.
The group met in early January as they all arrived for exchange programs at Baylor through the Center for International Exchange. The international students keep in contact regularly and meet in smaller groups throughout the day. However, they make a few collective weekly stops, one of which is Common Grounds on Wednesday nights for Open Mic. Brasília, Brazil, junior Gabriela Schaffer said she attended the event to support Hatier.
“I know everyone’s faces,” Schaffer said, “but I don’t know everyone’s names. We’re now friends because we’re all in the same boat.”
Brasília, Brazil, senior Mateus Cambuí, spoke about his first impressions of the group.
“I’ve never met so many welcoming people in such a short time,” Cambuí said. “I thought my only friends would be Brazilians, but I feel like I truly have long lasting friendships from people the world over.”
Cambuí said he enjoyed the opportunity to attend the event at Common Grounds, as it represented both American and international culture. “It’s a unique opportunity to meet new people, especially American people,” he said.
Audrey Richardson, peer advisor for the Center for International Exchange, stressed the importance of integration for international students and viewed Hatier’s performance as an excellent starting point for the international group.
“This is the best group of international students Baylor has ever had,” Richardson said. “They are working well as a group, creating cross-cultural friendships, exploring Waco and integrating into Baylor — all within a week!”
Hatier said he plans on performing again at Common Grounds, a venue he calls “old school,” and said he feels more confident with the support of his fellow international students.
“Outlets in the community are important for international students to get a taste of American culture,” Richardson said. “Common Grounds is a good representation of that culture. I hope all of the international students find an outlet like Pierre has, something they love to do while they’re here.”
In addition to the gathering at Common Grounds, the international students plan to start an informal soccer team that will play every week. The international students gather every Thursday night for pizza at a local pizza restaurant. They also hope to travel as a group to different cities in Texas and share their cultures with each other through movies and food.
Common Grounds holds a free Open Mic Night at 8:30 p.m. every Wednesday with a free headliner at 10 p.m. Sign-up sheets are located in Common Grounds and are posted each weekend. For more information, visit Common Ground’s website at cgwaco.com.