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Women’s Club brunch offers more than a meal

The monthly brunches in the Student Union offer international students a good meal and good conversation. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi


Published March 27, 2014

The sign outside 210 Student Union reads “International Brunch,” but inside looks more like a neighborhood hangout at Grandma’s house.  The room is usually empty, or hosting the quiet anxiety of a blood drive, but on Monday it was humming with the satisfied sighs of college students and the comforting chattiness of the women who have taken the time to put on this event.

Once a month, the UB Women’s Club and its international activity group — led by Meena Rustgi and Rose Marie George — host a brunch to give UB’s growing international student population a chance to sit down, socialize and, most importantly, eat.

Serving brunch are, from left, Women's Club members Connie Rao, Meena Rustgi and Ardis Stewart. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

For the past 68 years, the Women’s Club has been fostering a sense of wellness and community at UB, whether through events like the monthly brunch or the Grace Capen Award, a scholarship the group sponsors.  Club members hold numerous events throughout the year to raise money for the scholarship fund, among them fashion shows, wine-tastings, soup luncheons and a wreath and poinsettia sale.

The Grace Capen Award is available to students who have completed at least 45 hours of study at UB and have earned a GPA of 3.9.  But the international brunch serves a different purpose: It’s a way for the women to show their support for a greater number of students than the scholarship can encompass. 

And despite its name, it wasn’t just international students who were there.

“Everyone is international,” explains Ardis Stewart, a proud member of the Women’s Club for more than 30 years. “This is an opportunity for students from different countries to interact with one another, and that includes students from America.”

In an age where much social interaction happens online, it can be hard to meet new people and form real bonds. But for students like BingBing Liang, who devotes most of his time to his studies and research while still learning the English language, it can be nearly impossible.

“I spend most of my time in my office with a pencil and paper,” says the 23-year-old graduate student from China. “Even when we go to seminars, many of the students are Chinese, so we usually don’t speak in English. It’s nice to have somewhere that I can come and talk to people.  I get to practice my English and I get to eat. One stone, two birds.”    

Liang wasn’t the only student to appreciate the free meal; more than 100 students from all over the world came to enjoy the cold cuts, fruit salad and a Indian rice dish fondly referred to as “Meena’s rice.”

“I come almost every month to eat here,” says Sonia Jing Jian Ang, a first-year finance student.

But the easy conversation and the fact that Ang was accompanied for the second time by her friend Daniel Chan, a third-year mechanical engineering student who she refers to as her “brother,” shows that the brunch is doing more than just filling empty stomachs. While students may come to the event initially for the break it offers from Ramen noodles and microwaved dinners, they come back for the people.