N.M. (Student Staff Leader)
Hello everyone, this is N.M., the SSL who was in charge of organizing the Online Tea Party event on December 12th, 2020. We were initially planning to hold this event in April. However, we had to postpone due to COVID-19 in order to prioritize everyone’s safety. Finally, after long months of re-planning the event, we were able to hold it online in December.
The story behind the event
In the past few semesters, we have held tea party events in the beginning of the semester as a part of our series of Welcome Events. If you have been at Waseda for some time, you may have heard of our Tea Party events before. One of the main purposes of this event is to provide the opportunity for new students to casually make friends while exposing them to the different cultures that exist at Waseda. In addition, this event gives us the opportunity to form a connection with new and current students as well. The love that we received for our Tea Party event in 2019 exceeded our expectations and our lounge was flooded with people who wanted to join the event. We realized that this would make a great addition to our Welcome Events series and decided to hold it again in 2020.
There were several challenges that I faced while organizing this event. First, the overwhelming ambition that I had within me to do better. This event was originally created by another staff member last year and I had to take over at the end of the semester because she was going to graduate and leave Japan. I have to admit that I was excited to take over but, at the same time, I felt nervous and anxious about it. I felt a greater sense of responsibility to make this event successful or even better than the previous one, since it was not mine to begin with. Even though there was no one pressuring me, I was unconsciously pressuring myself. Along the way, I convinced myself that I can do things differently and add a little bit of my touch in the event. I realized that one of the ways to do that was to redesign the posters to make it my design and eventually instil a sense of ownership.
Second, the virus quite literally crushed our plans. At the ICC, there is a certain format for some events that we try to maintain and improve in order to achieve its objective. In the case of the Tea Party event, we were initially planning on holding it offline. One of the main parts of this event is tea-tasting time where participants can try various kinds of tea from different countries, have some snacks, and talk with each other, like a communal tea time. When we were planning this event at the beginning of 2020, we never imagined a worldwide pandemic would happen and force everyone to stay away from each other. This also means that fun and interactive tea time is no longer possible and we had to think of other solutions.
As a part of the Student Diversity Center where one of our purposes is to connect people from various backgrounds, this pandemic has brought a big challenge. All of a sudden, we had to change our usual formats and switch to online interaction. According to research, despite all the convenience and benefits that it has, online interaction is relatively lacking the much-needed expressive body language or non-verbal responses that create a more positive impression and a stronger sense of oneness compared to face-to-face interaction. Therefore, I was really worried and afraid that we could not bring the same kind of experience to our participants.
In order to create a better experience for our participants, apart from giving presentations about tea culture, we decided to replace the tea-tasting session with a fun quiz and chat session, where our staff would proactively facilitate the conversation and maintain a good atmosphere. In addition, since we could not serve free tea and snacks, we decided to prepare special tea time packages for our lovely participants as a way to express our gratitude for their continuous support.
The day of the event
Despite the fact that we held it online, I’m delighted to know that there were quite a lot of people who were interested and registered for the event. On the day of the event, we had our usual pre-event procedure to make sure everything goes according to plan. The event started with a series of short presentations from other ICC staff including SSLs from Japan, Taiwan, China, Scotland, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Each of us had prepared this presentation months before the event, so our presentations went well. Then we had a fun quiz time using Kahoot! Since not everyone was familiar with it, we actually did several trials by our staff to ensure that everything went smoothly. We ended the event with almost half an hour of chat sessions that the participants seemed to enjoy.
At first, I was worried that the event would turn out boring and bland since there is no tea-tasting time and we’re holding it online. But fortunately, I have a great support system that helped me from the very start to the very end of the whole event process. Thanks to my team, we were able to minimize the “silent” moments that usually occur in online events. We did not even rehearse it but every staff member jumped in and carried on the conversation, which I guess is also part of the skills that we pick up while working at the ICC. There is always room for improvement, but overall, I’m glad that we were able to hold the event without any major incidents.
This was not my first time being appointed to carry out an event; I’ve done this several times. However, this was my first time being trusted to take over an event that was almost at the end of the planning process by a colleague. It was quite an interesting experience for me. Some people may think that it should be easy because almost everything was prepared. But it somehow brought to me a bigger sense of responsibility, not to mention all the re-planning that we had to do due to COVID. All in all, this event brought new perspectives and valuable experiences that I learned from my supervisor, my team, and everyone involved in the event. I hope for this pandemic to be over soon so that we can meet again at another tea party event, hopefully face to face. Cheers!