Doug Reilly, program coordinator in the Center for Global Education, asked, “How has your life crossed a border? You took a road trip down south for the first time after high school graduation. You realized your true self and had to reveal it to everyone you know. You met someone who forced you to see the world with different eyes….”
According to Reilly, everybody has a “border crossing” story. That's why he and Aisha Rivers, program coordinator of the Intercultural Affairs office, decided to set up the Away Café. The event serves as night of sharing border stories through speech, song, art, poetry and written word in an open mic format.
Everyone could participate, even those who haven't studied abroad or vacationed overseas. Reilly made it clear that your passport doesn't have to receive a stamp to gain a cultural experience. The Away Café is a three-hour event that aims to bring people back to the “old days,” when there was not multimedia and oral stories were entertainment. From the opening story through the last, the focus was undoubtedly on the art and creative way of telling stories.
The dimly lit Cellar Pub with its cozy environment of oversized chairs and small tables served as the perfect place to enjoy and relax. There were free sushi and barbeque wings and each person received a drink ticket to use on a soda, Snapple or coffee. Speakers were not required to pre-register to tell their stories but rather signed up on a sheet passing around the room. They were simply asked to limit stories to five minutes and call the name of the next person on the list when they were finished.
Reilly and Rivers came up with different categories of stories they said could be interpreted “literally” or “metaphorically” to prompt and motivate everyone's imagination:
• Baggage: stories about what we carried
• Maps: stories about how we found or lost ourselves
• Tourist: stories about fitting in, or not
• Boots: stories our shoes would tell (if they could)
Reilly started the night with a refugee story he wrote two hours prior to the event. From then on, there was a consistent flow of storytelling, laughs and even a few tears. Students, alumnae and staff stood up one-by-one on a small stage and shared their stories. Some prepared written scripts and others jotted down notes on napkins when inspiration struck, while some sat on the stool and winged it.
Each person brought something new to the event and employed a different strategy to relay their story. Letters, poems, newspaper articles, guitars and famous lyrics were intertwined throughout the various stories. The oral presentations ranged from stories of traveling mishaps to hometown hardships, fancy Pizza Huts to cultural differences, and more. However, one commonality was exactly what Reilly said in the beginning: “everyone has a story to tell.”