New Event Series Offers Students Evenings to Relax

IC big room

A recent event at the Intercultural Center (photo by Anelina Abitino '18/Swarthmore Phoenix).

The end of the work week brings a calm hush to Swarthmore’s campus. Cradled between the intensity of the midweek crunch and the array of community events that fill Saturday and Sunday, Friday nights offer Swatties a unique chance to breathe. Beginning this week, students will find new ways to do just that. At 8 p.m. tonight, the Intercultural Center (IC) and Office of Student Engagement (OSE) will host an evening of chilling, chatting, and chaat – the classic South Asian street fare. The aptly named “Chit Chaat” is likely to leave Swatties very full – yet hungry for Fridays to come.

The star of this event is certain to be the chaat. Participants will not only be able to savor the beloved snack, but also have an opportunity to make it themselves. “We are planning to have a chaat-making session,” explains IC Program Administrator Mohammed Lotif. “We have some folks from Desi Chaat, a popular chaat establishment in West Philadelphia, coming in to show students how to mix and serve the chaat.”

While chaat may be the evening’s most delectable offering, the study break will not end with food. After ch(a)atting and chewing, folks can shake away their food comas on the dance floor as students run the turntables, sending cross-cultural favorites into the room and into the night. Assistant Director of Student Activities Mike Elias, who helped to organize the event, hopes the whole program creates a “space where people can come and let loose for a while and relax.”

Chit Chaat was first imagined through conversations between IC student interns and their counterparts in the OSE, including Asma Noray '17, an Arabic Studies major from Shoreline, Wash., who originally presented the idea, David Ding '16, a chemistry and economics major from Edmund, Okla., Jigme Tobgyel '17 of Phuntsholing, Bhutan, and Casey Lu Simon-Plumb '18  of Hampden, Mass.

"By hosting the Chit Chaat, we are hoping to invite students to forge relations with the people and groups within the IC in a fun, engaging way," says Ding. "The chaat can be an introduction of a cultural staple for those who haven't tried it, and a dance party is a great way for the IC to showcase itself as a fun space as well."

Elias agrees, emphasizing that partnerships between the OSE and IC can bring otherwise unconnected groups of students together in a fun, supportive environment. "When spaces can be used to find collaboration between groups and bridge gaps," he says, "it goes a long way toward building community. ”

Chit Chaat additionally launches a new OSE social programming initiative called Friday Fun Days, which will provide more regular and inclusive student activities on Friday afternoons and evenings. Fridays are “historically quiet” on campus, according to Elias, and the office envisions that Friday Fun Days might be best used for collaborations with other departments and "figuring out some really cool events for that time.” Ideas in the pipeline already include a Lego-building competition in partnership with the Women's Resource Center and a night of roller-skating to disco tunes in Upper Tarble.

The ultimate goal of Friday Fun Days is to help students achieve their goals for consistent, alternative social event programming. “I see the OSE as a support hub for students’ creative visions,” Elias elaborates. “We will provide logistical support, funding, even advertising, but we are not about top-down planning. Our intention is for community members to propose their ideas and for us to make their programming dreams come true.”

From chaat and dancing in the IC to Chaka Khan on wheels in Upper Tarble, to whatever else students can dream up, Fridays at Swarthmore promise to bring a lot to the table.