Unity hits the sweet spot

International student team created a pastry start-up with sweets from across the globe


 PHOTOS BY DREW CRENSHAW;


unity cafe serves   unity team cmyk

 1. Sunny Nguyen, Content Creator, photographer and videographer for the Unity Cafe,  serves pastries during the UAB International Festival on March 30. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 

2. FROM LEFT:Joy Samarah, Social Media coordin++ator for the Unity Cafe; Nguyen; Haifa AlHarrasi, Business Connector for the Unity Cafe; Hana Sisirak, founder of the Unity Cafe.

Emma Owen 
Blazer News Reporter
emmaowen@uab.edu

Vietnamese Coffee, Swedish Sticky Cake and Tres Leches Cake are just a few of the treats the Unity Café offers students at UAB. The Unity Café is a start-up that specializes in pastries and drinks from across the globe, run by international students. The idea started when one international student from Sweden wanted to draw more focus on the global community on campus. 

“We want to create a community where people of different cultures are united,” said Hana Siširak, junior in business management and creator of the Unity Café. “We created space where diverse ideas and thoughts are being shared.” 

Siširak, an international student from Sweden, said her vision of the Unity Café originated her sophomore year. 

“UAB is so diverse and is a very big international community,” Siširak said. “I noticed there was a lack of space that embraced diversity.” 

Siširak said she hopes the café’s international baked goods and beverages inspire others to open their minds. 

“Through diversity, we want to minimize the gap between different cultures,” Siširak said. “It’s more of a movement than a physical space.” 

In addition to learning about different cultures, Siširak said the Unity Café has a goal of providing a taste of home for international students.  

“It’s a new chapter, a new place and a new culture,” Siširak said. “Having to adapt to that can be a lot for some people. Having a getaway in which you can find a piece of home again [is something] I would like to provide.” 

While the Unity Café currently has pop-ups around campus, Siširak said her team has big goals for its future by planning to create a permanent space for the café.  



PHOTO COURTESY  OF THE UNITY CAFE

pastry cmyk

Kladdkaka, a Swedish cake.


Sunny Nguyen, senior in digital marketing, said he has been working with the Unity Café from its start. 


“I am Vietnamese-American,” Nguyen said. “I am proud of my culture and whatever ways I can do to share it; I will do it. It is important that we not only have a diverse culture, but also a diverse way of thinking.” 

Nguyen said he wants the café to bring UAB’s diverse student body together.  

“We are all different and beautiful in many ways,” Nguyen said. “The world will be better if we do not let the differences separate us apart but unite us. [We should] unite in our differences and come together to share and learn.” 

Joy Samarah, junior in marketing, said she is passionate about the work she has done with the Unity Café. 

“It is important for me to work on this team because I come from a Jordian family,” Samarah said.  “At times I know what it feels like to feel different or as if you don’t belong. I want those who feel far from home to find a sense of home through Unity. That is our mission as a team.” 

Haifa Alharrasi, senior in human resources management with a minor in entrepreneurship, said her experience working with the Unity Café has significantly impacted her life. 


“I like how what [the café] is providing will improve the international student experience here in Birmingham,” Alharrasi said. “[Our team] is really passionate about this. We are here for everyone who is open to learning about other cultures.” 

Alharrasi said she hopes the café will encourage international students to be proud of where they come from and comfortable during their transition to life in the US. 

“I feel like [some] international students are afraid of immersing themselves into the American culture at first,” Alharrasi said. “Sometimes they’re afraid people will not be accepting to them because they’re different. [With] the Unity Café we want to help them understand that being from a different culture is a really good thing.” 

Alex Ricourt, junior in medical industrial distribution and fan of the Unity Café, said his favorite aspect of the café is the message behind it.  

“It will help a lot of local people discover food they never heard of,” Ricourt said. “It will also remind foreign people of their favorite cakes or drinks they used to have on a regular basis at home.” 

As an international student from France, Ricourt said why the café is special to him. 

“I love that they provide food that you barely find in this country that reminds you of home,” Ricourt said. “People should check it out because it provides a completely different experience from other basic coffee places around UAB.”

About - Student Media

UAB Student Media is the home of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s student-run media outlets. They include Kaleidoscope , an award-winning weekly newspaper; BlazeRadio, our 24-hour online radio station live on the TuneIn app; Aura, a much-heralded literary arts magazine; and UABTV, original, web-based video programming. UAB students operate all media. The articles, posts, newscasts and opinions are solely those of its student writers, producers, editors, deejays, etc. and do not reflect that of the university, its administrators or the Student Media advisors.

 

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