Beyond the Tea
Written by Victoria Nuñez
“Please take a teacup from the shelf behind you,” says a handwritten sign positioned near the teapots on a table full of angel cake, cookies, bundt cake, and pies. The lively chatter of students who just got out of class and are ready for the weekend fills the house as well as chinks of porcelain cups from which students cheerfully sip. From one side of the room, laughter erupts from playful jests; from another side of the room, there’s a hushed, deep debate about theology or politics. And the familiar plunk of piano keys is heard over the friendly buzz of conversation.
The Waterman house sits on the east side of campus nestled between McIntyre Residence, the Pi Beta Phi house, and Olds Residence. The cozy house is full of vibrant women, each with a heart for the people on campus, and their gracious hospitality beckons students to visit for Waterman Tea, a tradition that started in 2006. Caroline Walker, ’21, says, “Everyone is trying to reach out and bring in, and make sure that people on campus know there are people who want to talk, hang out, and open up their rooms, their home, their kitchen to whoever.”
Thus, tea is a medium to connect. Adelaide Holmes, ’20, head RA of Waterman, explains how the tea became so integral to the campus culture: “We are doing it to foster community, specifically between the freshman dorms since we’re right there. We want to reach out to them since it’s their first semester away from home. It’s an opportunity to be a home away from home.”
Ask any one of the residents, and they’ll tell you why Waterman is so special. “We’re trying to make Waterman a place not to just eat, sleep, and study, but a place to actually live,” says Caroline. “We want to make it a place that other people want to come to, that the girls want to be in, with a solid community and a heart of reaching out.” This is the focus that the women of Waterman wish to convey to the students around campus. As Adelaide says, “We want to create that comfortable atmosphere where younger women feel like they can be reaching out to older women. That’s the mission of our tea, but that’s also the mission of the dorm.”
Reaching out goes beyond just fostering friendships. “We’re wanting to focus on creating a safe space for authentic mentorships to develop,” Adelaide says. “We are trying to have the vision of Waterman and the tea to go beyond just the teas.”
Maria Servold, assistant director of the Dow Journalism Program and class of 2010, remembers what the teas meant to her when she was a student: “It became a chance to step away from schoolwork and to do something different than just being students, and to practice hospitality, which I feel like you don’t really get the chance to do much in school.”
The homey atmosphere and calming aesthetic of Waterman refresh students who often get confined to the constant trek from dorm to classroom, cafeteria to library. And these connections foster friendships that span the divide in classrooms.
Victoria Nuñez, ’22, has a deep love for connecting people to people and is always up for an adventure. She writes because she has to, but she enjoys it more than she lets on. In her free time, you can see her laughing, dancing, or people watching.