A University of Alberta undergrad is reaching out to his fellow students with the help of a cup of tea and some one-on-one conversation.
Fourth-year business student David Manuntag is the creator of Uni Tea, a non-profit project that allows students to sign up to have tea with Manuntag anywhere on campus. The experience offers students the chance to unload their thoughts and foster a connection with a fellow student.
“I’ve realized that there’s so much potential in having these conversations. If I can talk to one person on the bus and that can flip my whole outlook and perspective around, then maybe there’s something there. Maybe other students could have an opportunity to open up and have that change of perspective,” Manuntag says.
“If I could at least talk to a couple of students about what they’re going through or just be that listening ear, giving them their opportunity to open up or say something, then it’s worth doing.”
Manuntag was inspired to create Uni Tea by his own experiences as a new student four years ago. Suffering from a miserable first year and finding little support from those around him, Manuntag began to think that the U of A might not be the right place for him.
It wasn’t until he had a one-on-one conversation with an old high school friend that he realized things could get better, and his friend convinced him to give university life another shot.
“If it wasn’t for that one conversation I had, I wouldn’t have re-enrolled and given it another shot. I really thought (university) wasn’t for me and that maybe I should do something else,” Manuntag admits.
Feeling encouraged by the conversation with his friend, Manuntag spent the next year working on his grades and soon began to find his niche in the university world.
Still, he didn’t come up with the idea for Uni Tea until last year after one of his professors encouraged him not to be afraid of sharing his ideas.
Developing the project over the summer, Manuntag officially launched Uni Tea at the beginning of September. He estimates that about 40 students have signed up to have tea with him in the last few weeks, a result he wasn’t expecting so soon.
Manuntag has already taken Uni Tea one step further by renting a locker on campus that is full of tea, cups and snacks for anyone who signs up to be part of the Uni Tea community. Manuntag pays for all the food and drink products himself, though other users are encouraged to contribute to it when they can.
“A lot of this (is) based on the fact that I can do it, and that if I wasn’t, I would regret not doing it,” Manuntag explains.
“I’m very fortunate to be where I am today, and I feel the need to give something back.”
With the number of students signing up for Uni Tea growing daily, Manuntag is hopeful that as the project continues to grow, those who have already experienced it will continue the trend themselves by inviting others to take part in Uni Tea.
Manuntag plans to arrange a forum for everyone who has participated in Uni Tea to find out what they liked or thought was missing from the experience. He’s hopeful that the suggestions will help refigure the ever-changing structure of the project in order to make it even more accessible to more students in the future.
“I want it to grow into a place that people find comfortable and just hang out with anyone,” says Manuntag.
“I hope there’s other people that take the reins on this — that take the kettle and do their own Uni Tea, not just me going around and doing it. I really want it to be a comfortable community where people can share and go beyond surface things.”
To sign up for Uni Tea, visit http://unitea.org
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