For many international college students and scholars at the University of Virginia, this Nov. 28 will bring their first American Thanksgiving experience. As U.S. students plan trips home to celebrate the holiday with their families, many international students cannot do the same.
Where will they go when Grounds falls quiet and their families are far away?
U.Va.’s Lorna Sundberg International Center has a terrific option: an invitation to join a local family and celebrate the holiday through its annual Thanksgiving Meal Match program.
The center is currently seeking host families to match with one or more international students this Thanksgiving. This unique opportunity not only allows students to experience a major aspect of American culture, but it is also a chance for them to connect with Americans beyond Grounds. Each year, the center receives about 40 requests from students and places them with 10 to 15 families.
“I hope every U.Va. international student has a chance to be in an American home before returning to his or her country,” said Martha Redinger, –a community member who hosted students last year. “No one should be alone on Thanksgiving – let’s face it, there’s always too much food at the typical Thanksgiving feast!
“I enjoy the opportunity to meet others from other cultures and to explain, as best I can, ours. In fact, I’ve learned that it’s when we are in the home that we can learn the most,” she said.
Will Zhou, a third-year Chinese student in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he had a great experience when he participated in Meal Match at Redinger’s home last year. “I’ve never formally celebrated Thanksgiving in China, but it was great to be able to celebrate it here in America,” he said. “Martha and her family were really nice and I had a wonderful time during my stay there.”
The International Center reports lots of student interest in the program this year, and is extending the host sign-up deadline. Families interested in hosting in the Thanksgiving Meal Match can sign up here by Monday.
For information on the program and eligibility requirements, email Quyun Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lorna Sundberg International Center is a division of U.Va.’s International Studies Office. It supports the University’s global education initiatives by providing the University and local community a comfortable space for sharing cultures. Its programs and services include social and cultural events, English language programs, meeting and reception space, and short-term lodging. To find out what’s coming up and to get involved, click here.
— by Lauren Jones