International students get a taste of Thanksgiving

thanksgiving tablePhoto/Jngwen Yan

Kathleen McCarthy, Assistant Director of the ISSO, hosts students on Thanksgiving

Dozens of Brandeis students from other countries were in good company this Thanksgiving because of the generosity and hospitality of the university’s faculty, staff and alumni.

Nearly 45 international students experienced the quintessential American holiday on Nov. 23, as they participated in the 11th annual Thanksgiving Host Program, administered by the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO).

“It’s one of the best opportunities our international students have to experience a holiday in an American home,” said ISSO director Jodi Hanelt. “It really makes a big impression, I think, on both the hosts and the students.”

“Families are prone to the same tradition year after year on Thanksgiving,” Hanelt added. “This is an opportunity to do something new and change the dynamic at the table for the better.”

The ISSO begins promoting the Thanksgiving Host Program in early November, working with Human Resources, academic departments, student organizations and various schools at Brandeis to identify potential participants.

A week before Thanksgiving, the hosts are matched with students and arrangements are made for transportation to and from campus. Most hosts invited at least two students to their home, though some invited as many as eight this year.

“One student might feel like they’re on their own, so we host two,” said Jaap van Reijendam, a former Brandeis employee who has hosted most years since 2009.

“I’m originally from the Netherlands and I remember my first Thanksgiving. I was invited over someone’s home so I didn’t have to be alone,” van Reijendam added. “It was special for me and I wanted someone else to have that experience, too.”

Meanwhile, International Business School professor George Hall and his wife, history and politics department administrator Martha Cronin, hosted a pair of students from China this year.

The Hall family Thanksgiving features a very traditional table – turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and seasonal pies.

Though Hall has participated in the Thanksgiving Host Program multiple times, he felt especially compelled to invite students over his home this year because his daughter is currently studying abroad in Indonesia and has received an outpouring of generosity from the local people.

“It’s a little bit like paying it forward,” said Hall. “My children are being hosted while they’re overseas. It’s nice to be able to do the same thing here for Brandeis students.”

Categories: Alumni, General, Student Life

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