The end of November usually means going home and eating a considerable amount of food in the presence of friends and family.
Some Gonzaga students, however, are a little too far from home to make the trip for just a few days. To make sure those students get the home-cooked, family surrounded experience, some GU faculty and staff members invite those students into their home for the holiday.
The Center for Global Engagement works to ensure that international students can celebrate over the Thanksgiving break if they stay on campus. From an all-inclusive potluck hosted the Monday before break to enlisting faculty and staff to host Thanksgiving dinner, there is no shortage of people to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Kristine Hoover, the director for the Gonzaga Institute of Hate Studies, has been hosting students in need of a home-cooked meal for over six years, and not just on Thanksgiving.
“We generally invite students over when they are coming and starting the school year or for Thanksgiving,” Hoover said. “They come a week before school starts and it’s just a nice transition point before you dig into the semester, or international students for Thanksgiving.”
Generally, Hoover hosts as many as three students that they pick up from campus and drive to their house to join them in the day’s festivities. This means anything from sharing in family traditions to helping prepare the meal.
“It’s always an invitation if students want to help cook the meal, because sometimes they are comfortable with it and sometimes, they are not,” Hoover said. “We try to make sure there are a few chopping things or a few mixing things so that people can then feel like they’re a part of the day.”
Sometimes international students bring dishes from their own country to share in the tradition.
“Students have offered to bring dishes from home, and I think it’s a wonderful gift to us that they are willing to share,” Hoover said. “To take the time to cook or to go to the extraordinary effort to make something that is more than just buying food but a part of their celebration, and I think that makes it really special.”
Borre Ulrichsen, the chief information officer at GU, has also hosted students for the past two Thanksgivings. He has found comparing holidays with international students to be incredibly interesting.
“You hear about very different traditions, which has been fun,” Ulrichsen said. “They don’t have any kind of Thanksgiving typically, so we tell them about the background of the holiday and the idea of gratitude. Then we ask them about how they celebrate in their own country.”
Originally from Norway, Ulrichsen agrees that there are a lot of differences.
“There are a lot of holidays focused on eating in the U.S., I don’t know any other culture that eats turkey like that,” Ulrichsen said with a laugh.
Both Ulrichsen and Hoover focus on specific aspects of the holiday when explaining it to international students so as not to emphasize the controversial background.
“We generally focus on our family’s traditions, but I do think it is really important to say that there are multiple Thanksgiving stories,” Hoover said. “We really have to be aware that although the common story is one that is widely embraced, it is also a time when other stories don’t get as much attention. We need to pay attention to everyone’s story.”
“We don’t really dwell on the origin of the holiday,” Ulrichsen agreed. “It’s more about getting together, being thankful for everything we have and that we have each other.”
Ultimately, this experience enriches that idea stressed by Ulrichsen of togetherness and connectedness.
One year a brother and sister duo brought Hoover a house plant to thank them for the invitation. Now, five years later, the plant still lives in her house and has continued to give.
“I have taken so many clippings from it and started so many new plants and given them to so many other people,” she said. “I love this connectedness that we have that started out of a Thanksgiving dinner.”
Ulrichsen and Hoover will continue to host students as the need arises, as the experience has been beneficial for both the student and the faculty member and not difficult to do.
“We can always make a commitment to share a meal,” Hoover said.