International Thanksgiving gives international students a chance to celebrate

An International Thanksgiving dinner invited students to come together Thursday in the John Spotts room of the Memorial Student Center.

The event, which was organized by Nicole Lane, a senior forensic chemistry major and resident advisor for Twin Towers West, aimed to provide an opportunity for students to bridge cultural gaps through a traditional American holiday.

“This is something so near and dear to my heart,” Lane said. “My first year as an RA, I had nothing but international students, and I wanted a way for them to connect with the university and feel like they were home.”

This is the third year that Lane organized the event with the help of Housing and Residence Life. During her first year as an RA, the event was offered specifically to residents of Twin Towers West, but through the support of Housing and Residence Life, Lane said she was able to expand the event.

“Housing has gone above and beyond with letting me do what I wanted to do with this event,” Lane said. “They didn’t hold me back, but they pushed me to do more.”

Once the event had been opened to campus, Lane said she began to discuss ways to get INTO, a program that brings international students to American universities, involved with the dinner.

“For international students to feel like they actually belong and are welcome at events is really crucial,” Lane said. “It’s nice to provide these students with an event like this and it’s nice to see them show up.”

Through her collaboration with INTO, Lane said she began to encourage students to bring international dishes to the event, but only a few were provided this year.

Additionally, last year the event was in the Don Morris room, but due to scheduling conflicts the event was moved to the John Spotts room.

“I actually like this year’s event more because [the venue] is a little bit more intimate,” Zelideth Rivas, associate professor of Japanese, said. “Last year we had more international dishes, but I just enjoy seeing everyone here, eating and writing letters to the troops.”

Following the dinner, Lane encouraged students to write thank you notes to American troops overseas as a way to encourage soldiers during the holiday season. Lane said she would be giving the letters to Veteran Services following the event.

Despite this being her senior year, Lane said she would like to pass the duties of the International Thanksgiving onto a younger student to ensure the dinner continues following her graduation. She said having opportunities for international and American students to mingle is a vital part of any university.

“We can’t be afraid of different cultures,” Lane said. “Have a conversation and it will get you so far; a conversation can push you across a cultural divide.”

Joelle Gates can be contacted at [email protected].