Experiencing international Thanksgiving in Hanover
Winter has finally set foot onto campus. The air is colder. The wind more biting.
And Dartmouth is quieter.
It’s Thanksgiving break and most students have returned home to celebrate with their families. Not every dorm room on campus is empty, however. For many students who live far from Dartmouth, spending Thanksgiving at home is not feasible.
Around 10 percent of Dartmouth students are international and the majority of these students have never celebrated an American Thanksgiving. (I’m from Canada, and this holiday is foreign even to me. At home, Thanksgiving happens in October.) Travelling home for a mere five or six days is in many cases expensive and inconvenient.
Both the Dartmouth and Hanover communities take this opportunity open their arms to these stranded students. The Office of Pluralism and Leadership has implemented a program called “Friendship Families” for at least the past fifteen years. They pair an international student with an Upper Valley family. The Upper Valley family “adopts” this student for the next four years as an “international son or daughter.”
“The program filled a natural need for families in the beautiful but rural Upper Valley of Northern New England,” Stephen Silver, the director of international student programs, said. “It has the ability to establish a relationship that enables them to bring a little bit of the greater planet into their homes.”
As Upper Valley families learn about international cultures, international students are given the opportunity to experience American life and form a family connection a bit closer to campus.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Silver added.
Thanksgiving is a prime example of an almost exclusively American holiday. Many Upper Valley families hold Thanksgiving dinners for their international sons and daughters to introduce them to the long up-held traditions of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Caroline and Milt Frye of Norwich V.T. in particular are famous for their international Thanksgiving dinners. The meal also serves as an opportunity for American hosts to explain the history and gratitude that created the holiday.
Beyond friendship families, professors have opened their doors to students who stay on campus during the break. Both professor Linda Fowler and DHMC doctor Doug James are welcomed three to four international students into their homes for dinner today. Such generosity allows students who are so far from their families find a home away from home for this holiday.