Experiencing international Thanksgiving in Hanover

By Katherine Tai | 11/24/11 3:05pm


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.

Katherine Tai