More than just turkey dinner

For accounting graduate student Joseph Yu, celebrating Thanksgiving was more than just being hosted for dinner.

Yu helped serve Thanksgiving dinner to homeless men and women at Bread of Life Mission in downtown Seattle last Thursday, before joining the family of one SPU professor for dinner himself.

"Seeing everyone come together was the best part," he said. There were more than 15 people in the house, and family members came from all over to be together on the holiday, Yu said.

Yu, an international student from South Korea, was one of five students hosted for Thanksgiving dinner through Multi-Ethnic Programs, offering international students the opportunity to experience this holiday for the first time. Director of Multi-Ethnic Programs Susan Lane said it was heartwarming to see the excitement of the international students and the generosity of SPU students and families, even though there was not a big student response.

"Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday," Lane said. "If they are new to the U.S., they don’t know what this holiday is."

For students and staff entering the final weeks of the quarter, Thanksgiving Break is an opportunity to escape to the comforts of home. However, flying home for the long weekend may not be an option for many international and out-of-state students, Lane said.

Multi-Ethnic Programs extended the invitation not only to international students, but also to members of MuKappa and Ohana O Hawaii, Lane said. The five students who responded were matched with SPU faculty and staff members who opened their homes for the holiday.

Often, international students do not get the chance to experience culture in an American home, Lane said. Host families recognize that students will welcome a chance to be in a home on Thanksgiving, she said.

Marilyn Hancock, administrative assistant to the Humanities Department, said it felt natural to have students in her home on the holiday.

"My parents started churches when I was growing up, so I always had strangers over in my house," Hancock said. "My husband’s family had a Vietnamese family living with them for a while, and we still have relationships with them today."

Hancock and her family hosted two international students, who were curious about the traditions, Hancock said. She said she clipped an article about the origins of Thanksgiving from a local newspaper and left it for the students to read.

Hosting students can be a learning experience for the host families, too, Lane said.

"It’s really a chance to get to know someone from another part of the world: to hear their story and to hear about their traditions," she said.

One of the students her family hosted was from Germany, Hancock said. It was fun to hear about her experiences and traditions in Germany, such as Oktoberfest, she said.

Yu said Thanksgiving reminds him of the traditional harvest period holiday in South Korea. The harvest period is a chance to gather as a family and really be appreciative of what you have, he said.

Yu said he once read a book while in South Korea about a man who worked to provide turkey dinners to people who could not afford it. At the time, he did not even know what a turkey was, he said.

"Since I read that (book), I always wanted to serve in the same way," Yu said. The time he spent volunteering made him feel as though he was giving back to the community, he said.

"I mostly washed dishes, but it was very worth it to serve," Yu said.

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Title: More than just turkey dinner | Author: Melissa Steffan | Section: News | Published Date: 2009-12-02 | Internal ID: 6727