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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Bring a student home for the holidays

When Nancy and Robert Foster were studying abroad, they discovered that being away from home during the holidays was often frustrating. They missed the traditional American festivities and craved insight into the customs and traditions of their European neighbors.

That was part of the reason Nancy, lead anthropologist for River Campus Libraries, and Robert, professor of anthropology, decided to welcome two students from Hong Kong to their Thanksgiving celebration last year.

“We had extended family and friends over. It was a big success,” the Fosters say. “The whole thing was really comfortable. We are really glad we did it.”

The Fosters took part in the annual program organized by the Rochester International Council (RIC), a nonprofit organization that works with the University’s International Students Office. Every year, the program encourages faculty and staff to share their Thanksgiving holiday with students in the Rochester area, says director Judy Weinstein.

More than 2,600 international students study at Rochester area colleges. Last year about 30 international students from the area were placed with families. Weinstein hopes this year there will be Thanksgiving hosts for many more.

Every year, the council, which provides services and support for international students and Department of State visitors, looks for volunteers who will share American traditions and culture.

“This is part of the citizen diplomacy movement. There dinner guests may be the future leaders of the world,” Weinstein says. Phil Olmsted, an assistant in the Business and Government Information Library, agrees. He has hosted students four times for the Thanksgiving holiday because he enjoys getting to know who they are and exchanging ideas, beliefs, and customs. This cultural give-and-take, he says, is crucial, especially during the holiday season.

Olmsted, who taught English in China for several years, says the “culture shock” many visiting students feel can be overwhelming. That’s why it is crucial for faculty and staff to be good hosts, he adds.

Those who are interested in inviting one or more international students into their home for the holiday should contact Jane Cole at x3-5325 or send an e-mail to jw@rifc.org.

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