University of Rochester

On Turkey Day, Rochester Families Open Homes to International Students

November 25, 2013

This year, Rochester resident Jane Cole will prepare a traditional American Thanksgiving feast, but for many of her guests, it's one they'll experience for the first time. As a longtime volunteer with Rochester Global Connections (RGC), Cole will host more than a dozen University of Rochester graduate students and their families, many from China, through the "Thanksgiving in an American Home" program.

Rochester Global Connections, formerly Rochester International Connection, is a nonprofit organization supported by the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology that seeks to help international college students adjust to American life by providing practical assistance and opportunities to engage in social activities. RGC's executive director Amy LaGambino says that a vast majority of international students who study in the United States never visit an American home while they're here. That's something the "Thanksgiving in an American Home" program hopes to change and for more than 50 years, it has introduced international students to the cultural traditions of the distinctly American holiday.

"Celebrating Thanksgiving in local homes was one of the original activities of the group," LaGambino explains. "The experience of being welcomed and participating in Thanksgiving is something most of these students will never forget, as we have heard from participants over the years."

Some families will host one or two international students, while others, like the Coles, host larger groups. RGC relies on its Friendship Volunteers to place students, but UR and RIT faculty and staff members also participate. This year, 59 international students will attend holiday gatherings throughout the Greater Rochester region.

Members of the media are invited to interview Jane Cole and her guests on Thanksgiving. Her holiday celebration will begin at 5 p.m. To arrange an interview, call Melissa Greco Lopes at 585.260.6666.