Weber State University aims to create unity among students by inviting international students to participate in a traditional Thanksgiving feast. The feast gives international students a chance to embrace American history while giving local students a chance to learn more about the different cultures at WSU.
“The plan this year is that we are going to invite all international students, so any of the students who can’t go home for the Thanksgiving holidays because they usually live very far (can have Thanksgiving),” said Lola Moli, WSU Student Association diversity vice president. “The International Student Center, they are the ones who put on the Thanksgiving dinner, so that international students have somewhere to eat. Then the Diversity Board helps them set up the food, and we bring members of WSUSA. All the VPs are invited. Then we also extend an invitation to any students who don’t have a place to go. They are welcome to come to dinner too.”
The feast will be held Nov. 27, 4-7 p.m. in Shepherd Union Ballroom A.
“In 2004 . . . I realized that everyone goes to Thanksgiving dinner,” said Morteza Emami, director of the WSU International Student Center. “They have families here, so they go, (but) international students are far away from their families. The idea was to cook a whole home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner for them. At the time, we had very few international students, but the numbers have grown since. I still cook the dinner, but I can’t do more than a couple of turkeys and a roast beef, so we asked the dining service to cook a couple of turkeys for this meal.”
The meal has been a standing tradition for four years. The experience allows local students to get to know the international students and learn about different counties and cultures.
“Most students who come from out of the country stick with students from their own country because they speak the same language,” Moli said. “They come from the same background and have had some of the same experiences, so they like to stay within their groups throughout the year. So this Thanksgiving dinner, like I said, we invited a lot of students in Student Involvement and Leadership, and they represent a whole different demographic. Last year we had each of the WSUSA members spread out amongst different tables, and we would talk to students from different countries, and then we would rotate and meet the different students.”
WSU international students and local students have the chance to get to know each other through the banquet. One person from almost every country represented at WSU has attended this Thanksgiving feast in previous years.
“Our mission was to ensure that international students who are away from home — and don’t have a family or a home necessarily to spend Thanksgiving with — will have a sense of belonging, community and family here at Weber State, so that they feel like they have a place to go and people to share that evening with just as anyone else does,” said Joshua Hunt, a senior and psychology major. “We have a very large international student population here at Weber, and as Americans who are very blessed and fortunate to have a great deal of resources and families to spend these holidays with, we need to do our best to reach out to these students and make them feel welcome and share those blessings with them.”
WSU students have the chance to volunteer and help out with this event.
“I think it is a wonderful benefit to not only our international students, but to our student leaders, who will engage in the opportunity to talk to international students who they may not have met before and share an understanding of what a common meal means to this culture in the United States,” said Adrienne Andrews, special assistant to the president for diversity. “It has been a wonderful event that we at the Center for Diversity and Unity have been excited to support.”