International Student Services seek hosts for Thanksgiving holiday

Thanksgiving table 2014

A dinning room table set for a Thanksgiving feast.
Photo by Geri Battist.

Amanda Gerow

Staff Writer

International Student Services is looking for students, faculty, and staff from the University of West Florida who are willing to host international students for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Some of the literature we were reading says that 80 percent of international students that come to the U.S. never step foot in an American home,” said Rachel Errington, director of International Student Services.

In order to improve the cultural understanding of international students and to allow them to reach a higher level of understanding about the new world around them, students need to have the opportunity to engage in American traditions.

The 450 international students at UWF represent 98 countries, each of which has a different set of cultural norms and practices than those of the United States. Though some international students may choose to travel during the holiday break, many stay around campus, while most American students return home for their own Thanksgiving traditions.

The invitation to host the international students was sent out on Monday, and since then, a dozen students and eight faculty and staff members have responded. Many of these are willing to host more than one student for their Thanksgiving meal.

Hosting an international student requires two simple things: be associated with UWF as a student, faculty or staff, and be able to offer the students transportation to the host’s home, if needed.

“It’s kind of unfair for them to miss out on what is a very important tradition to Americans because they don’t have access to it,” Errington said.

Though this is the first time that the initiative has been advertised, faculty and staff have been called upon to host students for the holiday before.

This is the second year that retired faculty member Eileen Perrigo will open her home to international students. She says her family will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal and making the students feel welcome.

“There are many reasons why we enjoy having international students in our home for a Thanksgiving,” Perrigo said. “We like sharing our culture and American traditions with the students. When I taught in Japan and Ireland, my colleagues opened their homes to me to share their customs and culture.”

Perrigo says her family enjoys cooking for the students that would most likely just spend the holiday in residence hall rooms.

Errington said, “This isn’t just about giving the international students a place and a home that day, but it’s also to let our own faculty and staff know that there is diversity on our campus. We’re trying to create an environment of global education on campus, and this is one little way we can do that.”

Students, faculty, and staff members who are interested in hosting an international student for the Thanksgiving holiday can contact Errington in International Student Services at 474-2479 or by email at rerrington@uwf.edu.