Vanessa Staver’s Thanksgiving holiday is never predictable.
“My father invites random people many years,” said Staver, a student of the Tyler School of Art. “From the airport, or off the street. So I never know who exactly is going to show up.”
This year Staver decided to keep the tradition of unpredictable Thanksgivings alive by volunteering her family for the “Host an International Student for Thanksgiving” program organized by the Office of International Services.
The program began in 1999 as a way of introducing both American and international students to one another’s cultures, according to OIS student peer Luci Motoca.
“The idea is to facilitate cultural learning,” Motoca said. “International students have the opportunity to learn about U.S. culture. For example: what is Thanksgiving all about? What do people do for Thanksgiving? What do they eat? And the family host also learns about the student’s culture.”
Cultural learning is just what Staver was looking for when she signed up for the program.
“Tyler’s campus is so small, and not diverse,” Staver said. “I wanted to meet new people that would like to experience my favorite holiday.”
Fox School of Business student Sanjiv Kulkarni signed up as a guest in the program when she received an invitation on the OIS’s listserv. Kulkarni is one of more than 1,500 international students enrolled at Temple.
She came to the United States from India and is looking forward to celebrating American culture.
“I am expecting a fun-filled night with an American family … and a vegetarian turkey,” she said. “I’m a vegetarian, so I’m hoping I won’t starve …”
Kulkarni will be matched to a family that accommodates her food preferences and other needs, Motoca said.
“We ask students and the faculties if they have any culinary restrictions and consider that when we do the matching,” Motoca said. She added, “If a student says he or she likes to be around Temple or not too far from Center City, then we look for a host who meets that preference.”
The hosts are also asked to answer questions to appropriately match them with a student, Motoca said.
Questions ranging from gender preference or nationality to whether or not they can provide the guest with transportation are used to match hosts and students. Staver made a few requests of her own.
“I requested a student from either Sierra Leone, because that is where my best friends are from, or from Europe, because I visited there a few summers ago,” she said.
All students, faculty and Temple staff are eligible to apply for the program.
Jill Bauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.