Thanksgiving dinner is the time of year families gather for a meal and all the joys that come with it. Now imagine you only met your family a month ago, and it consisted of 180 people from different countries, whom you’d never met. Would you feel a little disconnected? That was the case for NAIT’s International students on Friday Oct. 6, who got together – permanent residence students, newcomers and international students alike – to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The supervisor at the International Centre, Sultan AlMajil, gives his take on why this holiday is so important for the International students to celebrate.
“Thanksgiving is well-renowned in North America, some countries in the Caribbean,” he said. “Great Britain has Thanksgiving but not all countries do; some countries have Thanksgiving at a different time. They might call it different things,” said AlMajil.
“Culturally, however, there is always an opportunity for family to get together, and appreciate and give thanks for what they have. So Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to bring all these different cultures together, give international students, newcomers, a taste and flavour of Canadian culture.”
Freya Fu, the international engagement co-ordinator at NAIT International, the organizer of the dinner this year at the Bytes Cafe in NAIT’s HP Building, explains the history of the dinner.
“At the International Centre, we do an annual celebration for Thanksgiving and this is the fourth one,” said Fu.
“In the past, it’s been a city-wide initiative, so the city organized a Thanksgiving event to welcome new international students and then NAIT decided to run our own.”
Fu continues by revealing the International Centre’s motivation for creating their own event.
“I think the reason that we do the dinner has always been the same, which is so that we can provide a true Canadian experience for students who may not have celebrated Thanksgiving before. This may be the first time some of them are having a turkey dinner. It’s an incredible intercultural experience where the international students can learn about the Canadian holiday.”
These students are going through a lot – having left their countries, their lives, their families and their friends to study abroad – but because NAIT’s International Centre is well-staffed, it helps lessen this feeling.
Along with plenty of supervisors and staff, and international student peer mentors – full-time students at NAIT, also manage to work part-time at the International Centre. These student leaders help international students adapt to life at NAIT and lead activities for international students on and off campus. During the Thanksgiving dinner these mentors hosted, helped plan and facilitated the evening.
Along with over 140 attendees, a pair of hosts, numerous faculty, executive and staff guest speakers, this year’s dinner also included two special guests.
“We’ve invited two NAIT international student alumni, who have graduated and gotten a job. They will be speaking at the dinner and sharing their transition stories and how they overcame all the challenges they faced,” said Fu.
This Thanksgiving dinner is a big step towards helping Edmonton feel like home to international students. Despite being away from their real homes, NAIT’s International Student Centre makes an effort to get as close as they can.
– Bryn Lipinski