University students share Thanksgiving traditions

The International Buddy Program hosted the event Friday at Coffman.

Grace Machoki, advisor for the International Buddy Program, serves Ayaka Fukunaga gravy on Friday night at the International Buddy Program’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Jason Kopp

Grace Machoki, advisor for the International Buddy Program, serves Ayaka Fukunaga gravy on Friday night at the International Buddy Program’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Laura Sievert

The smell of turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries wafted out of a Coffman Union banquet hall Friday and permeated the third floor.

The mouth-watering smell was not the result of an overeager Thanksgiving cook but a group of international students having a practice run at this American holiday.

The International Buddy Program began planning its annual Thanksgiving dinner a month ago as a chance for University of Minnesota students to teach foreign students the traditions and practices of Thanksgiving in the U.S.

More than 120 students gathered to share one thing they were thankful for this year and eat food some of them had never had before.

Grace Machoki, one of the coordinators of the event, spent the night serving gravy at the end of the buffet line, and when international students looked confused, she pointed to a sign that explained what gravy was and the ingredients it contained. A similar sign was posted in front of each dish.

The purpose of the dinner, Machoki said, was to share the Thanksgiving experience and to unite the global community.

“We are bringing the experience to them without actually taking them to families,” she said.

Helene Carrier, a graduate student from France who is spending three months at the University, was surprised that eating was the main event. This was her first Thanksgiving.

“We have Christmas, but thatâÄôs more about presents,” she said. “Here you have dinner to share with family. We donâÄôt have that.”

The event cost $2,700, most of which went to catering and was paid for by grants from Housing and Residential Life and Student Unions and Activities, with additional help from IBPâÄôs $3,000 budget this year from International Student and Scholar Services.

IBP has two goals, said Beth Isensee, the other program coordinator. First, itâÄôs a program to ease the culture shock for students leaving home and coming to the University for the first time. Second, IBP hopes to encourage a cultural exchange, for all the students to learn about different parts of the world.

Kay Thomas, ISSS director, said “when students come to a big university, it is kind of overwhelming at times. The idea is to make the University manageable for students and to give University students the chance for a global experience.”

IBP members are divided into buddies âÄî those new to the University âÄî and mentors, students who have been on campus for at least one year. The group begins recruiting each April and trains the mentors throughout the summer.

To make the international studentsâÄô transition easier, the mentors are in contact with them for about a month before they arrive and are usually the ones to pick up their buddy from the airport, Isensee said.

During the fall semester, IBP hosts about 120 buddies with 85 mentors. In the spring, there are about 70 students combined because of a lower admission rate, Isensee said.