Nearly 700 first-year international students and members of the University community gathered recently to celebrate the University’s 38th Annual International Thanksgiving, a beloved University tradition. The event, sponsored by the Chancellor’s House and the Center for International Services, was held in the Schine Student Centers’ Goldstein Auditorium and Schine Underground on November 17.
Started by the University in the 1980s by the then Evangelical Chaplain Rev. At Koshy, the celebration aims to introduce young international students to the American Thanksgiving experience. For nearly four decades, the event has served as a celebration of cross-cultural friendship, international community and friendship. It is believed to be the only celebration of its kind on a college campus in the United States.
The spirit of the dinner is the true meaning of thanksgiving, says Dr. Ruth Chen, professor of practice in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and co-host of the event. As we gather to share this special meal, the act of gratitude is taking place.
Many international students can’t travel home for the holidays, says Center for International Services director Juan Tavares, co-host of the event. This event gives international students an opportunity to feel at home, being able to come together and share dinner with so many international students, he says.
University Catering prepared and served a family-style meal with all the traditional fixings, including 600 pounds of turkey, 300 pounds of gravy, 16 quarts of gravy, and 150 pumpkin and apple pies (with whipped cream, a treat for many students) . Kosher and Halal turkeys and vegetarian options were also served. Vendors from the greater Syracuse area donated all the food, linens and table decorations.
In addition to the logistics of preparing and serving such a large and important meal, the Catering staff faced an unexpected challenge. Twenty minutes before dinner began at 6:30 p.m., the elevator to the auditorium broke down. The entire staff, including employees from the Schine’s food court, worked to push the hot boxes from the Schine’s front door, down the Einhorn Family Walk, down the ramps in front of Bird Library on Waverly Avenue and up the ramp to Goldstein Auditorium.
A highlight of the evening was the ceremonial turkey carving on the Goldstein Auditorium stage. Students, camera phones in hand, eagerly crowded around Drumlins Food and Beverage Assistant Director Joe Sidoni as he carved the annual Turkish tradition into the event.
As dinner was served and enjoyed, tableside faculty, staff and community members engaged attendees in conversation and answered questions about Thanksgiving traditions.
Gratitude is about counting your blessings and appreciating your connections with others. Here at Syracuse University, we are blessed to have international students as part of our student body and our global alumni network, Chancellor Syverud said. You bring unique perspectives that help us nurture a global perspective. You inspire dialogue between cultures, languages and traditions. You make friends with people who grew up very differently from you. We learn as much from you as you do from your professors and mentors.
Baptist Chaplain Devon Bartholomew gave the invocation. The Native American blessing was given by Regina Jones, a member of the Turtle Clan of the Oneida Nation, who recently retired as Assistant Director of the Universities Native Student Program. Muslim chaplain Amir Duric made the prayer.
The Hendricks Chapel Choir, under the direction of Jos Peppie Calvar, Associate Professor of Music and Applied Performance and Assistant Director of Choral Activities in the Setnor School of Music, performed two songs, “Run Toboggan Run” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain .”
David Ojo, a Chemical Engineering graduate student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, says the dinner was his first Thanksgiving experience, but certainly not his last. It was quite an experience, the food, the atmosphere and above all the opportunity to connect with people of different cultures and backgrounds was something special for me, he says. I understand that the dinner is a long tradition at SU, I hope it will be held for a long time. God bless the organizers and all those who have helped in its continuation.
I enjoyed the International Thanksgiving Dinner, says Ameya Wakankar, a second-year Chemical Engineering graduate student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. The dinner was well organized and the food was delicious. I enjoyed American Thanksgiving traditions and also met some interesting people. I had a great time attending the event.
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