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Yizhou Liu says the idea of spending a traditional holiday with a local family is very appealing.Yizhou Liu says the idea of spending a traditional holiday with a local family is very appealing.

Christmas dinner with Windsor families inviting to international students

Yizhou Liu has only recently learned of the Host for the Holidays program, but says the idea is very appealing to him.

“It’s a great idea, especially for the newcomers,” said Liu.

Liu came to Windsor from China in September to continue his graduate studies in education. In China, he studied English and taught it as a second language. He says he is enjoying his time in Canada, and is finally able to experience Canadian culture.

“It’s a very good environment for studying here,” Liu said. “People are very nice.”

The Host for the Holidays program is organized by the International Student Centre, and runs annually for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Participation in the program offers a unique opportunity for international students to enjoy a traditional celebration with members of the local community.

Enrique Chacon, international student advisor, says this is an excellent way for international students to see Canada and learn about Canadian home values.

“It’s important for the hosts also,” said Chacon. “For many of them it’s a first-time encounter with an international culture outside of what the media tells them.”

During the holidays, Chacon says, the campus and its facilities are closed. He runs this program to help prevent international students from having to spend their holidays alone on an empty campus.

“We’re here,” said Liu, “And most of us are really homesick.”

Liu says that in China, Christmas has become commercialized, and is not a religious holiday. He says this is a good chance to experience a traditional Christmas, and wants the hosts to know they don’t need to change anything for the students.

“Let them do whatever they do in their Christmases,” said Liu. “I’m a really easy-going person. I hope for the hosts to simply be themselves.”

Currently the centre is accepting applications for hosts on its website, and student applications will begin this week. Students will also be able to apply in pairs or even in a group.

Organizer Eric Mui will match host families with their international student guests based on a number of factors such as dietary preferences, tolerance for pets, timing of the meal, and convenience of transportation.

—Darko Milenkovic