Students forge community bonds over Thanksgiving dinner

Anna Villella and her family so enjoyed having an international student as a guest for Thanksgiving, they plan to repeat the experience at Christmas.

A graduate of the School of Music, she welcomed Shifeng (Andy) Yao to dinner through the Host for the Holidays program, which matches students with Windsor-area families willing to share a Canadian holiday. Enrique Chacon of the International Student Centre said he was pleased that a last-minute appeal to the community identified more than enough hosts for the students who signed up.

“It’s always nice to see people are willing to share with our students, especially our faculty and staff coming forward,” he said. By Tuesday, he was already hearing back from hosts and guests happy to share their experiences.

Villella said that Yao – a native of China in his first semester of studies in the English Language Improvement Program – was a perfect match for her family. His interest in singing dovetailed with Villella and her husband Dino, both music teachers.

“I asked Andy if he knew any songs in English, and he began singing one for me,” she said. “Soon, my husband picked up his guitar and he began accompanying, and everyone was listening – and we had over 25 guests!”

She said her family learned a little about Chinese culture, and were reminded to appreciate being around family.

“Having Andy over truly enriched our Thanksgiving this year,” Villella said. “It was a really worthwhile experience for all of us. We even invited him to come back and spend Christmas with us.”

Big group photo

Shifeng Yao (centre, in red-and-black checked shirt) poses with some of his Host for the Holidays family.