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table set with autumnal gourds and suchSet an extra place at your Thanksgiving table to share Canadian traditions with an international student through the Host for the Holidays program.

Program a cornucopia of cross-cultural contact, says holiday host

Hosting international students for a holiday dinner doesn’t have to be intimidating, says Patricia Morneau. Her family has been participating in the Host for the Holidays program for seven or eight years, and she says it has been a great experience.

“You don’t have to go out of your way to include a couple of extra bodies at Thanksgiving,” Morneau says. “It’s really no inconvenience.”

The program, organized through the International Student Centre, matches local volunteers with studies from abroad eager for a taste of Canadian culture.

“All the students we have had have been incredibly gracious and appreciative,” says Morneau. “On holidays, when the campus it’s empty, it’s nice for them to have a place to go.”

Her family’s interest in travel first inspired them to volunteer as a way to bring the world into their home: “You learn people are not that different.”

The rapport they developed with a guest in that initial year encouraged them to continue.

“We hit it off really well with a student from Malaysia in her last year of undergrad,” Morneau says.

Since that first meeting, the Windsor family has travelled to Malaysia to visit the student’s parents, and they in turn came last year to Morneau’s daughter’s wedding.

“Now, when the holidays approach, she reminds me to have students over,” says Morneau. “She really loved the experience and wants to make sure others can share it.”

Beth Oakley, director of the International Student Centre, says this year has seen a record number of students register to find a host.

“Our community is so welcoming; we really hope that we can find a seat at the table for everyone,” she says.

The centre will accept host applicants through Wednesday, October 3. Learn more, or sign up to receive a Thanksgiving guest, on the Host for the Holidays website.