Temple Times Online Edition
    DECEMBER 8, 2005
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TU community opens doors to internationals for holiday

Photo courtesy Sanjiv Kulkarni
Sanjiv Kulkarni (back, right), an international student from India, spent Thanksgiving with the family of third-year law student Greg Giaccio (far left) in a holiday pairing program coordinated by the Office of International Services.

Sanjiv Kulkarni didn’t expect to have Thanksgiving dinner with an American family this year, especially since he is a vegetarian and does not eat turkey.

However, as an international student from India, he did just that, as a participant in the annual Thanksgiving with an American Family program sponsored by the Office of International Services, part of the Division of Student Affairs.

“When I heard there was a Thanksgiving program, I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the American culture,” said Kulkarni, an M.B.A. student at The Fox School of Business, studying international business and marketing.

He is not alone.

This year, approximately 30 international students were paired with Temple faculty members, staff members or students for the holiday, said Luci Motoca, a junior psychology major and one of the Office of International Services peers, who works with the international students while helping to match students with American families for Thanksgiving.

Not only does Motoca work for the program, she also experienced it firsthand.

“The family who hosted me was very happy to have me and my boyfriend, and said that our presence made their normal family dinner more intriguing. I was happy to meet new people, and I hope to participate next year, as well,” Motoca said.

A similar program is implemented for other holidays that fall during the academic year, such as Easter and Hanukkah, according to Martyn Miller, director of International Services.

The number of international students participating in the program has increased each year since Miller arrived in 1999, he said. In fact, the total number of international students at Temple steadily increased from fall 1998 through 2003, and has remained steady for the past two years.

Today, 1,600 international students are enrolled at Temple. The current international student population at Temple consists of students originating from 121 different countries, with a majority hailing from India, China, South Korea and Japan.

The holiday pairing program helps international students develop closer ties to American culture and the Temple community.

“It is a great opportunity for cultural exchange from both sides. Those who participate are, of course, very interested in learning about new cultures,” said Erika Oshima, a junior religion and Asian studies major, and fellow Office of International Services peer.

“The international students can learn from different perspectives of the Temple community,” Oshima continued. “It is also a great way for them to learn about American home life. They are exposed to the celebrating of the holiday, not only through food, but also through family gathering and relationships.”

Priscilla Danielson, communication training coordinator at the Institute of Disabilities, hosted an international student this year.

“My family is very open to others, has a wonderful sense of self and can make someone feel welcome. I enjoyed the entire experience,” Danielson said. “Stretching yourself to open up your home and life is good for all of us.”

For Kulkarni, who has lived in the United States for just over a year, this was a “first taste” of the American holiday.

“I learned a lot of things — both large and small,” Kulkarni said. “You realize how close-knit families are even if they live separately.”

There is even a similar holiday to Thanksgiving celebrated in his home country, Kulkarni said.

“There is a different calendar that we follow in India, and there is traditionally a different meaning why we celebrate it, but we have a similar gathering to Thanksgiving in November, where the whole family gets together,” he said. "It’s called Diwali, meaning ‘festival of lights,’ and it lasts for three to four days,” he said.

His host, Greg Giaccio, a third-year law student at the Beasley School of Law, said he was pleased to have Kulkarni join him and his family for the evening.

“I’ve lived overseas before, and had to spend holidays alone while most of the stores were closed. My wife is from Ireland, and she has had the same experience over Thanksgiving,” Giaccio said.

Program director Martyn Miller said he believes that getting American and international students together provides an education that goes well beyond the classroom.

“Students who participate in this event receive from Temple not only a university degree, but also lifelong memories of being welcomed into the homes of Temple faculty, staff and students, who themselves benefit greatly from getting to know the international students better,” Miller said.

“This experience is truly a win-win situation for all who participate.”

- By Erica B. Fajge

Office of International Services programs
Watch for these events in the spring at calendar.temple.edu:

• Commuter Coffee (Wednesdays)
• International Coffee Hour (Fridays)
• Mentor program matching American students with new international students
• Showing of international and American movies
• Short trips to Philadelphia-area sites and attractions

For more information, visit www.temple.edu/OIS, contact the peers at oispeers@temple.edu or 215-204-7708, or stop by the Office of International Services at 1700 N. Broad St.,
room 203B.