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Area families welcomed international students to join them for Thanksgiving

December 16, 2014

YanMei Lou came to IUPUI to earn a degree in epidemiology, but the native of China learned that a college education can benefit from the simplest of American holiday traditions: apple pie.

Lou, known by many fellow IUPUI students as Jessica, was one of 95 international students and scholars who took part in an annual holiday program organized by the Office of International Affairs that matches IUPUI students from other nations with area families happy to welcome guests to their Thanksgiving celebrations.

Eating a Thanksgiving meal

Nurse practitioner Flor Phillips, left, an IU School of Nursing graduate, and her family welcomed YanMei “Jessica” Lou of China into their home on the holiday. | PHOTO COURTESY OF YANMEI LOU

“The Office of International Affairs has matched students with Thanksgiving hosts since 2007 -- eight years!” said Brandalynn White, the international programming assistant for the event.

Lou enjoyed her holiday time with Flor Phillips, a nurse practitioner and an alumna of the School of Nursing, and Phillips’ family.

“It was a great time for me at Flor’s house for Thanksgiving dinner,” said Lou. “All the food was very delicious and the big family was so enthusiastic. We had a nice time together. Yes, it is my first Thanksgiving in the U.S. I loved the apple pie!”

Phillips also is part of IUPUI’s new International Host Program, a partnership with the Office of Alumni Relations in which local alumni are matched with an international student and meet with them monthly to provide friendship and support.

The holiday matching program has helped IUPUI’s international students become better acquainted with the cultural traditions in the United States.

“In the past, students often expressed disappointment at never having the opportunity to visit an American home while living in the U.S.,” said Sandi Lemons, the Office of International Affairs' director of International Student Services. “The Thanksgiving program not only gives them that chance, but it also allows them to experience holiday traditions.”

The holiday program isn’t just a campus effort. International Affairs relies on assistance from the Indy Internationals organization to provide additional host families. Indy Internationals helps students, refugees and immigrants in the Indianapolis area explore the culture unique to America’s heartland.

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