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Chancellor’s office hosts 10th annual International Thanksgiving

November 21, 2019

Every year over the last decade, UW-River Falls Chancellor’s office has hosted an International Thanksgiving. This year, all international students were sent an invitation for Nov. 21 in the University Center Ballroom.

The tradition began in the home of Chancellor Dean Van Galen and his wife, Mary Van Galen. The couple invited the students into their home on the Sunday before Thanksgiving back in 2010. 

“It was an effort to help our international students learn about American culture and Thanksgiving and really bring them together to help them feel welcomed on our campus,” said the chancellor. 

They had about 35 guests and space was tight, according to Van Galen. In 2012, the dinner was moved to campus. Members of the community are invited to serve as table hosts. The table hosts range from various members of the chancellor’s advisory council, of the business community, state legislators, leaders from River Falls and also regional legislators. The table hosts are there to facilitate conversation with the international students. 

“This year, both representative Shannon Zimmerman and state senator Patty Schachtner will attend. Many of them enjoy attending the event and talking to international students. I think it’s a really nice way to communicate the value of our university and also our focus on global engagement,” said Van Galen. 

Catered by Chartwells, turkey will be served along with mashed potatoes, stuffing, apple pie, pumpkin pie, beans and cranberry sauce. Van Galen said the turkey is brought out on a large tray and there is a ceremonial carving of the turkey, along with a toast of a non-alcoholic beverage. This year, it is expected that between 70 and 80 students will attend. 

In previous years, the dinner took place in the Ann Lydecker Living Learning Center. This year’s dinner will be part of the university’s Summit on international engagement. “This place is closer to my dorm so maybe this place is better in terms of location,” said Sihoon Yang, a junior from South Korea majoring in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).  

Kanako Seki is a TESOL major from Japan who attended the dinner last year. “Last year was my first time to celebrate [Thanksgiving] and I love the pumpkin pie. We don’t have it in Japan.” She continued, “Most of my friends don’t like the pumpkin pie so I ate my friend’s [pie].”

Seki enjoyed learning about the Thanksgiving traditions in the U.S. She will spend the Sunday before Thanksgiving celebrating with her host family. Over Thanksgiving break, she will be traveling to Chicago with a friend from Taiwan.

Taehyun Choi is a freshman from South Korea, majoring in Biology and Biomedical Science. This will be his first time celebrating Thanksgiving. 

“For me, I  expect to meet many students and eat delicious food from the Thanksgiving dinner,” said Choi.  

Yang attended the dinner last year. “I really really liked the food. I can’t remember everything I ate that day but the mashed potatoes were pretty good. I feel like international students also get to see the chancellor and because he’s a person in a high position, international students get a sense of recognition maybe,” said Yang. 

Yang said he plans to celebrate Thanksgiving when he returns to South Korea: “Maybe not exactly according to the American way, but trying to get the best ingredients that we can.”