Oxford, Ohio 45056
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A Miami Moment with ... Amy Cockrell and Jennifer Ward
Amy Cockrell and Jennifer Ward, international student advisers, work to create special programs to share American traditions with Miami University's international students. One such event is an old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner. Miami's office of international education (OIE) and members of the Community Service Program for Foreign Students (COSEP) welcome guests to a Global Neighbors Thanksgiving Dinner Potluck 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at Talawanda Middle School, Oxford-Reily Road.
Q: How did the Thanksgiving Potluck dinner get started?
A: Last year, COSEP reconnected with OIE expressing their desire to increase their collaborative efforts with us. The longtime community-based program matches residents with international students through our Global Neighbors program. Thanksgiving Dinner became one of two new events born from this increased partnership. We also hold a spring picnic. The goal is to share with our international students American traditions. What is more American than Thanksgiving dinner? Last year was our first dinner, and it was a huge success with 120 people attending and lots of traditional food.
Q: Did the international students enjoy the food?
A: Very much. Some went back for seconds. We debated about whether or not to serve a traditional menu or a more global menu, but the vote was for traditional to really share our culture with students. We also added some icebreakers and games to the event. Everyone loved the Thanksgiving turkey hand drawing activity. We all remember that from our youth. We also used chopsticks to eat, incorporating a little of the global. In addition, we explained what today’s Thanksgiving is like for American families—the traditions of family gatherings, football, Macy’s parade and Black Friday. This year we welcome Talawanda Middle School’s Bel Canto Choir. It’s not too late to sign up for this year’s event. Please go to miamithanksgiving or call (513-529-5628).
Q: Is Global Neighbors similar to Miami’s Global Buddies program?
A: Similar, except that Global Buddies pairs our domestic students with international students. For both programs, the OIE pairs international students with either a domestic family or a domestic student, or in some cases with both. Students can sign up for both programs. We encourage the participants to meet once a week to have casual conversation, work on their English skills and experience something cultural. It can be as simple as taking the students to the grocery store—an experience very different for many of our international students.
Q: Who is eligible to become a Global Neighbor?
A: Any faculty, staff or community member who would like to share our culture and learn about another’s culture. These exchanges are so important in making our international students feel welcome within the community. We provide workshops for volunteers, and all we ask is one hour a week to meet with the student. A simple lunch is a great way to fit this in with current schedules. There is also a lot to do on campus to share with the student such as plays, lectures and musical events. Most of our volunteers invite them to their homes for an American dinner.
Q: What other benefits do you see with these programs?
A: They provide our students with another layer of support. The students and volunteers make deep connections. We’ve seen relationships grow to where the students are treated as part of the family, and we hope it will continue even after the students graduate from Miami.