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UAlbany Provides International Students a Taste of Home at Thanksgiving

UAlbany students Dhanushki Samaranayake and Chinthaka Jayawardena with staff member Jennifer Watson and her husband

UAlbany international students Dhanushki Samaranayake and Chinthaka Jayawardena celebrate Thanksgiving with staff member Jennifer Watson and her husband, Bill.

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ALBANY, N.Y. (November 16, 2010) -- Unlike most U.S. students, international students and scholars at schools around the country are often unable to return home during the short Thanksgiving recess. At the University at Albany, the office of International Student & Scholar Services, University Auxiliary Services and the Graduate Student Organization have teamed up to provide those who can't make it home with a "home-style" meal and the company of the UAlbany community.

On Wednesday, November 24, UAlbany will host its annual Thanksgiving Dinner from noon to 3 p.m. in SEFCU Arena's Hall of Fame Room. The cost is $5 a person and the event is open to the entire University community.

UAlbany international students enjoy food and each other's company

UAlbany has created a Thanksgiving tradition by providing international students who can't make it home for the break a "home-style" meal and the company of the University community.

For students Dhanushki Samaranayake and Chinthaka Jayawardena, the holiday has become an "opportunity to be part of a real American family and share their great thanksgiving traditions," said Samaranayake. "It is a beautiful custom that brings together family or friends with love, care, and the willingness to share."

Samaranayake and Jayawardena, who are married, traveled from Sri Lanka to attend UAlbany. Samaranayake is a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the School of Public Health, while Jayawardena is working toward his bachelor's degree in Computer Science through the College of Computing and Information.

Samaranayake chose UAlbany because of the School of Public Health's strong ties to the New York State Department of Health and the Wadsworth Center. "I get the opportunity to conduct my thesis research at one of the best research institutes in the country," said Samaranayake, noting the University's strategic location allows her to see how public health policy is developed and implemented.

Thanksgiving Traditions at UAlbany
In addition to the annual Thanksgiving Dinner, members of the University community are encouraged to add an extra chair at the Thanksgiving table for one or more of the University's international students and scholars to share in the holiday festivities and provide a taste of home during the break.

"Inviting international students or scholars to join you for this holiday is an enjoyable, interesting and unique way to exchange ideas, customs and cross-cultural issues," said Ray Bromley, Vice Provost for International Education. "It also gives us the opportunity to provide our colleagues with a first-hand glimpse of how Americans celebrate Thanksgiving."

Samaranayake and Jayawardena have twice shared meals with the families of faculty and staff members at UAlbany. "Chinthaka’s favorite of course is always the big turkey, and I love the pumpkin pie. We had loads of food and left our host families with full stomachs, and our hosts did not forget to pack us plenty of food to take home."

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The University at Albany Puts the World Within Reach

Students and faculty come from more than 100 countries, bringing different perspectives and rich texture to the UAlbany experience.