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UAlbany’s International Students Celebrate Thanksgiving

Albany, N.Y. (November 23, 2011) — The University at Albany’s traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for international students draws well over a hundred students each year. The dinner, on Wednesday, Nov. 23, is one way UAlbany takes care of its international students and helps them to feel at home, when their own home may be thousands of miles away.

Two international students with an apple pie for Thanksgiving.

From left, Biomedical Sciences doctoral student Dhanushki Samaranayake and Educational Psychology doctoral student Shufen Wang prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

Another occurs for many students from foreign nations on the holiday itself, when they share in the American tradition with a host family. This year, doctoral student Shufen Wang of Qufu from China, will be passing the apple pie, celebrating on Thursday her very first Thanksgiving.

"We have many faculty and staff who invite international students from their own departments to join their families for this traditional American holiday,” said Margaret Reich, director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) in the Office of International Education, UAlbany. “Those students and families who respond to our offer to match them up invariably have a great time getting to know each other and learning about each other’s culture. It’s a wonderful way to enrich the holiday for all.”

Dhanushki Samaranayake or “Dhash,” a fifth year biomedical sciences doctoral student from Panadura, Sri Lanka, and her husband, Chinthaka Jayawardena, a master’s student in computer science, will spend Thanksgiving Day with a UAlbany alumnus and his wife.

This will be their fourth Thanksgiving Day with a host family. “To me, Thanksgiving shows togetherness, love and hospitality among American families and communities. I greatly admire the friendly spirit among all Americans during the Thanksgiving season,” said Samaranayake.

There are similarities between celebrating the Sri Lankan New Year April 13-14 and the American Thanksgiving in that special foods are prepared, like milk rice and oil cake, she added. A wheat-based oil cake is mountain-shaped. “No mold is used for this cake, and only grandmas know how to make it in just the right shape,” said Samaranayake.

She has only been able to go home once during her time at UAlbany. “There is not a day that goes by where I don’t remember my family at home,” said Samaranayake. “However, the American friends I have made during my stay here in the U.S. help me take one day at a time. I am happy to say that I hope to fly home this December to spend the dawning of the New Year with my family.”

The dinner is provided free to international students compliments of ISSS, the Graduate Student Organization, and University Auxiliary Services. It begins at noon on Wednesday in the Campus Center Ballroom and includes live music and contra dancing.

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