Dec. 20, 2019Print | PDF
A group of Wilfrid Laurier University employees are giving the gift of experience this holiday season.
Nine Laurier employees have volunteered to share their family’s holiday traditions with international students as part of the 2019 Holiday Host program. Organized by Laurier International, the annual program provides interested international students with the opportunity to experience Canadian holiday customs in the homes of participating university employees throughout the month of December.
Meals, cookie decorating, crafts and outdoor activities are just some of the experiences that Laurier hosts have planned for the 34 students participating from countries including China, India, Pakistan and Italy.
“The Holiday Host program allows for an exchange of culture and ideas at a special time of year,” says Mike Aguiar, international student advisor at Laurier’s Waterloo campus. “Some students will be in Canada for four years and not have the opportunity to experience Canadian culture in a way as authentic as this.”
Tricia Lutz, undergraduate program assistant in the Department of Biology, hosted four students from China and Hong Kong on Dec. 6. They decorated cookies, played a gift-exchange game and enjoyed a traditional turkey dinner with Lutz’s family and neighbours. “The program tugged on my heartstrings, especially when you consider how far from home some students are,” says Lutz, “But it’s also a fun way to create a sense of community.”
Experiencing community is what drew Yun Tan, one of Lutz’s student guests, to sign up for the program. Tan says a student association at her home institution – Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China – organizes a similar host program for international students during the Chinese New Year festival.
“My family has volunteered to host students, so I thought it would be fun to experience the program as a guest,” says Tan. “The evening at Tricia’s house was fun and authentic and I could tell these were traditions they really enjoyed. I’m grateful that I could be part of it.”
Although Tan does not celebrate Christmas, she enjoyed the similarities between Lutz’s holiday traditions and her own.
“The Chinese New Year festival and Christmas are different, but they share the common enjoyment of reunion and getting together with family and friends,” says Tan. “Those things are universal wherever you’re from.”
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