International Buddies introduces Thanksgiving to international students

Wael Aljutayli, exchange student, Yasser Zalah, exchange student, and Hayden Wylie, sophomore in anthropoloy, say goodbye after eating Friendsgiving dinner together. International Buddies sponsored a thanksgiving themed dinner on Nov. 13, 2015 for all international students and their buddies. (Renee Dick | The Collegian)

In an effort to bring together international and traditional students, the organization International Buddies hosted its first ever “Friends-giving” event at the Frith Center at Jardine Friday evening.

Friends-giving came about as the International Buddies officers brainstormed ideas for their second event of the semester.

“We kind of sat down one day and said we want to do something for foreign exchange students that invites them to some American holiday,” said Alyssa Greenwood, sophomore in arts and science open option and publicity officer of International Buddies. “They already know about Halloween or they’re too superstitious about it, so, we wanted to introduce them to an American holiday that we celebrate and have them try some of our food and experiences; so we’re going to be having Thanksgiving, but we’re going to call it ‘Friends-giving’ and be clever.”

The officers began planning for the event in late September. They raised money for the events’ expenses through fundraising and were able to gather additional funds through a Student Government Association co-sponsorship.

Expenses included 150 posters and food for the event, according to Paula Sanchez, sophomore in computer science and president of International Buddies.

Each semester, the program holds three events to help encourage the “buddies” to get to know each other better.

At the beginning of each semester, International Buddies opens applications for both local students and international students, who will then be paired together as “buddies.” Some language classes require students to have a buddy to practice the language or to learn about different cultures; however, Sanchez said International Buddies helps reduce the culture shock for international students and helps bring together people who might just want a new friend.

Pradeep Medarametla, graduate student in industrial engineering, has participated in the program for about a year. According to Medarametla, the program helps students communicate with people who already have an understanding of American culture.

“When you know that you can talk to someone about culture or the difference that you are facing about stuff, it’s always good to have someone like that, and I think International Buddies is a good way to have someone like that,” Medarametla said.

According to Sanchez, there were about 200 pairs of international and traditional students who applied for the program this past semester.

Sydney Haas, junior in marketing, has been a part of the program for two years. While it was hard to meet up with her first buddy due to conflicting schedules, Haas said events like Friends-giving help share American traditions with international students.

Haas said events hosted by International Buddies “gives the pair something to do, rather than meet up in a coffee shop somewhere.”

Haas’ international buddy, Nilusha Kariyawasam, graduate student in chemistry, was also involved with International Buddies last year; however, like Haas, Kariyawasam said she was not able to meet up with her previous buddy frequently because of their conflicting schedules.

Friends-giving is another prime opportunity for buddies to meet up and spend time learning about other cultures.

“I think this is really cool just because it’s a very American tradition and it’s very unique to our country,” Haas said. “It’s a good opportunity to talk about the customs and culture.”