International students celebrate Thanksgiving together

Tyler Prochazka

At WKU, American students aren’t the only ones who will have to worry about gaining extra pounds from Thanksgiving turkey.

WKU’s International Student and Scholar Services is celebrating the holiday with its annual Thanksgiving meal for WKU’s international student population.


The event will be Saturday at Baptist Campus Ministries where a free Thanksgiving dinner, including dishes such as sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie, will be provided.

Tarek Elshayeb, WKU’s ISSS director, said in an email that ISSS wanted to create a “Thanksgiving dinner with international flavor” by substituting some of the “traditional” staples with more regional-specific ones, such as rice.

“Given the diversity of WKU international students and scholars population, we have to take into consideration food restrictions to make all students and scholars comfortable and welcomed,” he said.

Diana Howard, WKU’s ISSS international outreach coordinator, said she hopes the meal will help international students come together and help introduce them to others.

“We do these events to help them feel more connected at Western and give them opportunities to meet other students,” Howard said.

The Thanksgiving meal, which is in its fourth year at WKU, is expected to attract about 200 international students, according to Howard.

Every year the event increases in size, she said.

Pune, Maharashtra, India, graduate student Urmila Tokekar said she wanted to go to the dinner last year, but had to miss it.

“I want to know more about what Thanksgiving is,” Tokekar said. “We don’t have that in India. I want to know what it is.”

Howard said she thinks events like these are a good way to “acclimate” international students to American culture.

“Our goal is to introduce our culture and to help them understand why Thanksgiving is important to us,” she said.

The ISSS also takes international students to Chicago, as well as local attractions like Mammoth Cave. 

This is Howard’s first year to participate in the event. For her, the meal is a way to give thanks that these international students chose to come to WKU.

“It’s about gratitude, which is what Thanksgiving is all about,” Howard said..

Tokekar said she is thankful for the dinner.

“I don’t want to be alone on Thanksgiving,” she said. “Family is what is important. This will help me meet new friends.”