Photo: International students gather for Thanksgiving in 2011.
While most of the Hardin-Simmons University campus population will be taking time off for the Thanksgiving break, work will still be going on across the campus. Meanwhile some faculty and staff members will be welcoming international students into their homes for the Thanksgiving meal.
Bonnie Powell, coordinator of undergraduate admissions, says she is expecting some interesting conversations during the holiday as she and her family and two HSU international students travel to her sister’s house in Cisco for the holiday.
Powell can always be counted on to share holidays with students. “I think that holidays are important events, and they are most fun when shared with lots of family members and friends. I cannot imagine sitting home alone on a day such as Thanksgiving,” says Powell. “To some of these students, this might be their first Thanksgiving in the USA. I hosted a foreign exchange student from Finland for nine months. It was so much fun introducing her to our American traditions. It is fun to explain to them what we do on holidays, and it is nice to hear about the holidays they celebrate,” she says.
“HSU is home to more than 50 international students,” says Kim O’Dell in the athletics office, who is pairing the students with families. “Approximately 20 international students will be in staying in Abilene during the Thanksgiving holiday. Students love to experience a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, so it is a time that HSU faculty and staff can participate in this wonderful opportunity to share the season and bring another part of the world into their own home.”
Dr. Janelle O’Connell, professor and head of HSU’s physical therapy department, and husband, HSU professor of physical therapy, Dr. Dennis O’Connell, will be hosting Deetan, a student from Malaysia. Joining them will be colleague and professor of physical therapy, Dr. Marty Hinman, and her husband Pete; the O’Connell’s three children and their spouses, Evan and Heather O’Connell from Purcell, Oklahoma; Cameron and April O’Connell from The Woodlands, Texas; and daughter Keelan O’Connell, from Washington, D.C.
“Our traditional food is turkey with all the trimmings and this year we are adding lasagna,” says O’Connell. The day promises to be a busy one for Deetan and his host family, as they participate in the Abilene Runner’s Club Turkey Trot. “If the weather is nice, we hope to kayak and canoe on Lytle Lake or toss the football around in the yard and watch football on television. We also enjoy a rousing game of Pictionary,” volunteers O’Connell.
John Snapp, director of human resources at HSU, says they will be welcoming Dawei He (David), an accounting major from Shanghai, China; and Gang Liu (Sam), from Kunming, China, into their home for their traditional meal.
Powell says, “We are expected to have around 20 family members plus our two international friends and one of Brody’s friends, Brandon. [Brody is Bonnie’s son who attends HSU.] Brandon is an HSU student from Colorado who is not able to go home for Thanksgiving either.”
Powell tells a funny story that happened to her when she hosted an international student for the Christmas holiday last year. Powell says her family sometimes plays a game called Chinese Christmas. “We purchase gift cards and exchange them. As I started explaining the game, I realized our visitor was from China – we were playing Chinese Christmas. He didn’t get it, because he did not actually celebrate Christmas in China.” Powell says she was suddenly afraid that he would be offended, but as it turned out, it was a nice surprise for him to find out that Americans play such a game. Powell says he was also very happy with the gift card he was able to take home with him.
Other faculty and staff members sharing the day with HSU’s international students are Dr. John Eric Swenson, professor of psychology; Dr. Joseph Bailey, professor of communications; and John Neese, HSU’s athletic director.
Meanwhile, back on campus, police chief Frank Loza says police will work their normal shifts during the Thanksgiving holiday as they patrol the campus.
Maintenance and cleaning crews will also be on campus over the break to continue work on the grounds and to clean bathrooms and public areas of the residence halls when students are gone.