Stories of Thanks

University of Miami international students participated in a Thanksgiving Day Matchup Program with UM host families.

From UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 06, 2013) — On Thanksgiving Day, more than 65 international students from 15 countries participated in the University of Miami’s Thanksgiving Day Matchup Program.

Sponsored by International Student and Scholar Services, the program “matched” students with host families so they could experience a traditional American holiday and all the fixings that come with Thanksgiving. In turn, the international students got to share information about their culture with UM faculty and staff who hosted them.

Several students were kind enough to share some of their Thanksgiving experiences with UM News. Below are their first-hand accounts.


Sercan Demir
Country: Turkey
Study: Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering
Host: Barbara Lutz, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

“I’ve been in the USA for 4.5 years, but this was my first Thanksgiving dinner. I was pretty excited about it. My host was Barbara Lutz and her husband, Danny. Their neighbor, Michael, picked me up at my apartment since I don’t have a car. Barbara’s house was a cute Spanish house and the atmosphere was very warm. Before the dinner, Danny and Michael showed me around the neighborhood and gave me some information about the area.


“Their neighbors and relatives joined us for dinner, along with another UM international student, Sergii. Ten people in all. The dinner and the conversation were great. We talked about many things, including the history of Thanksgiving, American football, soccer, European countries and so on. I really enjoyed it and learned new things. Danny showed me the orchid flowers that he cultivates in the garden, and an old telephone collection he has. He also told me about the house and its history.

“It was quite enjoyable to have a Thanksgiving dinner with an American family. Everyone was very friendly and the food was so delicious. It was a really good experience. At the end of the day, I was so happy and glad to have made new friends. Barbara and Danny were great hosts! I hope to keep in touch with them.”


Irina Malova
Country: Russia
Study: Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning
Host: Len Levi, UMIT on the medical campus

“We were lucky to spend this Thanksgiving with Len Levi and his family. Another UM student, Sabina, and me arrived before the other guests and were able to observe the last preparations in the kitchen. Now I know some recipes for Thanksgiving dinner, and I can’t wait to try and cook them on my own!

“It was amazing to watch how Len helped his wife, Tracy, carve the turkey. I would never have thought there are so many ways to do it! Sabina and I helped a little bit with the preparations for the feast.

“While grown ups who had arrived were mingling together, the kids were having fun outside in the yard. Soon after everyone arrived, we sat down at a big table filled with traditional Thanksgiving dinner dishes. At the center of the table was the symbol of the holiday – a yummy, golden-color turkey. It was absolutely delicious.

“There was lots of interesting conversation and jokes during dinner. And after dinner, it turned out there was another interesting part of the day still ahead. This year, Thanksgiving coincided with Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday of the Festival of Lights.

“In honor of Hanukkah, everyone sang a Hanukkah song while looking at the lighted candles. This nice tradition was followed by a gift exchange. It was a very colorful and joyful scene, especially for the kids who were very excited while opening every gift. Mr. and Mrs. Levi were so very thoughtful and had a souvenir for us.

“The last part of the day was spent eating delicious cakes and desserts. It was definitely an exciting day! We met new people, observed family celebrations during a big holiday, enjoyed tasty food and just had fun! Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Levi, for giving us this opportunity to celebrate with your big and friendly family. Thank you, UM, for an amazing Thanksgiving Day Matchup Program!!”


Seongman Cho
Country: South Korea
Study: Graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Host: Roberta Meyers, Alumni Relations
“I had a great Thanksgiving dinner with many new friends made possible through the Thanksgiving Day Matchup Program. I was matched with Roberta Meyers. Her friends, Claudio and Steve, invited their friends as well as my family to their house. We had no problem getting there because she gave me detailed directions.

“We made many new friends, including people from Greece, Brazil and so on. They talked about their culture, and we ate a variety of foods, including turkey. We also appreciated the view from their house (see the picture below). Thank you for giving us the chance to experience traditional culture.”


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Seongman Cho celebrates Thanksgiving with new friends.

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