International students get taste of American tradition

More than 200 international students shared a meal Tuesday night – a meal that some don’t experience in their countries.

Ning Kuo was one of them.

Kuo, a native of Taiwan, enrolled at USF this year to study English at the English Language Institute (ELI). In his country, he said there’s no holiday dedicated to giving thanks.

“It’s a very interesting holiday because normally we don’t have a day in Taiwan to be thankful,” Kuo said with the help of a translator. “I believe that by being thankful we attract better things toward you and it makes you feel good.”

Students and faculty attended the Thanksgiving Celebration, sponsored by the ELI and USF International Affairs (IA), in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom.

After tasting the turkey, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie, Kuo said the turkey was his favorite.

“I did not like the stuffing but I liked the turkey, and everything else was OK,” Kuo said.

Helping his father operate his family’s civil engineering company in Taiwan is the reason Kuo came to America to learn English. After Kuo completes his program next year, he will return.

“I’m doing it for him,” Kuo said.

Kuo is a member of the Taiwanese Student Association, which he said made the adjustment to America easier. The Thanksgiving Celebration also served as a great way for him to meet people, he said.

Marcia Taylor, director of International Services, said the celebration is meant to show how diverse USF is, and people should become accustomed to every culture.

“Thanksgiving is a part of our shared culture experience and it holds a very special place in our hearts and even though there are common traditions associated with Thanksgiving – if you ask any American why they enjoy Thanksgiving, you’ll get many different answers,” Taylor said.

Krista Bittenbender, special programs coordinator for ELI, said the event was geared toward creating a sense of community.

The Thanksgiving celebration will be an annual event.

“We serve international students that are here in the U.S. to learn English so every fall we invite (international) students and ELI students to share in a traditional-styled Thanksgiving meal so they can understand what most Americans do for Thanksgiving,” Bittenbender said.