Not every student went running straight home after class for the Thanksgiving long weekend. For some who stayed on campus, they got to experience Thanksgiving for the first time – thanks to the International Stu- dent Centre.
For the third year in a row, the International Student Centre offered up a Thanksgiving dinner on campus. For many international students, it was their first taste of this North American holiday. With that in mind, the centre pulled out all the stops.
This years’ dinner was held in the HP Centre’s Bytes food court, making the event open to more students and leaving room for speakers and fun activities like a photo booth. In addition to a full traditional turkey dinner, students got to learn more about the holiday, with a mixture of Canadian students and staff sharing tables with international students to answer any questions.
“I think this is a great opportunity for international students, first of all to experience Canadian life in a very festive setting, also because everybody brings a different story,” said Ziada Abdella, a NAIT business student.
“It’s also a very good chance for people to share their stories, share their culture. So it’s a big cultural exchange event.”
Staff agree that the event is one of the many ways the centre works for international students.
“This is an amazing opportunity for international students to get together, to build friendships, to learn about some snippets of Canadian culture and for Canadians to learn about other cultures as well,” said
Karen Bennett, Associate Vice President of Campus Life.
A comment board was set up for students and staff to share what they were thankful for this year. Many of the notes posted shared what students valued most about Canada and highlighted the sense of community that exists in Canada and at NAIT.
Sponsored by ATB Financial, the dinner was the largest held by the centre so far.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Oct. 9, the Boyle Street Plaza had a more festive air as hundreds enjoyed a hot traditional Thanksgiving meal, despite old man winter’s best efforts to dampen the affair.
A joint effort between Boyle Street Community Services, NAIT and the Edmonton Food Bank, the dinner was another adventure in a long-running tradition of student engagement. The NAIT contingent included students from the Culinary Arts and Professional Meat Cutting and Merchandising programs, who spent hours the previous week preparing a gargantuan volume of food for the special dinner. The students involved this year belonged to the NAIT student club, Club Culinaire.
“The Boyle Street Thanksgiving dinner is a big collaborative effort between the Edmonton Food Bank, NAIT and Boyle Street Community Services. It’s an honour as a member of Club Culinaire to be a part of that experience and to know that we get to help unfortunate people at such a cold time of year when they might not be able to have a hot meal,” said Stephanie Stolk, NAIT Culinary Arts student and president of Club Culinaire.
According to NAIT staff, the event provides a valuable learning experience for the students, both for developing skills and engaging with the community.
“I think, first of all, the students benefit from the whole experience by getting the feeling that they’re helping out in the community,” said Troy Lymburner, NAIT Culinary Arts instructor. “They’re definitely reaching out to the community and some of the disenfranchised in Edmonton who really don’t have anywhere else to go on Thanksgiving.”
“It’s just a wonderful success. The number of people who benefit from this is truly outstanding. Really, how it fits into the program, a lot of these students have never seen this type of volume before … ”
The event marked the 31st year that NAIT students have been involved in some way – this year, they helped prepare 65 turkeys, 400 pounds of vegetables and over 400 pounds of potatoes, to name some of the numbers they dealt with in the kitchen.
All that food went to feed an estimated 1,600 people over three hours. And it all went down without hitch, despite the unexpected challenges Boyle Street Community Services faced. In addition to the blanket of snowfall the city experienced over the weekend, a waterline break caused by nearby construction nearly shut down the annual dinner, originally planned for the organization’s 105 Avenue location. A quick relocation to Boyle Street Plaza staved off canceling the event.
Despite the challenges, the event had positive results, in no small part due to the students involved.
“I’d like to thank all the volunteers who came out that made the dinner possible,” said Stolk. Those who enjoyed the meal are probably the most thankful.
– Nicolas Brown, Issues Editor
Photo by Leigh Kovesy