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International Thanksgiving Celebration Graces the U with ‘Smiles and Understanding’

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    By Robert C. Jones Jr.
    UM News

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 20, 2015) – It took only a few minutes for Emiko Hagi to take “a trip around the world” to sample different recipes she never knew existed. “Amazing,” she said in describing the plethora of fare arranged buffet-style on tables in the University of Miami’s Allen Hall courtyard. And to make sure she satisfied her palate, Hagi sampled it all—form the Middle Eastern machboos (spiced chicken and rice) to the Brazilian brigadeiro (chocolate truffles).

    A native of Japan, Hagi was one of the hundreds of international students who participated in the Intensive English Program (IEP)’s 32nd annual International Thanksgiving last Friday. With the holiday season just around the corner, IEP students from Angola, Brazil, China, Colombia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and many other countries turned Allen Hall into a United Nations assembly while sharing the favorite foods and customs of their homelands.


    “A taste of what Thanksgiving is all about” is how Michelle Alvarez, executive director of IEP, described the event, which has grown in popularity every year since it was first held more than three decades ago. “Each year we try to make it bigger and better, and much of the credit goes to our students.”

    As in previous years, each room in the Allen Hall courtyard was themed around a different country, allowing students and invited guests to take “a trip around the world,” as Alvarez put it.

    Gulzhan Kalmatayeva, who came to the United States to earn a master’s degree, made her first Thanksgiving celebration in the United States a memorable one, donning a traditional dress worn by women in her native Kazakhstan and sharing with her classmates some of the foods she often ate as a child.

    More than 70 dishes were featured, and students gave performances that ranged from a Korean pop dance to a martial arts demonstration.

    “You grace our halls with smiles and understanding, and are generous with the lessons of what you stand for,” Rebecca MacMillan Fox, dean of UM’s Division of Continuing and International Education, which operates the IEP, told students.

    With world terrorist attacks fresh on everyone’s mind, Alvarez noted that the annual celebration “creates a dialogue to promote world peace.”



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