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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Thanksgiving Host Program at UMass Boston

In the past few decades, the University of Massachusetts Boston has established itself as a school with a very diverse student body. Many students are from other areas of the United States. Furthermore, the university is currently the academic home to students from 149 countries.
Thus, a great amount of international students often see themselves immersed in U.S. culture, confronted with U.S. traditions. Among those, Thanksgiving is certainly one of most prominence. It is also a holiday that is very exclusive to U.S. culture and also supposed to be a “family holiday.”
However, many of the foreign students might not really understand what it’s about or are unable to experience it the way Americans do. Furthermore, American students from out-of-state might also simply not be able to go all the way home and spend these holidays with their family.
This is why, four years ago, staff at the Office of Student Housing decided to initiate a program that would match students with hosts so they would have an opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving. According to Keith J. Waak, Assistant Director of Off-Campus Housing, a similar kind of service has existed for students before, but it was then Joseph Di Maria, the Director of the same department, who “revamped” the program to the form it has. Waak explains that he has now taken over the role of organizing and upholding this tradition for the student body.
Although the Off-Campus Housing Department is not usually involved with handling every aspect of life outside of campus, many students, especially international ones, turn to the staff for help or answers to various aspects of their life here in Boston, as Waak explains. 
“Some we can help with, and some we can’t,” he adds. As for Thanksgiving, students “started to reach out to our office, as they were curious to see what we could do.” The Office of Student Housing in general holds many connections with host families for homestay options and takes other supportive measures for students.
“I think they naturally assumed we would also help,” Waak reasons. Therefore, because the students kept asking and the department recognized that there was a demand, they then asked themselves, “What are we doing for our students?” Waak recalls.
Now, after several years of a successful turnout, Waak points out that he sees value in it. It has been continued for this Thanksgiving as well. Overall, the majority of students applying to participate in this Thanksgiving Host Program are international students.
“Obviously, it has a certain appeal for international students for a variety of reasons,” Waak explains. But, it is by no means only limited to them. U.S. students are welcome to apply and spend the holiday with a host. This year, it was 45 students in total that applied, most of which did not go to all separate host families, but rather, went in smaller groups together to the host.
Many families also specifically requested to host more than one student for Thanksgiving. “Our staff members and faculty are really willing to help and be there for the students”, Waak emphasizes. “[They] are very supportive of this program, which we feel really fortunate for.” According to Waak, several of the staff or faculty have even applied not only once, but offered themselves as host multiple times over the past years.