Gratitude for International Students
CU at the Table Events Hosted throughout CommunityJan 9, 2023
Throughout societies around the world, gratitude has long been acknowledged as a quality that supports the well-being of individuals, reinforces healthy relationships, and strengthens communities. In November of each year, Americans join together to give thanks during America’s holiday season of Thanksgiving, and members of the University of Colorado Denver community express their deep appreciation for the university’s diverse international students.
Through a unique program called CU at the Table, international students are invited to be honored guests at festive feasts hosted by CU Denver faculty, staff, and alumni. Although descriptions about the true origin of Thanksgiving vary, it now signifies a time to pause in one’s busy schedule and celebrate. Doors are opened wide, warmly welcoming in the university’s international students to enjoy traditional American foods of the season, build friendships, and learn more about each other’s culture and interests .
“In addition to serving a traditional American Thanksgiving meal at my house, I also prepared a rice dish, lamb biryani, for my international student guests,” said Catherine Ebert-Gray, U.S. Ambassador (retired), Director of Global Education: Study Abroad, Office of International Affairs (OIA).
Ebert-Gray’s guests included students from India, China, and Colombia. Although the students had not all previously met, they learned more about each other throughout their lively dinner conversation. “Despite the diversity of their national origin, lifestyles, languages, and college majors, I loved seeing how they quickly and joyously bonded as members of the CU Denver family over Thanksgiving and closed the evening as good friends exchanging plans, photos, and laughs. I hope to have a reunion at graduation to include their parents.” Ebert-Gray encouraged the students to continue staying in touch as they proceed along their educational journeys.
CU Denver student Xiting (Vanessa) Tong said, ”It was so nice meeting you; thank you for hosting the dinner and making all of this happen.” Tong added, “I will keep you posted for the study abroad trip to the Dominican Republic. I am planning to take the 4+1 program offered by the political science department; there are so many opportunities here and the professors are brilliant. So, I will be staying in Denver for a few more years.”
All students can learn more about the university’s study abroad programs through the Global Education: Study Abroad website and by making an appointment with a study abroad advisor. From the Dominican Republic to Ireland to Spain to Singapore and more, a diversity of study abroad offerings enable domestic and international students to take a deep dive into international studies, clinical opportunities, research, and transformative experiential learning. Study abroad scholarships are also available, helping to bring a meaningful study abroad experience within reach.
In other parts of the city, CU at the Table dinners were being enjoyed at homes and in nearby restaurants. International student Alik Askar Shaik, sent a gratitude message to OIA, describing the dinner hosted by CU Denver alumna Jenny Grote, who graduated in 1986 with a civil engineering degree: “Thank you so much for the CU at the Table event. It was such a beautiful time with Jenny, Wulf, and Pratyush. I really enjoyed the whole time with them; Jenny and Wulf were so sweet.” Ali kindly added, “Happy 50th Anniversary to CU Denver. Alhamdulillah (All praise to God).”
Across town, Alana Jones, Associate Vice Chancellor, Office of International Affairs (OIA), said, “My husband and I were delighted to welcome our international student guests into our home. We enjoyed planning and preparing the meal and getting to know each student better. In this season of giving thanks for the many good things in our lives, Thanksgiving is also a special time when we at CU Denver can show appreciation for our cherished international students.“
One of the guests, Yang (Brandon) Zhou, was excited to be completing his PhD as a December graduate. Zhou originally came to campus as part of the partnership program between the University of Colorado Denver and Northeast Forestry University (NEFU) in Harbin, China.
“Studies for the first three years are in China; in the fourth year you complete your bachelor’s degree and earn a master’s degree, explained Zhou. “I thought it was a great opportunity. The partnership with CU Denver was very established, and it provides a clear path to what you’ll be learning.”
Zhou describes himself as an introvert who learned how to become comfortable reaching out to other people through his experiences at CU Denver. in addition to signing up for events such as CU at the Table, he joined other events hosted by the OIA Global Buddies program and became a member of the university’s Asian Students Association.
Along with excelling in his studies and accessing social and cultural opportunities, Zhou also took advantage of Colorado’s scenic environment. “Colorado is where I learned how to snowboard,” he said with excitement. “There are many beautiful areas in the Rocky Mountains, near to Denver. In the summer, I go hiking; you can enjoy all four seasons in Colorado.”
“There’s value to learning in an urban environment in the United States. Studying at CU Denver led me to potential contacts in the engineering industry, and to my job. You can take that knowledge and experience with you and work in your home country and in other countries.”
“In the Fall 2022 semester, 1,634 from diverse global regions chose to enroll at CU Denver,” said Jones. “One of the highlights for OIA is to welcome international students at the start of each semester and to help them become a part of our vibrant campus community through events such as CU at the Table.”
Zhou commented, “I am super glad that I chose CU Denver, and thankful for all of my experiences here.”
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