President John Simon and his wife Diane Szaflarski are hosting Lehigh’s Thanksgiving celebration dinner. The celebration will be held at Lamberton Hall so students still on campus have the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with the Lehigh community. (Adele Hancock/B&W Staff)

Home away from home: Students celebrate Thanksgiving on campus

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Thanksgiving is a day to gather with loved ones, to celebrate gratitude and to reflect on the year behind and the year ahead, but its origin was to celebrate peace, understanding and coexistence between early American settlers and Native Americans.

For Lehigh students, Thanksgiving is a holiday when many reunite with their families and celebrate. For others, such as international students and those unable to travel home, it is an opportunity to unite with the Lehigh community, faculty and staff.

This year, Lehigh’s Thanksgiving celebration dinner is hosted by President John Simon and his wife, Diane Szaflarski. The celebration will be held at Lamberton Hall so students on campus have the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with the Lehigh community. 

I have wanted to host a meal that day for students(undergraduate and graduate)who are unable to be with their families on that holiday,” Simon said. “The past few years, our family obligations have resulted in all of us gathering in Charlottesville, but this year, we decided that we would stay in Bethlehem and celebrate our family Thanksgiving with those in the Lehigh community who are unable to be with their families.”

For students who will remain on campus over the Thanksgiving break, Bruce Christine, the general manager of Dining Services, said there are changes in the dining schedule.

On Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving, all facilities will be closed, Christine said. However, food will be catered at Simon’s celebration dinner, and the menu will be accommodating of all dietary restrictions such as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

Christine said he is grateful for the dining staff members who will be taking some time away from their paid holiday with family to come and prepare food for students still on campus. 

Marilyn Nguyen, ’20, from St. Louis, MO, said she is staying on campus. 

“I usually stay on campus since home is too far, and it’s too expensive to travel,” Nguyen said. “It’s nice being here. It gives me downtime to relax and everyone is gone so there are no distractions.”

Veronica Collins, ’22, and Lucia Arguello, ’22, are international students. They will be on campus during the holiday break and are planning to attend Simon’s dinner in addition to visiting Frenchtown, PA. 

There are 470 undergraduate international students, as well as 589 international students in graduate programs, not including their spouses and families. Some international students are unable to travel home because of ongoing travel bans.

During International Week, the Global Union sponsored an annual “Friendsgiving,” located in Asa Packer Dining Room, which was attended by over 150 students and faculty. Caroline Neal, intercultural programs coordinator at the Global Union, is in charge of putting together these types of events.

“Friendsgiving is an opportunity for students of all different backgrounds to meet,” Neal said. “It gives the chance for international and domestic students to interacthopefully encouraging conversations across different backgrounds because there are not very many occasions that students get to have a large meal together and actually get to talk.”

Neal said she appreciates the faculty who participate in the host family program, in which certain Lehigh faculty host international students for holidays like Thanksgiving. She said this makes the campus an even tighter-knit community and provides an authentic experience for students.

Simon said when he and his wife had lived far from home and could not be with family during the holidays or other occasions, they had received invitations from people to celebrate with them.

“Most notably, our mentor from UCLA always invited grad students and postdocs to their home for Thanksgiving and summer BBQs,” Simon said. “This meant a lot to us at times we were away from our families so we just wanted to pay it forward.”

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