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Faculty, staff to host international students for Thanksgiving

From left to right, Huyang Xu, Nasser Fard, and Yuanchen Fang. Fard will host Xu and Fang for Thanksgiving this year. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Nasser Fard, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern, grew up in Iran and came to the U.S. in the 1970s to study at the University of Arizona. At Thanksgiving, faculty members would invite him into their homes for a hearty meal and relaxing conversation.

“I remember warm gatherings, good food, and learning about the American culture,” Fard says.

For the past eight years, he’s been paying it forward, hosting Thanksgiving for international students at his home in Newton, Massachusetts.

On Thursday, Fard, his wife, and their two sons will continue the tradition, hosting doctoral candidates Yuanchen Fang and Huyang Xu for the second consecutive year. Football will be on the TV and traditional Thanksgiving fare will be on the table.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with professor Fard and his family,” says Fang. “I miss them.”

Fard—who co-authored a paper with Fang and Xu in 2015—is one of more than two-dozen faculty and staff who have already committed to hosting international students for Thanksgiving. But the Office of Global Services, which is organizing the effort, is looking for even more volunteers to help them feel at home over the holiday.

“Such faculty-staff-student relations will help enrich cultural exchanges,” says Luchen Li, dean of the Office of Global Services.

Both Fang, MS’13, PhD’17, and Xu, MS’13, MS’15, PhD’18, came to the U.S. from China to study at Northeastern. Before arriving in Boston, they didn’t know the history behind Thanksgiving.

Today Fang’s favorite Thanksgiving foods are mashed potatoes and green beans. Xu likes turkey. He’s excited to spend a relaxing afternoon with good friends, “just enjoying the food and the company.”

Hospitality is in her blood

Patricia Goodman, assistant teaching professor in the College of Professional Studies’ corporate and organizational communication program, has long invited international students into her home for Thanksgiving. The holiday tradition began when she was working at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and will continue next week, when she hosts international students from Northeastern for the first time.

Hospitality is in her blood. When she was a kid growing up in the South, her parents would host international students from the University of Florida and other community newcomers whom they had met at their local church. For her, “it’s all about the idea of gratitude and the sharing of different cultures.”

On Thursday, Goodman’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, home will be filled with people from all over the world. In addition to her parents and the Northeastern students, friends from Ukraine, China, India, and Pakistan will all have seats at her table.

What’s on the menu? Roast chicken, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn bread casserole—and good conversation. “My academic expertise is in cross-cultural communication, and I always try to ensure that that everyone has an opportunity to speak and to be heard,” says Goodman. “I try to make space for each voice.”

She keeps several holiday traditions, including watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. At dinner, she asks her guests to name one thing they’re thankful for as well as one thing they could do to help someone in need. The international guests in attendance are often encouraged to speak a phrase in their native language and then translate it for the group. As Goodman puts it, “It’s nice to hear different languages at the table.”