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Potluck Dinner, Host Families Make Holidays Less Lonely for Foreigners

By Richa Maheshwari


Over the chattering voices and energetic buzz of the International Freshman Potluck Dinner, Kate Baty, Coordination Host to International Students, announced that introductions are about to begin.

“This is Kai. He is from Hong Kong and he likes to drink,” Baty said. As the room chuckled in response, introductions continued in the relaxed atmosphere of the room.

With Thanksgiving approaching, and so many American students going home for the holidays, the International Students are starting to think of their own plans.

“We arrange this dinner at a time when school starts to get tougher, and the energy level is sagging,” Baty said. Baty also plans Thanksgiving dinner at host families for the international students who want one, and hosts two of the freshmen herself.

“Kate is every international student’s mother,” said Shruti Chandrasekhar ’05, a student from India. All the students at the table nodded their heads in agreement.

“She is such a welcoming woman. We always feel that we can go to her,” said Saba Gul ’05, a student from Pakistan.

Aside from always leaving her door open for students to come by, Baty organized the Host Program to provide International Students with a connection in the Boston area. She believes the Host Program is such a valuable tool because of the powerful connections she made with an Italian family when she was an International Student, from Canada, at Boston University.

“I can safely say that this Italian family made more difference in my life as a student than anyone else,” Baty said. Baty remembers taking comfort during the Cuban Missile Crisis by spending time with her host family. She thinks that this year’s students have had a lot to deal with after the September 11 incident.

Baty and Paulette Schwartz, a volunteer and host for the international students, recently initiated the mentor program for international students.

“My daughter went to MIT and it’s easy to get lost in this large impersonal place,” Schwartz said. She said her daughter had an easier time because of the connections she made as a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity. It was the concept of Big Brothers and Big Sisters that motivated Schwartz to start a similar program. International students now have the option of having a mentor when they first arrive on campus. It is up to them whether they want to continue that relationship.