International Students Experience Thanksgiving Traditions
by Emilie Jenson, Public Information Office
Posted on 12/5/2023
On Thanksgiving Day, the historic Jane Young House in Webster City was buzzing with the usual holiday activity of any home- guests were arriving, food was cooking, and the sounds of laughter and good company filled the rooms.
This Thanksgiving celebration was a little different than most. Many of the guests had never experienced the holiday before as international students from around the globe who are attending Iowa Central Community College.
The 16 students who took part in the celebration are enrolled in Jessica Butterfield-Bailey’s ESL 265 class at Iowa Central, a course for international students who are not native English speakers.
“We had been talking about Thanksgiving traditions and the break that was coming up in class,” said Butterfield-Bailey. “Most of the students said they’d be spending the week and the holiday in their dorms because they are used to living in countries where it isn’t celebrated. I knew we couldn’t have that. I wanted them to have an opportunity to experience Thanksgiving.”
Butterfield-Bailey said she discussed the idea with her family and considered hosting the meal in her home at first.
“I asked my husband, ‘how many people do you think we can fit in the house’ and he said, ‘how many are there, we’ll make it happen,’” she said.
As the plans unfolded, another ESL instructor, Chris Fullerton, suggested the feast take place at the Jane Young House. With a grand dining room, the Young House provided plenty of space for the students and instructors to have a holiday meal. Iowa Central provided a van to transport the students to Webster City. The Bailey Family provided the turkey, and the students also enjoyed the traditional sides of homemade stuffing, sweet potatoes and pies.
After dinner, Fullerton provided tours of the home where students learned the history of Kendall and Jane Young and took in the vintage clothing exhibit on the second floor. They spent the afternoon playing cards and board games, singing, dancing and socializing with each other and their instructors’ families.
Evans Kiprono, a freshman student-athlete from Kenya said he enjoyed the day and took charge of keeping everyone engaged in activities.
“I saw Jessica’s kids having all the fun, and said ‘come on, we need to join too,’” said Kiprono. “I put on the music, and we were all dancing and playing and having fun being with a family. “The turkey and food were so good. It made everything amazing and a good memory for our first Thanksgiving.”
Serena Geli, a freshman from Togo, said the meal was her first time trying turkey, and that she appreciated the fellowship of the day.
“It was nice to be like one family,” she said. “It was a very new experience to me.”
Butterfield-Bailey said she hopes the Thanksgiving gathering can become an annual tradition.
“We’d love to open it to more students and give them more cultural experiences with other holidays as well,” she said.
I chose Iowa Central because it provided an extremely good opportunity for me to have a successful path in my chiropractic endeavors. My favorite memory here at Iowa Central was meeting so many people who I know continue to have an impact on my life down the road.