Next to the Thanksgiving table spread hung a whiteboard with the written words “Welcome! Peace be with you!” These simple yet powerful words embody Ann Freytag, senior laboratory technician in the College of Agriculture Food & Environment, who hosted her long-standing annual Thanksgiving party for international students from her lab. At her home, about 30 UK students and scholars from different countries gathered to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal while sharing stories and laughter, and learning from each other’s cultures.
Argentinian graduate student Maria Morrogh-Bernard enjoys attending Freytag’s Thanksgiving parties. “Ann’s annual parties allow us to experience and learn about American traditions,” Morrogh-Bernard said.
For the past 14 years, Freytag has been hosting a Thanksgiving celebration for international students and scholars, and their significant others, spouses and children.
“Years ago, my friend from the international office invited me over for Thanksgiving when I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with,” Freytag said. “We had a great time that year, which inspired me to establish these annual parties.”
Every year, Freytag asks guests to write their names in a book. Along with their names, guests fill in information about their country and UK department. Each new year consists of a longer list than the previous one. Next to the book always lays a large world atlas where her guests mark their hometown and write their name and year by it. Needless to say, the book is blanketed in writing, with guests signing from China, Argentina, Nigeria, France and many other countries.
Freytag explained why she loves hosting Thanksgiving every year. “The idea of my parties is not for people to come for me. Rather, they’re here to integrate in an international Thanksgiving and mingle with their peers,” Freytag said.
Freytag’s said she truly believes there can be world peace and that it starts by bringing people from different background and cultures together in gatherings like hers, where they talk, mingle, share experiences and an understanding for each other’s cultures.
Freytag mentioned how the first Thanksgiving event she hosted consisted of five people. “Even though there were only five people, everyone came from a different cultural background,” Freytag said. “Year by year, the amount of guests kept growing and growing. Now I usually host around 20 to 30 people.”