Bring a student home for the holidays

85 students are in need of a home to share a holiday meal!

Share the Holiday Cheer

Image courtesy of Trisha Kasawski

85 students are in need of a home to share a holiday meal!

When I first heard about Share the Cheer, it was a no-brainer. So many international students have nowhere to go over the holidays, making it a very lonesome, depressing time. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I felt anxious and nervous. We were used to holiday with close friends and family. This was definitely out of our comfort zone. We had no idea who would be coming into our home, if they would like us, if we would like them, or if my cooking would be tolerable to different cultures. But, we had committed; we set the date, received contact information for both of the students, and laid out the plan. Our goal was to show them what our Canadian Christmas looked like. We had also invited six other adults and five children, making it a full household.

The doorbell rang, and a Chinese PhD student stood on the porch with a warm smile, friendly eyes, and an arm full of gifts — clearly not listening to our ‘no gift’ request. Next entered the Iranian PhD Comparative Literature student. His open smile, exuberance, manners, and positive energy filled the room. These two students did not know one another, but it did not matter. We were all in the same boat: nervous, excited, only seeking kinship and human kindness in one another.

We all experienced our first deep fried turkey (succulent and moist). The stuffing was a hit. The eggnog was not. Green tea cake and white wine were consumed, provided by our gracious guests. We played games; spoke of weather, agriculture, and the struggles of being a student far from home. Tim Horton’s themed gifts were shared, proving we also did not listen to our ‘no gift’ policy; Christmas is just not the same without presents.

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Image courtesy of Trisha KasawskiPulling out extra toques and scarves we had stashed away, we piled into our car with toboggans and headed for the infamous Connor’s Hill. The two foreign national’s looked at one another with dread at the sight of a broken sled lying upon the bottom of the mountain of snow. We started off slow, as these grown men had never been on a sled before. First a quarter way up, then half way up, they whizzed by me fast, and rushed to climb up once more. Soon they were braver than I, making their way up to the very top. The glees and whoops that came from these men were the voices of children from long ago. As the sky grew dark, we stumbled back into our car, delighted, frosty, and rosy cheeked. We dropped them off, waved goodbye, and the joy of the day lingered.

We were among the first to sign up for Share the Cheer this year. The anticipation builds. The nervousness grows. Curiosity lurks around the corner. Who will they be? Will they like us? What will we do? For that, I know the answer: the deep fryer is prepped, the eggnog is chilled, and the toboggans are ready to go.

You can learn more about Share the Holiday Cheer and how to sign-up from the University of Alberta International website. This year’s deadline to participate has been extended to noon on Dec. 21, 2015.

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Trisha Kasawski — Immigration Specialist, Immigration Services

Trisha is an Immigration Specialist in Immigration Services at the University of Alberta. Currently a fourth-year BCom undergrad student, Trisha intends to transition over to a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. An advocate for philanthropy, she volunteers with various organizations. Trisha writes for, a local website dedicated to empowering women towards financial success.

Updated on December 17, 2015