Finding Community Through Share the Cheer

By Michaela Mann and Megan Yu

By Michaela Mann and Megan Yu

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In 2018 we hosted our first Share the Cheer celebration. It was something that had always seemed like a nice idea, but we had never taken the leap. We had our concerns: were our traditions Christmas-y enough? Would it be awkward? What if the turkey was dry? But, never one to shy away from hosting a party, we submitted our application minutes before the deadline in a moment of lucky courage. There was no turning back now!

We were so excited when we first received the email with the details of who we would be hosting, and some very helpful guidance for how to host. If it’s your first time with Share the Cheer, don’t worry — the good folks running the program will make sure you have all the information. Having received information about what our guests studied, we made connections with other people in our lives who shared commonalities. What started as an opportunity to host four students grew to include friends, coworkers, and classmates who were also a part of the university community. Why not take this chance to connect more of the wonderful people in our lives? We sent out a very enthusiastic email introducing ourselves to the students, and shared a bit about who we were. As our guests replied, sharing information about themselves, we grew more and more excited — it was becoming real!

As the day approached, we started meal planning. We wanted a full turkey dinner with a yule log dessert to finish it all off. Since we had invited some friends to join, we had a great community of culinary talents to draw from, which made cooking and hosting even easier.

When our guests arrived, all of our worries disappeared. They were warm, friendly, and so happy to celebrate with us.

Having invited other members of the university community to join in on the celebration, even the most shy of attendees had easy conversations. The food was a huge hit and was made extra special by the fact that we were sharing our own families’ traditions with people who were not only celebrating Christmas in Canada for the first time but, for some, Christmas itself. The turkey was a real celebrity and required its own prolonged photo session.

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Throughout the evening we all shared our own experiences with Christmas and with other special holidays. Part of the fun was telling stories of our own Christmas traditions, and our guests shared experiences with similarly special family holidays that they grew up celebrating.

We had such a great experience, that we also hosted our wonderful guests for our big lunar new year celebration. Cooking alongside each other this time, we felt so grateful for the experiences Share the Cheer had brought us.

We all run in our little circles and rarely get the opportunity to meet the wonderful people around us. If you are currently sitting on the fence wondering if you should host a Share the Cheer dinner, we hope this helps you to join the party!

Enjoy celebrating the winter season by hosting minimum of two international U of A students for a holiday dinner December 21-January 1. Exchange holiday traditions and share your cultural celebrations with your guests. Apply for Share the Cheer by December 8, 2019.Apply for Share the Cheer by December 8, 2019.

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Megan Yu is a two-time graduate from the University of Alberta. She completed her BA in Sociology (2011) and her BEd in Elementary education (2019).

Michaela Mann has a BA in Political Science (2011) and loved university so much that she now works on campus as the team lead of Student Services!