Wellesley Community Members Invite Students to Share Thanksgiving

November 23, 2017
students from around the country enjoy a Thanksgiving meal

A plump roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, and the traditional fixings may be on your menu today if you are fortunate enough to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.

But if you are a student thousands of miles from your home in the United States or from a foreign country, Thanksgiving can seem like any other Thursday, and an especially solitary one as the campus is mostly empty.

That’s when the Wellesley College Alumnae Association steps in. Since 2008, the WCAA and the Slater International Center have coordinated the Thanksgiving Match program for students who can’t make it home for the holiday because of distance and cost of travel, said M.J. Pullins ’94, assistant director of alumnae engagement at Wellesley.

Helena Yan ’18 is from Vancouver, B.C., and her family is from mainland China. She had never celebrated the U.S. holiday before coming to Wellesley; today marks the fourth year she will share a Thanksgiving meal prepared by Ann Lees ’57 in her Brookline, Mass., home.

“I knew before participating in Thanksgiving that it was a family-centered affair,” said Yan, recalling her first Thanksgiving in the Lees household when she was a first-year. Lees, she said, “welcomed me into her home and introduced me to her young grandchildren. We played outside at a nearby playground until it was time to eat. It was nice to have such carefree moments to remind me of my mom and younger brother back home.”

For Lees, sharing Thanksgiving with Wellesley students creates a warmth that is especially appreciated during the holidays.

“With three of my four children now grown and living too far away to visit for Thanksgiving, inviting Wellesley students to share the meal is a nice way to make up for the absence of most of my own family,” said Lees. Today she will host nine people, including two Wellesley students.

“An added bonus is the opportunity to hear the stories of the students, where they are from, what are they studying, what they hope to do with their lives,” she said.

Lori Tenser, dean of first-year students, and her family invited a group of Wellesley students to their Needham, Mass., home last year. “It’s so nice for students to get off campus, eat a home-cooked meal, and spend time with others when their own families are far away,” she said.  

She added, “My own children grew up expecting that we would have others with us for holidays, and it is a special way of expanding our own circle. On Thanksgiving in particular, we feel grateful for the opportunity to have students share a meal with us.”