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This thanksgiving marked the third year that international and exchange students were able to forgo empty dining halls to experience an American tradition firsthand.

Penn Diplomats organized its third annual Thanksgiving exchange to offer international and exchange students a taste of American culture. Students interested in hosting their foreign peers need only to email Penn Diplomats and express interest, while international students can also email in to request a host.

College junior and Penn Diplomats President Julie Kranseler said the club received 100 requests this year and secured 37 host spots — last year the club had 60 requests and matched 35 international and exchange students with hosts.

Kranseler said that Penn Diplomats looks for hosts from the greater Philadelphia area, as transportation costs and logistics fall upon the students. She also added that the club hopes to gain more funding to be able to finance transportation costs in Thanksgivings to come.

“Thanksgiving is very culturally American,” Kranseler said. “It’s a really great opportunity for exchange and international students to see first hand what the American holiday looks like.”

This is the second year that fifth year College and Nursing student Meredith McAndrew hosted international students at her off campus house in West Philadelphia. On Thursday, she cooked a Thanksgiving meal for one student from China and another from Denmark.

She requested to be a host for international students through Penn Diplomats after seeing an email sent through a listerv. Both years have been “amazing” experiences, McAndrews said.

“[International students] were wonderful guests and open to trying everything. I couldn’t put a dish in front of them that they wouldn’t try,” she added.

Last year, she even brought her international students shopping on Black Friday.

A senior at Copenhagen Business School, Søren Kristian Karkov is spending the fall semester at Wharton. He described his Thanksgiving at McAndrew’s house as “warm” and “interesting.” Karkov said that one of the reasons he came to Wharton was to experience pieces of American culture.

Compared to celebrations in Denmark, Karkov said “the volume of food was very, very big, and it was alarming how sweet the food was… I liked that there were many small dishes to try.”

He added he was surprised when McAndrews offered him leftovers to take home. “This was very kind,” he said. “[I was] not used to this.”

Occasionally the language barrier was present at McAndrew’s dinner. “My brother’s girlfriend, Kat, made a few dishes,” McAndrews said, adding that her international guests laughed when they thought an actual cat had made the dishes.

“You’re so conscious of being extra American,” said College sophomore Chelsea Mariah, who hosted students from India, Taiwan and Belgium at her home in Center City. “I did not want to be gluttonous … But we were American in that we had football on all day.” Celebrating in a homey environment caused Wharton sophomore Tiffany D’Cunha to miss her family and home in India, yet she added “it’s great to receive that love and feeling … And I would have to say that the food was delicious. There were five kinds of dessert!”

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