International Student Reflects on Celebrating Thanksgiving with University Staff Member and His Family
Prantik Chakraborty ’20 M.S. and his host, Steve Macchiarolo, director of graduate student engagement, share the fun way they spent the holiday together, and what it taught them about the importance of family and giving thanks.
December 6, 2019
By Prantik Chakraborty ’20 M.S. and Steve Macchiarolo, director of graduate student engagement
Prantik Chakraborty ’20 MS:
The great holiday of Thanksgiving officially celebrates the harvests and other blessings from the past year. Thanksgiving, for me, is a holiday that takes you away from the busy work schedule and reunites you with your family and good friends to share food and a good time together.
Although I am not an American, I did share the experience with an American family who treated me as a member of their family, sharing the warmth of Thanksgiving with me. The joy it brought to me is unexplainable. I am away from home, away from my parents, and in a place where I do not have the comfort of family being close by. I felt like I have known my host Steve Macchiarolo and his family for a long time, and I had no trouble mingling with them.
"I realized I do have a family away from my family, and I am never far from home."Prantik Chakraborty ’20 M.S.
As soon as I stepped into the house, the smell of the food made me very comfortable. Food was plentiful – there was shrimp, a cheese platter, chips, dips, and various other delicious appetizers on the table. Then the oven opened and out came the main dish of the evening: the turkey. It takes skill to carve a turkey, and this was well demonstrated by one of the guests who carved it neatly.
In the spirit of thanksgiving, I made the family some rice pudding and added it to the dessert spread they already had waiting. We had an amazing evening with food and table games after dinner. As I was heading home, I looked outside the car window and, with a smile on my face, I realized I do have a family away from my family, and I am never far from home.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. It is an opportunity to reflect on what we are thankful for and to reconnect with family and friends who we may have not seen for some time. In our home, Thanksgiving is also a time for my family to learn about different cultures and to welcome new faces to the dinner table.
I started working at the University of New Haven in 2013, and one of my favorite initiatives that is available to faculty and staff is the Thanksgiving Host program organized by the International Services Office.
My wife, Valerie, and I have had the privilege of hosting a number of students over the years from all over the world. We have hosted students from Egypt, Jordan, China, Poland, and India. We have hosted a student every year except for 2017, due to the birth of our daughter, Natalie. The most interesting part of hosting is not only sharing the holiday traditions of my family’s Thanksgiving, but also listening to the interpretation that some of the students have about the holiday.
My first year hosting, I had a student who thought Thanksgiving was a quick meal you had before going out to department stores to go shopping for those Black Friday specials. She quickly learned that Thanksgiving was more about the human connection, conversations, and, of course, the food.
I always share with the students the tradition of breaking the turkey wishbone – whoever gets the larger part of the wishbone wins and can make a wish.
Thanksgiving has also been an opportunity for me to learn about the cultures and holidays celebrated by these students. This year, I hosted Prantik Chakraborty ’20 M.S., an international graduate student from India studying environmental engineering, and Edward Loudermilk ’21 M.A., a domestic graduate student from Tennessee studying industrial/organizational psychology.
The students wanted to share a dish that they would normally have at their family holiday celebrations. We chowed down a spicy macaroni and cheese, thanks to Edward, and enjoyed a dessert known as Kheer, compliments of Prantik, which is a type of rice pudding from the Indian culture.
"I am thankful to work at a University that allows its employees to have a cultural exchange with these students and make them feel like part of our family for a day."Steve Macchiarolo
After dinner, my family always gathers to play some competitive board games and watch football or a rerun of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As I sat around the table and watched our students join in on the fun, I realized this is what I am thankful for.
I am thankful to work at a University that allows its employees to have a cultural exchange with these students and make them feel like part of our family for a day. This is what Thanksgiving is all about.