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Skidmore College

Thankful for family away from family

November 25, 2019
by Novilhelha Moleni ’22

Holiday seasons bring moments of joy, and students are excited to have some time off from their studies to relax and connect with family and friends. For international students, holidays sometimes mean staying on campus. One thing that makes Skidmore special is its International Friendship Family Program, which connects students to local families and allows them to spend the holidays together.

This Thanksgiving — and on other occasions throughout the year — faculty, staff and members of the Saratoga Springs community host Skidmore students, and they give thanks together.

“Members of the Skidmore community open up their homes,” said Chloe Jaleel, academic counselor and coordinator of international student and scholar services, who organizes Skidmore’s International Friendship Family Program. “For students, it gives them an opportunity to experience American life outside Skidmore.”

The program isn’t limited to holidays. Throughout the year, international students join local families at causal gatherings, including birthdays, athletics events, shopping and other outings.
Having people who care, open up their homes and just remind you of what home feels like is very fulfilling for many of us students who are many miles from their families.

I am grateful for my friendship family, friends, faculty and staff who open their homes and hearts and make me feel at home every day, despite being more than 7,700 miles away from my original home, Malawi.

This Thanksgiving, many international students are giving thanks for their hosts in the United States.

Thanksgiving is a beautiful moment to laugh, feast and enjoy with our families away from family.
Novilhelha Moleni ’22

“I am thankful to have someone in the U.S. whom I call family and spend time with whenever I am homesick,” said Ha Lihn Nguyen ’22 from Vietnam, who has celebrated Thanksgiving and the New Year with Faye Eldred Mihuta ’73 and her family. “I am grateful for all the get-togethers my friendship family invites me to be a part of. At times, we take walks to gardens around Saratoga Springs together or just sit back in the garden and enjoy nature.”

Mihuta said The International Friendship Family Program has also enriched her family’s holidays.

“The program has kept us connected with a bright young generation, helped us maintain ties with my alma mater and given us an intimate look at different cultures as we share our own," she said. 

Samuel Tesfamariam ’20, a senior from Eritrea, has celebrated holidays with Sue and Jim Towne, who regularly welcome international students.

“I am thankful for Sue and Jim. They are amazing people and have been a great resource and an incredible support system,” said Tesfamariam. “I get to see and experience an extensive part of the American life and culture through them, and they have enhanced my time here in the United States by being my friendship family.”

The Townes say they also enjoy holidays with Skidmore students.

“It’s the joyous laughter, the vibrant debates, the sibling-like fun and teasing, and the camaraderie, cohesion and love among friends,” Sue Towne said. “To have that come together under our very roof is such a blessing.”

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