- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Several northwest Iowa colleges have turned to their communities to find families offering seats at their dinner tables for international students who can’t make it home for the holidays.

The Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/21fJICA ) reports that students are frequently able to find a home away from home through a host-family program, a campus-sponsored dinner or local students offering a seat at their own table.

Briar Cliff University has offered the “Friend Family” program, which matches international students with a local family. Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, also offers a host family program, so students can stay overnight with families while the university is closed for the holidays.

Briar Cliff officials say the holidays are an important time for the program because it gives students a chance to celebrate a holiday that they may not observe back home.

Ryan and Molly Dowell Baum, of Sioux City, welcomed Briar Cliff freshman Rafael Mboyingingo of Burundi as part of the Friend Family program. Molly Baum said the chance to offer Mboyingingo an American Thanksgiving experience and a place to feel at home over a holiday reflects her experience as a college student.

“Thanksgiving is fun and uniquely American. Hopefully whatever experience it is, it will be new,” she said.

Mboyingingo said that having a second family you can go to makes you feel better during the holidays because “When you leave your country, missing home is one of the worst things you go through.”

Some students, including those who are not international students, stay on campus, organize their own festivities and share customs and cuisines.

Judith Scherer-Connealy, “Friend Family” program coordinator at Briar Cliff, said the school often has a group of students that cooks during Thanksgiving and the university makes sure the student have the means to feed themselves when food service is closed Thanksgiving Day.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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