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Cultural Exchange: Thanksgiving in Wisconsin

December 3, 2015 In Malawi Blog
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One of the important services Lakeland College offers its international students is the opportunity to be connected with an off-campus host family. A host family provides friendship and the occasional meal or other experience to the student, particularly at holiday time, when the distance away from home feels most acute. These exchanges offer a chance for the international students to learn firsthand about holiday traditions in America, while the host families learn about life in other parts of the world. There are several host families who have been involved for many years, welcoming Lakeland students such as the Malawians into their homes. Here are two recent stories.


Aleme Chitanje spent Thanksgiving with LC alumni Fred and Barb Seefeldt, both class of 1960, at their home in West Bend.  Thanksgiving is a special experience for an international student because it is a holiday where our tradition of families coming together and expressing their gratefulness for each other and the previous year is keenly felt by someone far from home.  The host families especially help students feel connected during the holidays.  Aleme wrote of her experience:


"The Seefeldts are my family in the USA. I helped with making food on Wednesday. I made pumpkin pies from a late aunt's recipe. There were 16 people on Thanksgiving day, their children, grandchildren, uncle, nephews, nieces, and a few friends. All these people brought something to eat or drink. Dinner was served at 4:00 p.m. They served turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed yams, purple cabbage, stuffing, Jello, and of course pumpkin pie. After dinner the women played a game called spoons, while the men watched football. I really appreciate the hospitality and thank the Seefeldt's for bringing me into their home." 

aleme and spoonsBarb Seefelt '60 at far left with Aleme and the women after the Thanksgiving meal. 


Geralyn Leannah and her family have hosted many Malawian students over the years. This year, they are hosting Mavuto Chiwale. Here is what Geralyn shared about his Thanksgiving visit to her home:


"Mavuto came over to a full house for Thanksgiving festivities that included our traditional wearing of the turkey hat among other costumes. He was caught wearing an upside down ice cream cone in this picture. Nine of my siblings were in attendance with all of their children (30 in all), but Mavuto was not intimidated. We found out he is the exact same age as my eldest son.

FB IMG 1448654638384Mavuto in the "ice cream" hat with family and friends on Thanksgiving. 


"Seeing our lives and culture through the eyes of a Malawian student is both enriching and rewarding. Mavuto is curious, humorous, and circumspect. He inquires respectfully about many things, from keeping a dog indoors to college life on state university campuses. He is very interested in visiting other places, near and far. 


"This past August we took him on a tour of EPIC, a premier healthcare records corporation in Middleton, Wisconsin. Mavuto participated in a "Lanterns for Peace" demonstration with us in Milwaukee and tasted frozen custard for the first time there as well. I am humbled and proud to be a host mother for the Malawians. They are extraordinary individuals who provide an inspiring model for perseverance, courage, intellect, and grace."


Ryan Opahle is the Lakeland staff member who helps connect international students with host families. Anyone who would like to learn more about becoming a host family to a Lakeland College international student should contact Ryan at .


This post was prepared by Lisa Vihos on behalf of Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government.

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