The Perfect Dinner
Byon April 24, 2013 08:59 AM
As the Reed community recently discovered, international cuisine pleases the palate, but international guests make a home-cooked meal singular.
On Friday, April 5, the Reed community and its neighbors invited students from more than 70 countries to dine in their homes as part of Home Hospitality Evening.
The guests were part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, established to increase understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. Graduate students, young professionals and artists from abroad are competitively selected to take part in the program, receiving grants that enable them to conduct research and study in the United States.
Every year, the Institute of International Education (IIE) holds enrichment seminars around the country where Fulbright foreign students gather to share excitement about the work they’re doing. This year students from more than 130 countries gathered in Portland for four days of seminars focused on social entrepreneurship and innovation.
Looking to partner with a college that already had a thriving host family program in place, last fall the IIE contacted Dana Bays, Reed’s assistant dean of students for International Student Services. In return for Bays’ part in coordinating the Hospitality Evening, the IIE would provide Reed with funding for scholarships and summer internships.
At once, Bays saw this would be an opportunity for families who already act as nonresidential hosts for our international students and language scholars and the Reed neighbors, who enjoy being on campus, but would like to connect with it in a more meaningful way. In January she began recruiting for the Home Hospitality Evening, posting invitations on campus and online.
Families were asked to host from two to six students, pick them up at the Nines Hotel (they were provided with complimentary valet parking vouchers) and make an evening of it.
Jim Kahan’64 and his wife, Kathia Emery ’67 found themselves engaged in a night of scintillating conversations.
“The Fulbright students are clearly tomorrow’s leadership in their home countries,” Jim said, “Kathia and I got some sense of what it might have been like to host a Salon in Louis XIV’s France.”
“It breaks down a lot of barriers and stereotypes to sit down at a table with someone who lives in Afghanistan, for example,” Bays said. Guests at the dinner she attended were from Singapore, Mongolia, India, Comoros, Ecuador and Lebanon. “Just the simple act of opening up your home and being willing to engage with people from so far away is a meaningful effort to create a more peaceful, accepting world.”
The day after the dinner, she received kudos from hosts who were eager to do it again.
“It was interesting to hear a Cypriot’s take on the current economic crisis in his home country and to have an economist from Maldives weigh in on the issue,” said Martha Richards ’92, who hosted with her husband, Lars Fjelstad ’92. “Did you know that the highest elevation in the entire country of Maldives is eight feet about sea level?”
Reed neighbors Dick and Cheryl Hazel were charmed by how grateful the students were for an evening in an American home.
“We laughed all evening long, were better informed as a result of their international insights,” said Dick.
Stefan Kapsch [political science 1974-2005] and his wife, Shirley, felt their enjoyment was reciprocated because the students were in no hurry to return to their hotel and Reed friend Jennifer Schmidt reported that five continents were represented at her dinner table.
Founded in 1946 by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Program offers merit-based grants for international exchange for students, scholars, teachers, scientists and artists. The program operates in over 155 countries.