International students share gratitude, community, and local harvest
More than 200 international students and their families gathered for a Gratitude Feast, thanks to the generosity of the Cranwell family. The event brought together students from around the world who were on campus during the Thanksgiving break for community and local food from the fall harvest.
Cranwell International Center staff worked with local farmer and businessman Scott Sink to source seasonal fruits, vegetables, and nuts as edible centerpieces at each of the banquet tables. Cranwell staff created a downloadable cookbook and invited participants to take home the fresh produce and try out a new recipe with new friends this fall break.
Shahedul Haque, a doctoral student in computer science from Bangladesh, drove down from Northern Virginia to attend a friend’s wedding party in Blacksburg. He was happy to stay and join the Gratitude Feast before heading back to later in the week. A group of graduate students in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics originally from Senegal wanted to know where the apples were grown — they came from Carroll County — and traded recipes with Cranwell staff for ways to prepare brussels sprouts — roasted as a side dish or eaten as dippers in sauce.
About a third of the graduate students said they came to the buffet after working in their research labs on campus that morning, and quite a few said they plan to spend Thanksgiving break catching up on work. Yet even the busiest of doctoral candidates took time out for reflection on gratitude when participants were invited to write down what they were grateful for or a current challege they were on slips of paper for the gratitude jar at their tables.
Most thanked friends and expressed gratitude for being a part of the Virginia Tech community.
“I am grateful that I completed the first hurdle of my Ph.D. (qualifiers),” wrote one student. Many reflected on their family’s support of their graduate school journey.
Yet the pandemic continues to bear on students’ lives outside of their studies, as one shared, “My wife has been suffering from long-COVID. The last few months have been really challenging for us.”
“I am grateful that I am going to visit my family after almost four years,” wrote another student, expressing a common challenge faced by international graduate students during the pandemic.
After the meal, some of the student stayed to join the first of many World Cup watch parties that will take place across campus, organized in collaboration with student organizations and partners throughout Student Affairs.
Cranwell International Center opened in 1986. Today, its programs serve students, scholars, faculty, families, and visitors from more than 120 countries in all regions of the world. There are more than 3,800 undergraduate and graduate international students at Virginia Tech.
The Cranwell family has supported Virginia Tech's diverse and vibrant international student population for decades, and their legacy continues with transformative generosity to benefit Virginia Tech and the wider community.
Cranwell International Center exists to articulate, advocate, and act in support of international students, amplifying their contributions to the Virginia Tech community and to the advancement of the university as globally oriented and internationally connected.
Written by Robert S. Emmett