They just moved to the United States and wanted to experience their first Thanksgiving. Over 100 foreigners responded with help

But for international students in the United States, Thanksgiving is uncharted territory.

This was the problem for Susana Orrego Villegas and her husband, Edward White, who recently moved from Colombia to Brookline, Massachusetts, a few miles southwest of Boston.

Both are international students with student visas. Orrego Villegas is studying medical science at Harvard Medical School, while White is studying English.

When Orrego Villegas’ classmates started discussing their Thanksgiving plans, she became interested in this American tradition because Colombia doesn’t have a holiday like Thanksgiving.
So, she opened her Nextdoor app to ask for help.

On October 26, she posted a photo of herself and her husband asking if anyone was ready to share Thanksgiving dinner with them. In the post, she wrote, “We’re a super cute couple and want to learn more about American culture. I want to have our first traditional Thanksgiving with an American family.”

And the neighbors were not shy. Within days, over 100 people commented, some from across town.

“I posted the post without any expectations, just for people to give us restaurant recommendations,” Orrego Villegas told CNN.

Welcoming others to the table

With the influx of invitations, Orrego Villegas explained that it was difficult for them to decide where to spend the holidays. They exchanged messages with many people to get to know them and narrowed it down to around 30 options.

Nurse practitioner Carol Lesser, who lives 10 minutes away from the couple, was the chosen host.

“She got a lot of offers of places to go,” Lesser told CNN. “I said to him: ‘Wow, we won the lottery, you come to see us!'”

And for Lesser, the decision to open his house to the couple was an easy one.

“I woke up one morning and saw it fall on my feed and had this instant reaction to reach out,” she said. “The message from this beautiful woman spoke to me. She had a genuine curiosity about what we are doing here for the holidays.”

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Lesser has always gathered as a family over the holidays and, for over a decade now, has been the dinner hostess.

“If someone comes to Thanksgiving to my house and enjoys it, they can always come back,” she said. “My mom always made room at the table if someone didn’t have a place to go, so I was brought up like that.”

This is not the first time that she has opened her house to strangers. Lesser told CNN that for almost 30 years she had rented rooms in her home to international students in the area.

“When I was young I traveled and without the kindness of strangers I wouldn’t have learned as much about cultures as I did.” Less added.

This year, the table will be set for more than 20 people, as Lesser’s extended family and new Colombian friends gather.

Stay connected

If the neighbors weren’t available on Thanksgiving Day, they offered to meet Orrego Villegas and White again. In fact, they have already met two families.

“The people were super nice,” said Orrego Villegas. “One family gave us a book on American heritage and the other showed us pictures of their visit to Colombia.”

Orrego Villegas and Lesser both say the experience gave them hope for the community.

Carol Lesser and her family are enjoying Thanksgiving in 2019.

Orrego Villegas says his view of Bostonians has changed: “Here in Boston, my first impression was that a lot of people don’t say hello on the streets. After this post, I realized that people are super nice and welcoming.”

Lesser said: “It’s a no-brainer to me to act like what you do makes a difference. It does. I love seeing times where it feels like a sense of normalcy where we can stretch. hand, we can trust each other. “

As for the future of this friendship, both hope to stay in touch after the holiday season.

“I hope we meet again and I would also love to taste his country’s food,” Lesser said.

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