The fourth annual “Thanksgiving Without Borders” gave international UTEP students the opportunity to experience a traditional American holiday dinner along with their families, friends, and faculty on Monday, Nov. 20.
The event was hosted by the Baptist Student Ministry, International Student Organization OIP and Student Housing.
Chris Smith, director of the BSM, said that this event started out as a way to feed students around campus who didn’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving.
“It’s been a blessing for us to be able to do this, and just enjoy the community together on campus. And we’re trying to be a blessing too, a blessing for the students for sure” Smith said.
Approximately 300 people attended the back-to-back dinners. During their meal, attendees were encouraged to participate in different games hosted by volunteers, such as bingo and “Shake your Tail Feathers,” where they could win prizes, as well as having been automatically entered in a raffle at the end of each dinner for a chance to win a food basket.
Rosa Sandoval, the assistant director of residential education for the department of Resident Life at UTEP, recalled how the event evolved from “just having Thanksgiving dinner within the residents’ halls for our students and international students, to involving the entire UTEP campus.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to get together, especially for international students who may not be familiar with our customs, this is a chance to experience a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and to share their experiences. We have people from all over the world, and we want to give them an opportunity to get to know each other and have a good meal thanks to our volunteers” Sandoval said.
The BSM collaborated with volunteers from Student Housing, EPCC, Sigma Lambda Beta and UTEP track athletes who helped prepare and serve food, as well as registering and welcoming people to the event.
Andrea Torres, a junior majoring in computer science and third-year volunteer for the Baptist Student Ministry, said that this is something that is exciting for her to do every year, as well as a “great opportunity to reach out and get to know students and where their hearts are and getting to make those kinds of relationships.”
Jocelyn Alvarez, a UTEP junior and nursing major from Mexico City, described her first Thanksgiving Without Borders experience two years ago, as fun and interesting. After becoming a Resident Assistant at Miner Canyon, she discovered that, in partnership with the Office of International Students and the BSM, they helped host the annual event.
“When it was my first semester here in El Paso, I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know anyone. The purpose of this event is for students like me, that are international that really don’t go out of town for Thanksgiving because we don’t celebrate it because we don’t even know what it is. So, we get to come here and get to know why it’s important here in America by learning the history along with people from other cultures, and that way we leave with friends from all over the world” Alvarez said.