Fifty-seven University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty and staff members invited 117 international students into their homes as a part of a program called Dinner in a Nebraska Home. The program, sponsored by Student Engagement, strives to introduce international students to an aspect of daily life in Nebraska by connecting the students with university employees.
Participants attended one of three introductory receptions at the Nebraska Union and Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. At the reception, hosts met their assigned students and arranged a date for dinner. Each host provided a dinner for two or three students.
Junior Nurik Makhmudzoda, from Tajikistan, and freshman Herve Kabanda, from Rwanda, enjoyed learning more about American culture through the conversation with their host families.
"I [always wondered] what American traditional food [is] and [I] came to the conclusion that that is steak," said Makhmudzoda. "There are always dogs. I have never been to a house in the U.S. without a dog or a cat, and it is super nice."
Amy Goodburn, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and interim dean of enrollment management, hosted Makhmudzoda. Makhmudzoda and the Goodburns shared stories about their backgrounds.
"We listened to Mr. Goodburn's story about his life in a small town and how he ended [up] being a principal at school in Lincoln," said Makhudzoda. "I talked about how the U.S.S.R. influenced our culture. Almost everyone speaks Russian and our own language. My family moved from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan in the mid-'90s, so a lot of times people get confused where I am from. I am a Tajik from Uzbekistan, who speaks Russian."
Kabanda visited the home of Tony Lazarowicz, the assistant director of the College of Arts & Sciences.
"When I got to the house, Tony showed me around and I really appreciated that since it is something we cannot do. When someone visits you, they are just allowed to stay in the living room and use the restrooms and that’s it," said Kabanda. "I noticed that American dinners are kind of different from dinners back home since Americans are allowed to converse while sharing a meal, and they have three meals. In my country, we are not really allowed to converse. We can only do that after dinner."
This was the second year the Dinner in a Nebraska Home program was offered. As a result of the program, last year’s participating students reported feeling more connected to the university community. They also reported having a stronger sense that faculty and staff cared about them.