Annual Fall Harvest Dinner for international, exchange students marks tradition of seasonal gratitude

Four people seated around a table in conversation

International and exchange students, staff and community members gathered for the Fall Harvest Dinner.

We humbly receive.” 

This week, more than 120 international and exchange students and family members came together for the annual Harvest Dinner, an event focused on communal gratitude and a multicultural celebration of the fall season.  

For some students who couldn’t travel back home for Reading Week or seasonal holidays, events like these are opportunities to maintain a sense of connection and community across cultures. 

“It’s overall a very warm atmosphere,” an international grad student attendee shared. “Everybody’s very welcoming here, and I would encourage everybody who’s considering to attend such an event to go ahead and sign up for it. It’s going to be a great time.” 

Four photos in a grid. They show people smiling at the camera, in conversation and seated eating around a table
Some international and exchange students brought loved ones and family to the event, which was hosted in CIBC Hall in the McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC).

Creating space for international students to form connections with their peers and community is essential in supporting their success and sense of belonging at McMaster, shares Arlene Fajutrao Dosen, executive director and assistant dean, student success.

We want international and exchange students to know that theyre not alone — theres a community of student peers and staff here for them. Thats why events like these are so important. 

Two photos side by side. They show people seated around a table in conversation and people holding hands

This annual event was formed out of a tradition originally started by the McMaster Ecumenical Chaplaincy Centre.

“Over 30 years ago, the Ecumenical Chaplaincy recognized the significance of fostering a sense of community and an inclusive atmosphere for all students, which led to hosting this dinner of gratitude, fostering a deep sense of belonging and unity,” shares Marlice Simon, summer interim ecumenical chaplain.

Today, through connection with the Spiritual Care and Learning Centre (SCLC) on campus, the Harvest Dinner takes a more pluralistic approach to celebrating diverse cultures and the religious, secular, spiritual and Indigenous perspectives they stem from.

“Framing this multicultural gathering in gratitude, beyond the holiday of Thanksgiving steeped in colonial conquest, not only acknowledges solidarity with Indigenous nations, but is something which reflects the collective values of the diversified Spiritual Care and Learning Community serving at McMaster,” shares Andrew Crowell, director, Spiritual Care and Learning Centre.

Two photos side-by-side. Each shows people seated at a table in conversation.
More than just an occasion for a shared meal, the event brought together students, staff and community members to connect and learn from one another.

Before the communal meal, Sean Van Koughnett, associate vice-president (students and learning) and dean of students, shared a few words of gratitude.

“Some of you are newer to McMaster, and some of you have been here for a few years, but you’re all part of one community. I want to thank you for choosing McMaster. You’re what makes this place a great place to be.”

Two photos side-by-side. One is of a man speaking into a microphone. The other is a tight shot of two people holding hands.
Sean Van Koughnett, associate vice-president (students and learning) and dean of students, addresses those gathered, thanking them for being part of the community.

Are you an international or exchange student? Learn more about how the Student Success Centre can support your success at McMaster and beyond here. 

Learn more about the Spiritual Care and Learning Centre here. 

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