Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX international students, local community, connect for Home for the Holidays

January 21st, 2020
StFX students Anamika Saxena (left) and Eshitha Chitla (right), both of India, are pictured with StFX Gerald Schwartz School of Business professor Rhonda McIver (second right) and her family during the Home for the Holidays program.

Getting together for a meal with friends and family over the holidays is a time-honoured tradition. This year, that circle grew a little wider as a group of StFX international students and members of the local community connected over Christmas through a new program at StFX called Home for the Holidays. 

The StFX Office of Internationalization arranged the inaugural Home for the Holidays program to connect international students studying at StFX with families living in the Antigonish community during the holiday season. StFX is home to students from over 40 countries around the world, and many are interested in learning more about Canadian holiday culture, says Donald Rasmussen, StFX’s International Student Advisor.

This year, he says 17 students were matched with eight host families, and reaction to the experience has been positive from all involved. 


“I was super excited. I really wanted to engage, and I was a little emotional as I was missing my family,” says Anamika Saxena of India who was one of three international students to spend time with StFX Gerald Schwartz School of Business professor Rhonda McIver and her family, enjoying a meal and a visit at their home. 

“It meant a lot for me, to rebalance my emotions, and to have people around me.”

Eshitha Chitla, also of India and taking a master’s in applied computer science, says it was a great chance to meet people, to learn more about Canadian culture and for people here to learn more about her culture. 

Both students said they really enjoyed the meal, and the fact their hosts took the time to prepare something that would appeal to their Indian heritage with lots of spices, as well as the chance to spend time with “the sweet little children,” who played games and showed the visiting students their paintings. 

“It was really nice. We really enjoyed it,” Ms. Saxena says. 

“We loved it,” says Prof. McIver.

She says her family was interested in getting involved in the program as they wanted to know some of the international students better, to learn about their culture, and to help the students feel more at home on campus

“Part of it is making sure students are fitting in and feeling comfortable and at home and that they have some allies. I have a son at university. I know what it is like,” she says.

She says her family hopes to connect again with the students over the term. 

Mr. Rasmussen, who the students praised for his strong support of international students, says the program was promoted online and through the local Antigonish radio station and their office received immediate interest from faculty and staff members at StFX, as well as members of the broader Antigonish community. 

In most cases, students were invited to their host family’s home during the holidays to enjoy a meal, meet family members, and experience Canadian holiday festivities. Some groups also got outside for winter hiking and snowman-making. 

He says the office plans to run the program again next year.  


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