Article by Jason Bishara
Being an international student can be challenging at times. You’re thrust head first into a completely new culture filled with a new language to learn, different food, different people, and all the while trying to hit the books and get an education.
Thankfully, there are some out there who are putting forth initiatives to help make the integration process for international students as smooth as possible!
One such initiative is The Welcome Dinner Project, a wonderful new project designed and introduced by the non-profit charity Joining The Dots. The Welcome Dinner Project aims to connect newly arrived people (migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and international students) with established Australians by bringing together individuals to meet and mingle over dinner conversations in the comfort of their own home.
Some of the benefits of this initiative include:
- Strangers becoming friends over dinner conversation in the comfort of their own home
- Bridging some of the invisible divides across Australia while enjoying a lively meal
- A pot-luck dinner exploding into a web of connectedness, support and creative endeavours
- Increasing social cohesion by involving the broader community in building a welcoming Australian society, one which embraces and celebrates diversity
How Does It Work?
The best thing about this project is that it is accessible to everyone, and is completely free! There is no cost involved and support can be provided for transport, child minding and translation when necessary. All you have to do is register your interest to either host a Welcome Dinner in your home or simply participate in a Welcome Dinner in your area.
The average dinner will have in attendance eight established Australians together with eight newly arrived people, as well as a two trained facilitators who will assist each of the parties to organise the dinner and support them on the night. Everyone brings a dish to share which means that there isn’t too much work for the host and it also gives everyone the opportunity to contribute something from their culture.
The dinners usually take place between people who live locally to each other, for ease of transport and to maximise opportunities for ongoing relationships. All participants will undergo some preparation in the lead up to the dinner via support from the volunteer facilitators or point of contact in partner organisations (service providers, community groups etc).
How Do I Register?
If you’re an international student, or you know someone who is and who might be interested in joining a Welcome Dinner event, head over to www.joiningthedots.org/initiatives/101 and register. You can also email their friendly staff for more information here: firstname.lastname@example.org