Qiqiong Yu's knowledge of Thanksgiving came from a brief segment in a decades-old instructional video used to teach English in her native China.
But thanks to a new program at the school's Office of International Education, Yu will not only learn about the holiday's food and traditions, she'll experience them. Thursday, she will join the Port Washington dinner table of NYIT nursing professor Anne Ganzer, joining three dozen other foreign students from countries including Morocco, France and Georgia being hosted at the homes of faculty and peer leaders.
"I've invited her to come early, to observe and participate in the cooking," Ganzer said. "We're going to help each other."
Volunteers were solicited from the school's Manhattan and Long Island campuses, where 1,131 international students are registered. Dorms will remain open, but those who accepted a guest said they couldn't imagine anyone being there.
"I thought, how sad it would be to be stuck in the dorm by yourself," said Karin Falcone, an English and writing professor at Old Westbury. "Peace and quiet is all good, but when everybody else is with their family?"
Falcone will also host a Chinese student at her Oyster Bay home. Unlike Ganzer, this will be the first Thanksgiving dinner she will cook.
"I took a book out of the library, it said a pound per person. So I have a 20-pound turkey sitting in my refrigerator," Falcone said. "Just like an academic, I looked it up."
NYIT students Nan Zhou and Jiaochen Sun, both from China, will join Cedarhurst native Rick Bonacorsi at the Westport, Conn., home of his aunt, Kathy Winter. Bonacorsi, a 26-year-old counseling major and head resident adviser, said his family is "so excited it's ridiculous."
Zhou, 22, said, "In China, people think Americans have turkey and thank people for the year, for the health and for God."
Winter has crafted handmade place settings with the women's names and a combination of Chinese and U.S. designs.
"They're so far away from their families," Bonacorsi said, "so we'll give them some sense of family."
Guests will experience another Thanksgiving holiday staple: a local high school football game.
Sun, 22, said she's most excited about playing with Winter's two miniature dachshunds, as dogs are uncommon pets in China. But she's also never had a fresh-carved turkey. "Just turkey sandwich," she said. "I want to understand what American people do, what they eat."
Last week, when NYIT offered a pre-Thanksgiving meal at its Old Westbury cafeteria, Yu got a taste and concluded pumpkin pie was too sweet.
She also learned a standard Thanksgiving lesson. "Eat too much," she said, "later you will regret."
The following locations are offering free Thanksgiving meals:
Harvest for the World, 1 p.m., 90 Pleasant Ave. (516) 403-0448.
I Support Roosevelt Youth Center, noon to 4 p.m., 55 Mansfield Ave. (516) 868-0076.
Stuart Thomas Manor, 2143 Boundary Ave. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (516) 798-3000, ext. 201.
Circle of Love Ministry Worldwide, 20 Reith Street, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (631) 789-2688 ext. 244.
Manor East Catering Hall, noon, 201 Jerusalem Ave. (516) 799-0666.
The Mary Brennan Inn of the Interfaith Nutrition Network, 100 Madison Ave. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (516) 486-8506.