Joplin, MO (SNS) – All over America, students look forward to returning home to see family members, relax and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

For 22-year-old Sun Pei Hsuan, a senior taking classes in International Business at Missouri Southern State University, Thanksgiving will be something new.

“I am happy to spend Thanksgiving in America because it is a traditional holiday,” says Sun (who also goes by “Alina”). “I have only seen Thanksgiving in movies.  I am here because I want to experience American culture and want to learn more about things like Thanksgiving.”

Sun arrived in America for the first time in August. Her home is Kaohsiung City in Taiwan, an island about 180 kilometers east of mainland China. She attended Providence University, a Roman Catholic university in Taiwan about twice the size of Missouri Southern.

This year, she plans to enjoy Thanksgiving at the home of Kelly and Cheryl Holyfield of Joplin, the “friendship family” of her friend Jenny Krüger, a Missouri Southern student from Bremen, Germany.

Friendship families provide a home-like atmosphere for international students on a volunteer basis.

“We hope most of our international students will spend the holiday with their friendship families,” says Laura Zaidarhzauva, international admissions coordinator at Missouri Southern. “The families are people interested in working with international students. In most cases, they have an understanding of what it’s like to be overseas. They may have spent time themselves as students in another country or worked abroad.”

Cheryl Holyfield says her family also offered to host students who didn’t have holiday plans last year.

“We ended up having four internationals who spent the day with us,” she says. “We had a great time meeting them and celebrating Thanksgiving.”

Holyfield says she invited Krüger to come to this year’s Thanksgiving dinner and bring any of her friends who don’t have plans.

“I don’t know how many students we will have this year yet, but it is always enjoyable to get to know them,” she says.

Sun admits that most of what she knows about Thanksgiving up to now has come from what she has learned in school or seen in the movies.

“I know there is a lot of turkey, a lot of families coming together to celebrate,” she says.

She says the closest thing to something like Thanksgiving in Taiwan would be the celebration of the Lunar New Year.

“We celebrate on December 31,” she says. “Everyone will ring in the year with lots of food and celebration.”

She says dumplings are usually on every table, as well as potatoes and a meat dish. Broccoli is prepared and served to symbolize prosperity, a Taiwanese custom.

Sun plans to return to Taiwan either at the end of the year or, possibly, in May if she finds an internship for the spring. After she returns home, she will do what graduating seniors do all over the world.

“I need to work,” she says with a laugh. “Definitely, I will need to find a job.”