Why did you invite UT students to your home for Thanksgiving?
Jaap van Reijendam: ‘It is such a fun holiday! I’m a UT alumnus and I have been living in the US for over twenty years. I met my wife here and her family always hosted Thanksgiving. It was always really fun, the Dutch word “gezellig” describes it perfectly. There is no commercial enterprise related to this holiday. It is all about family, being together and having a good time. I used to work at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and there was a bunch of international students who we tried to connect to staff members and also have them over for holidays, including Thanksgiving – that is just the hospitality that goes with this holiday. However, I left Brandeis five years ago and this stopped. Last year I went to a UT alumni event and found out that there were UT students here in Boston, so we invited them. It was fun, and so we are doing it again.’
It is a long tradition then. Why is it important for you to do this?
‘The traditional Thanksgiving dinner is turkey. I don’t know if you have ever seen a turkey, but they are big. So if you are going to make one, you might as well make sure that you eat it all. Today we will have fifteen people over for dinner. Four of them are UT students. I actually only know their first names. It is nice to have young adults in the house. It brings humor and interesting conversations. And for me there is the added benefit of having Dutch people in the house, so I can speak Dutch again.’
What is Thanksgiving in your house like? Is it a very traditional American Thanksgiving?
‘It is traditional in the sense that there is family around, but we have been experimenting with the food lately. Last year we didn’t cook turkey. This year we are bringing turkey back, but we are doing it on a grill so that is very different.’
I guess you need to go start making dinner now.
‘Actually I already did my part last night, so I’m free. My wife and kids are each responsible for some dishes, so we will be taking turns in the kitchen. And then we have to solve the challenge of somehow fitting fifteen people in our dining room.’
Jaap van Reijendam
Jaap van Reijendam studied Computer Science at the University of Twente and graduated in 1994. He is currently based in Boston and works as Director of Business Analytics for a not-for-profit organization Road Scholar.