Thanksgiving Homestay Program

About the Program

You are invited to become part of an American family for the four-day Thanksgiving holiday! Thanksgiving is an American holiday with rich historical significance. It is America’s oldest tradition and a time when families gather together to celebrate. The International Thanksgiving Program was founded in 1956 by Trudy Trogdon of Paris, Illinois. Trudy was inspired to promote international understanding by organizing a program designed to bring international students to live with American families for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Over many years, the program has grown to include numerous communities throughout Illinois who extend an invitation to international students to join their families in celebrating this holiday weekend. As an international student, you will be a guest with a host family in one of our five participating Illinois communities: Geneseo, Morrison, Paris, Prophetstown, and Rock River Valley (Sterling/Rock Falls/Dixon).

The 2018 Thanksgiving Homestay Program was a great success with nearly 100 participants from many different nationalities! Students from University of Chicago, Columbia College, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University, and University of Illinois at Chicago participated in the program, and this year, we are expanding to include other local colleges. 

The 2019 Thanksgiving Homestay Program dates will be Wednesday, November 27 to Sunday, December 1. This four-day Thanksgiving holiday trip is administered through the International House at the University of Chicago. The buses leave from International House on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving to take you to your community and host family. You will return to International House on Sunday at approximately 6:00PM. You are responsible for your transportation to and from International House.

How to Register

If you would like to participate in this program:

  • Please complete the application form in full by Wednesday, November 13, 2019.
  • Spouses and children are welcome and family groups will stay together in the same host family home. Please list the name, age, and sex of each family member on the application form as this information will help us to make appropriate assignments.
  • Please include a check OR cash for $35.00 to cover administrative costs. There is no other cost for this program. Checks should be made payable to International House.
  • Please return the completed application with your $35.00 program fee to International House administrative office as soon as possible.

Upon receiving your application, we will send you a confirmation letter with further information about the program and directions to International House.

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older and must be a registered student at an accredited academic institution or professional school in the Chicago area.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact

Participant Testimonials

“I have had an amazing experience and I guess that I made friends for life. I felt like being in my own family and that’s nice when you’re a stranger.” – Tine Panhozer, Germany

“My host family represented what is best and beautiful about this country. They opened their hearts and home to me and made me feel like I was part of their family. This was an unforgettable experience that I will always treasure. I will recommend this program to all my other international friends.” – Maria D. Liwag, Taiwan

“My home stay has been wonderful for me because it permits one to know how some American families are hospitable as African families.” – Daoudaz Mariko, Mali

“I have been in Chicago for two more years. By this trip, I found people are different between city and town. People are nice and close here. My family had a good time with my host family. They provided clean rooms, good food, and spent a lot of time with us. We became friends.” – Richang Xia, P.R. China

About International House

International House of Chicago was founded in 1932 through a gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It is a program center for students from around the world. Each year the House provides continued support and programs to graduate students  – about half from countries other than the United States – who are pursuing academic and professional degrees, preparing in the creative or performing arts, or training with international firms at one of numerous institutions in the Chicago area. The mission of International House is to enable students of different nationalities and cultures to learn together in a community that builds mutual respect, understanding, and life-long friendship.

International students enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Paris, Illinois, in 1957. Read the article featured in The College Review here

Questions? Read the FAQs here