International students who cannot return home this Thanksgiving break have the option of spending the holiday with New Haven families.

The Office of International Students and Scholars finds hosts for Yalies who are staying on campus for the week-long break that starts this Friday and want to share a meal with a local family on Thanksgiving Day, program coordinator Amanda Eckler said. This Thanksgiving option, an offshoot of the Office of International Students and Scholars’ yearlong Community Friends host program, was developed in 2001 as a way for community members to get to know some of Yale’s international students and for the students to learn more about American culture, she added.

“I think it’s really helpful to understand American culture better,” said Melina Sánchez ’14, who is from Spain. “Most of the international students don’t have family in the USA, so they don’t have any opportunity to live a real and traditional Thanksgiving dinner.”

Eckler said the number of students interested in participating in the program has increased significantly in the last couple of years. Originally, 30 to 40 students and scholars signed up each Thanksgiving, but last year 60 participated and this year 74 are registered, she said. She added that the program is open to all Yale international students, including undergraduate and graduate students and doctoral candidates.

Many of the host families participate in the program year after year, Eckler said. She added that most of them are able to accommodate two to four dinner guests, though one of the families invites 15 to 20 people each year.

Daniel Aineah ’14, who is from Kenya, said he hopes the program will make him less homesick.

“The interaction with the host family would make me feel at home and for a moment think less about my family back at home,” he said.

Noel Aloysius FES ’13, who has been participating in these dinners for three years, said students often bring a dish or gift characteristic of their home country to share with their hosts. Some students keep in touch with the families they meet, he added.

“My first host family was able to put me in contact with people that helped my research in The Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said. “We see each other at least once a year. I write to them at Christmas.”

He said the most special part of the program was being included in other people’s traditions, adding that one year, he was served a dessert whose recipe had been in the family for over 20 years.

The program gives students a chance to see a part of America outside the “Yale bubble,” said Radina Koleva ’14, from Bulgaria.

Fall Recess begins Nov. 19 and ends Nov. 28.