International students at Glendon receive a special gift

It can get lonely on a deserted campus during the December holiday break and some students are just too far from home to be able to return. The Living and Learning in Retirement group (LLIR), headquartered at York’s Glendon campus, has been collaborating with the Glendon Student Affairs Office for a number of years, matching students obliged to stay in residence with LLIR volunteers offering various kinds of hospitality over the holidays.

“This has become somewhat of a tradition,” said Susan Miller, manager, student affairs. “Each year, an LLIR member takes on the responsibility of coordinating the project with the Student Affairs Office, as we match volunteers from our respective lists with students who have indicated an interest in participating.”

The hospitality extended can be as simple as an invitation to dinner. Miller tries to send students in pairs or small groups, to make the guests and hosts more comfortable with each other. Sometimes the volunteers take on several students and spend an entire day with them, and occasionally a friendship develops resulting in repeated invitations.

Right: Visiting Niagara Falls over the holidays are Albert Mitchell (left) with international students Jean Wong, Tahmina Haque and Hyun Soon Cho

On Dec. 27, LLIR member and retired school principal Albert Mitchell took three international students to Niagara Falls, including Jean Wong from Singapore. Wong reported that they toured the falls and the Niagara area and then were treated to a lovely meal. On their return, Mitchell invited all of them to tea at his house, before driving them back to the campus. “Albert was so entertaining,” recalled Wong. “He filled [the hours of the trip] with stories of his life and the places he visited.” It was so much fun for all concerned that they are already planning another outing to Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Marie-Pierre Dunand, an exchange student from the Sorbonne in Paris, described a delicious seafood dinner complete with Canadian specialties for dessert, which she enjoyed on Dec. 29. Duand joined other exchange students as the guests of LLIR members Mr. and Mrs. Christie, residents of Toronto. The Christies presented the students with Christmas gifts and took them on an after-dinner ride through the magic of Toronto’s beautifully lit and decorated streets. They also offered to help the students in whatever way they needed, such as running errands since they were far from home. In the past, LLIR members have driven students to grocery stores, and invited them to family gatherings and to the family cottage.

Living and Learning in Retirement is an autonomous, not-for-profit organization of retired persons eager to pursue the challenge of continuing learning. The program was established in 1973 by a small group of volunteers wishing to explore ways to enrich their retirement years. Based at York’s Glendon campus, members participate in lectures and other activities, including academic courses and social events. The first LLIR lecture was presented on Sept. 28, 1973, with 144 registrants. Since then, membership has grown to over 700, with eight courses presented during each academic year.

Although LLIR is housed at Glendon, it is technically not a Glendon organization. One would never guess that from the commitment and kindness its members extend to the campus and its students. LLIR regularly contributes funds for Glendon students in need through the Friends of Glendon fund. Last year, they donated over $20,000 to Glendon, in addition to $3,000 in entrance bursaries.

“It’s a win-win,” said Miller, “students and retired people have so much to offer each other. They share experiences, learn about different cultures, and enjoy companionship and friendship. LLIR members are excellent honorary Glendon citizens. We are grateful for their generosity and proud to welcome them on campus.”

This article was submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny.