The heavenly scent of creamy macaroni and cheese and the spicy notes from an Indian curry surrounds the students as they arrive to their first Breaking Bread dinner. The students are hungry for more than just the food, they’re hungry to experience something new. Through thought provoking conversations over a home cooked meal, students will have their hunger satisfied with Breaking Bread.
Established in spring 2013, Breaking Bread is an organization sponsored by the Center for International Programs, the Office for Mission and Rector and the Office of Community Wellness Services. The program invites both international and American students to “break bread” over traditional American meals and international dishes provided by students and team members. While building a connection through food, the dinner creates a comfortable space to share dialogue about the participants’ own unique cultures.
Suzanne Richardt, Assistant Director of Programming and Communications for International Student and Scholar Services and Breaking Bread coordinator, knew she wanted to be more involved with the program when she first applied for her current position.
“That was one of the things that made me apply because I love doing social programs,” said Richardt, a UD alumna. “I find that cultural experiences are so valuable for me personally and I think (Breaking Bread) fits in the mission of what UD does, it’s about hospitality. Breaking Bread has a big complimentary with that.”
A Breaking Bread dinner series consists of three dinners total, one dinner each week. At least one dinner each week is hosted at a student’s house on campus. Each group of students is led by a group of student leaders, which is a new addition to the program implemented in spring 2017. Richardt expressed adding student leaders to the mix was a success and it made the program feel like a community-based club instead of a formal school event.
One of the student leaders, Mohammad Alaqeel, wanted to participate in Breaking Bread ever since he stepped foot on campus. His stated his favorite hobby is socializing with different types of people and making friendships with diverse students. Breaking Bread was the perfect fit.
Alaqeel, a junior engineering major, traveled to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia in hopes to complete his bachelor’s degree. Although he’s here primarily for a college education, he views living in the U.S. as an opportunity for cultural education.
“The U.S. is a very cosmopolitan country,”Alaqeel said. “It’s a mixture of nationalities, so I tried to come here to experience being involved in a multicultural society, to practice my english, to get a higher education.”
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Sindhura Nalluri, a UD graduate student and former Breaking Bread student leader, traveled to the U.S. from India for an opportunity to follow her dreams of simultaneously exploring a new place and gaining an education. Nalluri revealed the struggle international students face trying to push themselves out of their comfort zone within the U.S. She found comfort within Breaking Bread.
“As I’m a foreigner here, I see people like me often exhibit timidness of taking an initiative to interact, I wanted to break that bridge in my case,” Nalluri said. “Trust me, I had the best time so far and [the Breaking Bread student leaders] jelled together like a family.”
Ali Altomare, a senior human rights studies major, works for the Office of International Student and Scholar Services as an activities coordinator. She views Breaking Bread as a way for both American and international students to learn and connect in a casual setting. It gives students the confidence to share a meal and meet students they otherwise would not have met.
“Breaking Bread is an informal, comfortable setting to realize how similar we all are,” Altomare said. “It’s great to make friends with someone who grew up halfway around the world, plus it’s great food.”
Within the UD curriculum, students are exposed to courses designed to open their view on the world. Through casual, yet thought provoking conversations, Breaking Bread gives students the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. Richardt views Breaking Bread as the perfect activity for students to expand their understanding through a new channel.
“We’ve been building a global perspective into students no matter what major you are,” Richardt said. “It’s a new opportunity in a non academic setting to learn through relationships.”
Breaking Bread is a Marianist program that prides itself on upholding Marianist values. Although Marianists values are the underlying theme of the program, Richardt makes it clear that the program isn’t a retreat or an exclusive spiritual activity. Everyone is invited to attend if they are interested.
The October Breaking Bread series will take place on Oct. 11, Oct. 18 and Oct. 25 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Each Breaking Bread dinner will be held at 461 Kiefaber St. To sign up, visit go.dayton.edu/breakingbread. For more information, email Suzanne Richardt at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos and video courtesy of Alexandra Altomare