Gordon’s international students love the ISO Banquet because it is a chance to display and share their cultures— including parts that might not have a platform otherwise. “I only wear it at banquet,” said Hahee Lee ‘25, referring to her red-skirted, white-topped dress with beaded lines etching flowers over the whole outfit. The dress is called a Hanbok, and it is a traditional Korean style.
This year’s banquet was on November 18th at First Presbyterian Church in Ipswich. The event functions as a Thanksgiving-type gathering for international students (with their friends and professors) to share their home’s food and celebrate together. Lee explained the banquet is also important for ISO (the International Student Office) as a time to introduce the next round of ISO student leaders.
Stephanie Onwe ‘25 served as ISO’s Spiritual Life Ambassador this year, and is now transitioning to the Executive Ambassador position. Joining her team are Micheal Roy ‘26 (Events), Samar Bachat ‘27 (Marketing & Social Media), and Philemon Zhang ‘27, the new Spiritual Life Ambassador.
Onwe finds the ISO banquet important because international students “don’t usually have family that they can go back home to unless someone else invites them.” The banquet provides the students a fun, loving environment, even far from family and home. Roy added, “I think it’s the unity and the community that we have. It’s just the most cheerful thing that we cherish.”
Beyond the bright clothing, leadership, and community, the ISO Banquet has another obvious highlight: the food. Dinner is potluck-style, and students cook food from their homes around the world. Isary Martínez ‘26 (wearing a fluffy white skirt, red sash, and white shawl from her birth city Veracuz) shared about her carlota de limón. She learned to make the citrusy, creamy icebox cake as a child, and first made it by herself when she was six. “It just reminds me of home and I like the sour and sweet flavors,” she said.
Gordon’s President Mike Hammond and his wife Jennifer were among the faculty attending the banquet. President Hammond gave some closing remarks. When international students gather and represent their homes, he said, “it’s this beautiful picture that reminds us of that great picture we have with the book of Revelation, when all the nations come together before the throne of Jesus Christ . . . We love that we get to see a little reflection of that at Gordon.”
“I love that students get to kind of show off their national culture . . . especially when they cook their own food,” Hammond shared in an interview. He noted the work Gordon does to care for its international students, saying “it’s been a big part of our heritage for many years,” alluding to Gordon’s founding as a missionary school focused on international evangelism.
Lael Habte ‘25 and Tsion Tezera ‘26, both from Ethiopia, shared that they appreciate ISO’s programming. Wearing a traditional habesha lebs dress from home with a colorfully embroidederd neckline, Habte shared, “for international students, it’s a bit hard to move . . . but this thing that Gordon does with ISO orientation and everything, that’s very welcoming.” Tezera also enjoyed ISO Orientation, thought she wants more ISO-led excursions to learn more about the U.S. beyond Gordon’s campus. She loves the ISO Banquet as a chance to reunite with friends from ISO Orientation after a busy semester, adding, “it’s very nice to have someone somewhere to have a family type of thing.”