Want to be invited into a local Australian household for a dinner celebration, alongside locals and other newly arrived people to Australia? Hungry for good food and fantastic conversation?

Check out Joining the Dot’s Welcome Dinner Project – a social movement all about community connection and bringing together people from a diverse range of cultures – whether from Australia or abroad – to connect around the dinner table. It’s just like having a big family dinner!

What is the Welcome Dinner Project?

As any international student knows, studying abroad can be challenging. Being in a new place far from home, it’s understandable that you might experience times where you feel a little homesick, stressed or isolated from family, friends and the familiar food of home.

Worry not – the Welcome Dinner Project is a non-for profit social movement (initiated by Joining the Dots) aimed at offering those newly arrived in Australia – including international students –  the chance to be invited into a local established Australian home to share different cultural dishes, greetings, laughs and stories over a fantastic dinner banquet.

If you’re in Victoria, you’ll have even more opportunities to meet the Welcome Dinner Project community. A new initiative has just been launched by the Welcome Dinner Project Victoria, called the Student Pilot Project. It’s designed with international students in mind, aiming to help them meet local residents and other students. From November 2018 to June 2019, a series of dinners will be held across Victoria, where international students can gather to share personal stories and make connections with the community. For more information and to participate, head to the Welcome Dinner Project website.

Why attend a local Welcome Dinner?

You’ll build confidence.
A big part of studying abroad is all about accumulating new and exciting experiences. Welcome Dinners, similarly, are fantastic opportunities to really put yourself out there and open yourself up to new activities, foods, conversations and people you might never have crossed paths with otherwise.

It’s a great way to practice English.
There’s no better way to improve your English listening and speaking skills than having real conversations. At a Welcome Dinner, you’ll be able to practice your English in a relaxed and casual, friendly social environment with both local speakers and other people who are new to Australia. If you’re not yet super confident with English – don’t worry! Facilitators will be present at the event to assist with communication, and you’ll be welcome to share your stories however you like (you could always take along a few snapshots).

Through developing a greater connection to your local community, you’ll combat loneliness, exam stress and homesickness.

“Sometimes I feel so lonely, because I’m an international student,” says participant and international student Helena, speaking of the ways in which international students can occasionally feel slightly isolated or excluded from their adopted Australian communities (Welcome Dinner Interview).

Homesickness, loneliness and study stresses are very real challenges for international students. At times, it can be easy to feel disheartened.

However, by becoming increasingly more involved with your local community, you’ll be able to meet new friends, experience new things, open yourself up to many new and exciting opportunities and therefore feel more connected to – and socially supported by – the people around you.

This was true also for Helena who, after joining the Welcome Dinner Project, felt warmly welcomed.

“I feel everything is so different,” she said, “people, they are so nice. And I feel so engaged.”

What are the steps for attending a Welcome Dinner?

  1. Prepare or bring along a plate of food (dessert or main dish) that reminds you of home.
    Welcome Dinners are free to attend, but it’s encouraged you bring along a dish to share.
  2. You’ll receive the phone number of your facilitator. 
    A facilitator is a trained volunteer who will be present at your event, answering questions and guiding activities. After registering, you’ll receive your facilitator’s phone number. They’ll be able to answer any questions that may arise when preparing for, finding and arriving at the event.
  3. Arrive at the Welcome Dinner and make your introductions. 
    Your welcome truly begins when your arrive at the home of your host. Your Facilitator will be present to introduce you to other guests as they arrive to the event.
  4. Dinner.
    Usually lasting two hours, this is the time to swap stories over delicious servings of food.
  5. Make lasting connections.
    At the end of the dinner, you’ll be given space to swap personal contact details with others, should you want to stay in contact with anyone at the event. It’s a great way to make new friends, become an active member of your community and expand your personal networks.

Want a closer glimpse of a Welcome Dinner event? Check out Samson’s story below:

How do I get involved?

Ready to get your first taste of the Welcome Dinner Project? No problem at all – it’s easy to get involved. Remember, you’ll first have to register to attend, but this you can do quite easily at the Welcome Dinner Project website. From there, you can chose to:

Attend a home dinner.
A smaller event which takes place inside an established Australian household. On average, there are 8 established Australians, 8 newly arrived guests and 2 facilitators at each home dinner.

Join a community dinner.
A much larger event which takes place inside bigger venues, with more of a ‘community feel’.

Again, check out the Welcome Dinner Project official website for more information on how, where and when you can join the next Welcome Dinner taking place in your local area.