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Florida Tech Dining and International Student and Scholar Services Hosts “Caribbean Night”

by Debbie Matta (Manager of International Student Programs) and Tom Stewart (Director of Dining Services, FIT)

The sun shone brightly through the windows at the Panther Dining Hall on the campus of Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). The smiles on the faces of the student members of the Caribbean Student Association (CSA) shone even brighter. On the evening of September 21, this group of students hosted Caribbean Dinner Night for students, faculty, staff, and members of the Melbourne community.


The dinner was planned weeks earlier, when the students met with Chef Jon to discuss the foods they miss most from their homes across the Caribbean islands. They reminisced about the foods from their grammas’s kitchens and favorite restaurants back home.  They told the Chef about the flavors of their Jamaican curry goat, they tried to explain the differences between American lemonade and Caribbean “swanky” lemonade.  Their mouths water when they suggested tres leches for dessert!  All the while the chef was taking notes – telling the students that he would conjure up the recipes and invite them to a taste-test the following week.  On that day, no one knew what was ahead for the islands these students call home.


A few days later, Hurricane Irma reeked devastation upon their beautiful islands, leaving most of these students completely out of touch with their families and friends. Just the night before this dinner, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, again, home to many of the student members of FIT’s Caribbean Student Association. Yet, for two short hours that evening, these students were able to put aside their worries and fears.  They wore traditional garb and smiles to feel a much needed sense of home right here in Melbourne, Florida. The evening began with a parade of the Flags of the Caribbean.  It included videos and a cultural display.  There was even a vibrant performance by the CSA Dancers who filled the Panther Dining Hall with the lively music and rhythms of their islands and of course, the food was spicy and delicious.


Through this all, by some unusual twist of fate, this dinner – one that was planned weeks before any of us had even heard of Irma or Maria —  gave the students an opportunity to help their families and friends back home.  At the entrance to the dining hall, there was a collection table where anyone attending the event could drop off items such as paper towels, personal hygiene items, clothing, or even make monetary donations which will all be sent back to the islands where these students were born and raised and will most likely return to once they finish their education here in Florida.


The International Dining Series, jointly produced by Florida Tech Dining and International Student and Scholar Services is in its fourth year.  They produce six events each academic year with input and assistance from their international student population. They also do a “Best of” event with Mother’s Day Around the World Brunch.  This event is expressly targeted to the families of students, faculty and staff and features the favorite entrees from the past academic year. The schedule for this year’s events can be found at:   https://www.fit.edu/dining/international-dinner-series/  for additional information.