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Food, friendship unite students from afar

Shamole Ahmed (left) and Leen Al Hajjar (center) were guests of BU graduate students at a potluck holiday dinner in Kenmore Square.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe staff

Shamole Ahmed (left) and Leen Al Hajjar (center) were guests of BU graduate students at a potluck holiday dinner in Kenmore Square.

BU grad students Thanna Rajapakse (left) and Lameya Ahmed opened up their home on Thanksgiving for a potluck dinner.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

BU grad students Thanna Rajapakse (left) and Lameya Ahmed opened up their home on Thanksgiving for a potluck dinner.

In a fourth-floor apartment overlooking Kenmore Square, Lameya Ahmed struggled Thursday night to convince her roommate Thanna Rajapakse and their friend Farhana Isa that she knew what she was doing.

“It’ll taste great, you guys, don’t worry,” said 23-year-old Ahmed, as she stirred a bowl of turkey gravy.

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“Don’t add any more milk,” said Rajapakse, 24.

“Wait — take the milk out of the way,” said Isa, 25.

With help from Isa and other friends, Ahmed and Rajapakse were making Thanksgiving dinner for a potluck that included colleagues from their Boston University graduate programs, friends, and friends of friends. It was their first time cooking a turkey, and they wanted everything to be perfect. More than 20 people showed up. Like Ahmed and Rajapakse, most were Muslims who came to Boston to study aspects of medicine and biology, but all were welcome.

The women said they sometimes get stares or unfriendly comments for wearing the hijab, or head scarf, especially in the days following the Boston Marathon bombings, but most people are friendly. “People that know us are actually very supportive,” said Tisha Melia. “If you don’t know someone personally, it’s very easy to vilify them.”

In an overcrowded apartment on Thanksgiving, people from Malaysia, France, California, and a dozen other places got to know each other. The gravy turned out fine.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
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