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Homesick Restuarant

A service event that brings international  students in the Netherlands to get together to make them feel more at home again

Workshop Design Casestudy

I co-host Homesick Restaurant with an artist, Lu Lin to advocate the international student voice to help each other address loneliness in the Netherlands. It organically started from our personal experience being a marginalized group trying to find ways to connect to this new environment on our own, while studying our master in the Netherlands and getting support from different local communities at the end. This case study documents our journey from how the project helped the target group to how we developed it into the further step.

Duration

2020- Present 

Design Role

User Research, UX Design, Social Design, Storyteller, Facilitator, Cheif

Tool & Method

Adobe Illustrator/ Photoshop, Spreadsheet, User Interview,  User Journey Map,  Food Design

Collaboration

ArtEZ MA Fashion Strategy: December 2020, April 2021

ArtEZ MA PHIC programme: September 2021

Over De Drempel: March-August 2022( coming soon)

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Homesick Restaurant

The ongoing research and workshop on safe space building topics aim to connect people from different backgrounds with food and storytelling through cultural eyes. It provides the space for Asian and international students to feel safe in the Netherlands by encouraging them to share stories and do things together with others as a way of belonging building.

Context

Before the winter break in 2020 with the hit of Covid, I experienced big homesickness when I saw many of my local classmates go back to their homes to celebrate the holiday with family but I couldn't simply go back to Thailand. One day, I shared this feeling with my friends. I noticed we talked a lot about how our family would do or cook in the meantime. Then we decided to hold the home cooking party together with our favourite food that we loved to eat in our former hometown in order to deal with homesickness. We shared a lot about our personal stories during cooking and tried each other food at the end. The result was nice and we got to know each other better. This inspired us to help other international students to address this feeling as well as we believed that we're not the only ones who struggle with this situation.

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Proposal

This project is going to be all about co-ownership and togetherness that we look at ethnic diversity, cultural diversity as the positive with food experiences. Then, we could do something good together and make spaces for anyone to feel at home in the new environment.

Research

Interviews

We reached out to our study community. We asked other international students with homesickness in the first year programme what elements from their former hometown they miss or think could actually be a great part of thier new environment for the winter holiday that we could do together. The interviews revealed the former pain point experiences, motivations, and needs about the food culture related to their "home feeling".

Experience #1

" Eww, you're eating chicken. It's disgusting." A local classmate, who's vegan told me when she saw my dinner on our first day at the school. Though I respected veganism, and I also heard a lot about their local directness. But I felt rejected and sad that not only people here didn't even try to get me instead they tended to judge me without knowing my story.

"There should be a place, where people listen to each other's story more."

Experience #2

During the wintertime, my mom always cooks her special herbal soup for my family. You know she spends 16 hours making it. This makes it special! I wish I could be there. last week, I missed being at home so much so I called her about the recipe to cook it myself. It went nicely so I shared the soup with others. They liked it and wanted to help me cook next time!

" I really enjoyed cooking and eating with others. I also didn’t know I had the home cook vibe in me and to be able to share this side with others!"

Experience #3

My boyfriend's mother recently introduced her Dutch pumpkin soup to me during this autumn. She taught me how to cook it and had it together at the end. Nothing's better than having the cosy soup in the chilly season! She said this was how the family celebrate Autumn and I was already part of the family!

"The local hospitality made me feel welcomed and really helped inspire me to connect to the new culture and make it a "new home" here."

Participant Story

Our participants are international students who need a way to feel safe to authentically connect to other people in the local community because they are newcomers to the new cultures and get intimidated to share their longing as they don’t want to feel rejected.

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Define

Understanding Homesickness

"Loneliness is a consequence of the lack of empathy, lack of desire and fear of rejection."

Homesickness is a universal experience related to loneliness and the feeling of emotional distress when we're away from home and in a new and unfamiliar environment where we can't connect yet and we feel lonely from that. Moving away from home means our routines are interrupted, which can lead to anxiety because our usual habits and routines can’t be depended on for comfort in our new situation, especially if the environment is culturally different from what we’re used to. 

Food as Kinship

The interesting aspect of food is not only an eatable result but relevant to personal experience, social participation, and cultural memories. The story around food can trigger the curiosity of people with different backgrounds to share, appreciate, and inspire each other. We believe that food can be a way to connect people together positively. What if we learn through food by being curious about the differences among each other?

Goal Statement

Our service will help international students to connect with others in the local community which will affect them to be able to build up a belonging sense in the Netherlands by facilitating the collaborative creation, storytelling and food consumption event, where they can feel recognized, safe, appreciated dealing with homesickness.

Ideate

Safe Space Model

This project refers to the Culture Code framework that identifies how every strong culture's constructed throughout these three elements:

1—Build Safety—explores how signals of connection generate bonds of belonging and identity.

2—Share Vulnerability—explains how habits of mutual risk drive trusting cooperation.

3—Establish Purpose—tells how narratives create shared goals and values.

The three skills work together from the bottom up, first building group connection and then channelling it into action.

Experience Journey Map

I created the user journey map to outline the main experiences and key touchpoints for the first event.

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Concept & Theme

Homesick Restaurant engages storytelling into cooking, so-called story-cooking. We want to use food to trigger the curiosity of the participants by sharing and co-creating to address the disconnection between the culture with a fun and interactive approach.

Facilitation

Engaging with the local community

We discussed the insights that we gained from the international students and proposed the solution to our school programme to take the place of hosting a social event for all students to rebuild the connection before the holiday break started. The programme valued and appreciated our initiative and support not only the space provided but also the budget to make this event happen.

01. Invitation

A week before the event, we invited students in our study programme to join the pre-Christmas party with the fun theme of "feeling blue" over email. The invitation outlined the event details in an instructive, friendly and supportive voice to avoid any pressures.

Theme poster
Theme poster

Design by Lu Lin

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Poster design
Poster design

Design by Lu Lin

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Theme poster
Theme poster

Design by Lu Lin

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02. Co-host and Co-guest

There were 9 participants to co-host in the first round event. they were encouraged to cook their favourite winter home meal and brought to the event to share with others. This perspective put them to consider and be aware of other participants feelings as they become part of hosting this event too.

Co-hosts
Co-hosts

All participants

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Co-hosts
Co-hosts

Participant food contribution

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Co-hosts
Co-hosts

All participants

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03. Getting to know each other

People open themselves up when they can share their vulnerability and authenticity without being judged. Active listening is crucial for that. One must feel a degree of vulnerability in order to build trust with another. To make this happen, we supported everyone to share a personal story about the wintertime and food as the conversation starter.

Sharing stories
Sharing stories

Food and winter time stories

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Story time
Story time

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Sharing stories
Sharing stories

Food and winter time stories

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04. Doing things together

The goal for this event was to have dinner and to get to know each other at the ArtEZ MFS cantina. Due to our mutual interests in fashion, cooking, and making, we set out to help each other create the dress code, make the table, serve food, and do dishes afterwards. This was all about providing support and aligning group energy towards the shared goal together. This way we drove connection into cooperation towards the co-ownership building.

Doing things together
Doing things together

Making a hat

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Doing things together
Doing things together

Dress code station

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Doing things together
Doing things together

Managing space

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Doing things together
Doing things together

Making a hat

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05. Taste the stories

To this end, they were rewarded with delicious food cooked by the fellows. Knowing how our food is cooked and the stories behind it make the dish taste much better! Many of the participants discovered new dishes that they'd never tried. Before they left, we gave the shared menu instructions for them to try as a small gift to cook by themselves when they're at home.

Taste stories
Taste stories

Food experiment

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Experience together
Experience together

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Taste stories
Taste stories

Collective recipe book

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Taste stories
Taste stories

Food experiment

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Result

Impact

We received positive feedback from this first round edition. All participants shared that the event made them feel welcomed and inspired to get to know other people genuinely. The experience didn't just only help international students to learn about other cultures but also the local students benefited to be able to understand the other group better as well. And most importantly, everyone really enjoyed the home cook meals and they all were looking forward to the next event!

Going Forward

Design, Host, Iterate

To ensure our project helps our users at its best constantly, we hold a retrospective meeting after every event is finished to reflect on the experience and improve the process for the next design round. If something didn't go well, this is our chance to make sure we have the resources and the tools to do better next time. 

Throughout these three round design iterations and their retrospectives, we have brought our project much further from where it started and it will continually be improved.

Event 1: I'm feeling a bit blue

Theme event
Theme event

Design by Lu Lin

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Home meals
Home meals

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The menu gift card
The menu gift card

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Theme event
Theme event

Design by Lu Lin

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Event 2: Rolling spring

Theme event
Theme event

Design by Lu Lin

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Getting to know each other
Getting to know each other

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New creation
New creation

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Theme event
Theme event

Design by Lu Lin

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Event 3: Yum

Poster on the refrigerator
Poster on the refrigerator

Design by Lu Lin

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Get to know
Get to know

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The manual as a gift
The manual as a gift

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Poster on the refrigerator
Poster on the refrigerator

Design by Lu Lin

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Coming Soon

In 2021, Homesick Restuarant won the award and was funded by the Over De Drempel foundation to host the event and publish the research to help connect the Asian students in Leeuwarden to the local community.

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Next Steps

  • Connect with international students and the local communities in Leeuwarden to conduct in-depth user research on the loneliness

  • Identify gaps and provide possible solutions to address the issue with the local community

  • Collaborate with artists and the locals to facilitate the social events in Leeuwarden for several rounds.

  • Hold an exhibition to share the valuable finding with the local and the policymakers in the city

Final Thoughts

​We feel honoured to be able to advocate for the international student group with our design. The project and process have helped me and my co-designer to work better as a team, improve how we communicate with participants and even point out areas where we can grow as an individual.

Follow us

Awarded and funded to host the social event in Leeuwarden by 2022

by Over De Drempel

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Let's make something great together :)