For American college students, Thanksgiving is that wonderful time every year filled with family, food, fun and a welcomed respite from the stress of classes. The taste of turkey and cranberry sauce, the sound of football and even that one weird relative make Thanksgiving feel warm and cozy every year.
But what American students might forget is that Thanksgiving — unlike some other holidays — is uniquely American. Sure, there’s Canadian Thanksgiving, but that’s in October. For international students at MSU, Thanksgiving is a four or five day period of wide-open time.
So what are international students to do when domestic students are away for the break?
Despite the break being only four days, some students do, in fact, return to their home countries for the long weekend.
“I’m not able to go back to China, but most of my friends went back to China,” Echo Huan, a finance and studio art junior from Beijing said, speaking about her first year at MSU and in the U.S. “I don’t know why they did that, because of jet lag."
In her first year here, Huan decided to see what Thanksgiving had to offer and do that in the best way she could, so she headed to New York City for a weekend full of Black Friday shopping.
“That was brilliant,” Huan said. “My first Friday night was in the outlets, and I shopped from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.”
Nowadays, Huan sticks closer to MSU because of her two cats, but in the past she’s traveled to cities near MSU such as Chicago. Although she originally planned to go shopping in Novi and at Somerset Mall this year, she instead returned to Chicago to take in the sights and sounds, as well as to see the Art Institute of Chicago's Renoir exhibition.
Sanghui Yun, a hospitality business freshman, is originally from South Korea’s capital city of Seoul. However, this year isn’t her first in the U.S. She graduated from high school in New York, and celebrated Thanksgiving there with friends.
“I got invited to my friends’ home because my family lives in my hometown, which is in Korea,” Yun said. “So I went to their house, I had the turkey, and we celebrated.”
While it was an adjustment at first to learn all sorts of new American traditions, Yun has more than adapted to American holidays. She enjoys celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving, but especially loves Christmas.
Yun said that because she originally lived in New York when she came to the U.S., she wants to take advantage of being in Michigan to see more of the country.
“It’s my first time in Michigan for Thanksgiving,” Yun said. “So we’re going to go to Chicago. We’re going to have some food, like famous food. I heard some type of popcorn is famous in Chicago, so I’m going to try that. We might go to a museum.”
While international students might not all be able to see their families like American students, by no means does it mean that they can’t have fun on Thanksgiving.
Instead of turkey, cranberry sauce and weird relatives, Thanksgiving becomes an opportunity for students from outside the U.S. to explore the country and have their own adventures in a new place. In the end, that might be the most American thing of all.