Thanksgiving is one of the most traditional holidays for American families. Every student looks forward to have the week off so they are able to go home and spend time in the company of the ones they are thankful for while enjoying a great meal.
Not every country has adopted this custom though. In fact, Thanksgiving is mostly celebrated in the USA and Canada, leaving many who don’t understand or haven’t experienced what this holiday is really about.
With Thanksgiving having happened last week, we came to wonder: what did the international community on campus do during “turkey day”? It is clear that, because of distance and financial matters, going back home for a week is not a common option for the exchange students. Besides, most of them come from countries where the holiday is not even celebrated.
Fortunately, we learned that some families in the Las Cruces community opened their homes for some of these students, inviting them over for their family dinner and giving them the opportunity to experience this holiday in its very traditional form. Danish exchange student Camilla Lorentzen tells us she went to spend the day with her professor’s family at their home.
“I was talking to one of my sociology professors about ‘strange’ American traditions, and I mentioned how I would like to spend Thanksgiving with an American family – yes, I’m shameless,” said Lorentzen. She then got invited by her professor to spend the holiday with her, her daughter and grandchildren.
Brazilians Bruno Silva and Bruno Ferreira also joined a local Thanksgiving dinner, both invited by one of Ferreira’s church friends. Silva says he felt very welcome by the family, and that at first he saw Americans as reserved people, but was surprised at how communicative and interested in sharing experiences and culture with them they were. “It is so nice that they opened their home for us in a time when usually the celebration involves just the family”, he said.
After enjoying time with local families for the holiday, all students said they changed their view on Thanksgiving’s real meaning. Lorentzen said at first she thought it was just about families getting together and eating a lot- but didn’t realize the whole ‘giving thanks’ part until she actually experienced it. The value of family bonding shown during Thanksgiving was also a surprise for Silva: “It is impressive how families travel across the country for this date just to show their thankfulness to each other,” he said.
Hosting and being hosted for Thanksgiving is a great way for both sides to exchange not only culture and traditions, but also union, care and thankfulness- all during a time that is all about those values. Many NMSU international students are thankful to have been provided with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere on this holiday and said they would totally recommend the experience to others in a similar situation.
“I think it’s important because as foreigners we tend to have a fixed idea of what the USA is like, what Americans are like, and what their traditions are like; since we see a lot of representations of this in popular culture. It gives you a peek into what the reality is actually like, plus you get to be a part of an American tradition, and this cultural exchange is kind of part of why we exchange students are here,” said Lorentzen.