Mission: Surviving International Thanksgiving

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What’s the highlight of your Thanksgiving break every year? How good does that full thanksgiving plate sound after eating nothing but Ramen noodle cups all semester long? Could it be all of the newly found free time spent doing the things that matter most, perhaps sleeping? Maybe it’s just the warmth and comfort of finally spending quality time with loved ones who don’t live near enough to visit regularly, but congregate for the occasion. Regardless of what the main focus is Thanksgiving is traditionally one of America’s favorite holidays. It is a period where we sit back and appreciate both the material and intangible blessings in our lives.
However, how do you think you would enjoy the holiday if you were hundreds, or even thousands of miles away from your home? As an international student myself- I was born in Trinidad, and this is my third semester here at NYIT. I made it my mission to find out how other members of the international student community spend the Thanksgiving break. One of my close friends, Brianda Lopez, is one of NYIT’s international students from Mexico City, Mexico. When the break was approaching and she realized that all of her friends were going to be going to their homes for a week, she struggled to figure out a way to enjoy the holiday while being thousands of miles away from her home. Luckily, her parents were thoughtful enough to catch a flight out to New York to visit her and spend the break with her. “I was thrilled to know that my parents were coming, I had put myself into a holiday depression thinking that I was going to be alone,” says Lopez. They stayed for the week at a hotel in Manhattan, and took the opportunity to bond while exploring the city. They saw many of sights that neither they nor their daughter had previously been able to enjoy, despite her going to school in New York. “I remember the Empire State Building, feeling the chilly gusts of wind while watching people shuffle around below,” said Lopez. “On Thanksgiving Day, we had the traditional dinner at a nice restaurant; this is one of my favorite experiences in New York.” While it wasn’t the stereotypical way of celebrating, it allowed her to spend the holiday the way it was meant to be spent: cherishing the company of loved ones.
After having heard about my friend’s experience, I decided to hear the account of someone that I didn’t know. While getting lunch in Salten cafe, I spotted a table where there were a couple of Asian students having sandwiches. Sandy Chung, wasn’t fortunate enough to have her parents come to New York. Instead, her father made reservations for her to stay at a hotel for the duration of the break. This was a great opportunity for her to see both her boyfriend and her cousin, who happened to be in New York at the same time. “I was happy to be with some people that I love. This is better than being alone,” she said. The days were spent sleeping, and the nights were spent dining at different restaurants. Her favorite memory of the break wasn’t actually Thanksgiving Day, which was spent like any other day, but it was actually Black Friday. “I enjoyed getting discounted clothes, a new laptop and a new TV,” she explained.
Unlike my fellow international students, I wasn’t lucky enough to have a hotel room previously booked or anything of that sort. For days I struggled to figure out what I should do for the break, until I gave up, deciding that I would spend it in my dorm room, and hanging out with whoever was around. Fortunately, at the last minute, one of my friends invited me to spend the period at her house with her family and friends. Annie Tobenkreiser, from Westchester County NY, invited me to spend last year’s Thanksgiving with her family. When Thanksgiving Day came around, it felt just like I was back at home. We went to her dad’s house, where I ate way too much good food, and met a lot of her relatives who hugged me and greeted me warmly. They effectively made me feel like just another member of the family. I enjoyed American traditional Thanksgiving meals for the first time, including sweet potatoes with syrup and pumpkin pie. American Thanksgiving food has a sense of family and warmth. From the stuffing to the gravy, everything was made with love. While a small piece of me wished my actual family was there was there with me, a much larger part of me felt a deep gratitude that I had friends as considerate and thoughtful. That definitely goes down in my top ten experiences since starting college because not only did I get a great opportunity to bond with my good friend, but my homesickness was temporarily appeased. I made many new friends who I still communicate with and visit to this day. I love American Thanksgiving and I look forward to spending it each year with my new friends at NYIT and their families.
While all three of us international students spent the holiday in different ways, we effectively achieved the same goal: happiness. Whether we were with our significant others, friends, or parents, it didn’t matter. We were able to truly appreciate the ones that really do matter, and acknowledge our blessings, whether it was a conscious decision or not. Isn’t that what the holiday is about anyway? Mission accomplished.

International students do not feel like you have to spend your holiday alone! NYIT also offers a Thanksgiving gathering!
Celebrate the Spirit of Thanksgiving with the NYIT Family
Thursday, Nov. 28, 8:30 a.m. – noon
Edward Guiliano Global Center
1855 Broadway, New York City
Watch the Thanksgiving Parade as it proceeds down Central Park West through Columbus Circle, one block from campus.
Continental breakfast will be provided.
Space is limited. R.S.V.P. online to reserve your place.
Reservations will close once capacity is reached.

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