By Adeeb Chowdhury
For most Americans, the celebration of Thanksgiving is a familiar experience — going home to family and dinner tables full of pumpkins pies, loaves of bread, and, of course, turkey. But for many international students, this year’s Thanksgiving was their first ever introduction to the classic American holiday.
The first day of Thanksgiving break Nov. 23 saw most students leave campus, going home to their families or elsewhere. Many of the students who stayed behind were international students, having no family in the United States to visit.
“The campus was silent after everyone left,” Ebtesam Mohamed, an international student from Ethiopia, said. “I’ve never seen the campus this quiet. It was a little creepy at first but I got used to it. The peace and quiet was actually very nice after a while.”
Mohamed and her friends, most of whom were also international students, went shopping on the first day of break. They brought back dozens of canned food items — soup, beans, potatoes, chicken breasts, fruits, and juice – to last them the next week or so.
Pakistani exchange student Beenish Shahzad, who went shopping for food with Mohamed, said that her room looked like a small grocery store due to how much food they brought back.
“There were literally like 40 cans of food on my desk,” Shahzad said. “Dozens of plates and cups were there too. All my friends kept their food in my room to make it easier for us to prepare meals every single day.”
Buying and making food for Thanksgiving break was especially challenging for Muslim international students. Most of the meat available in Plattsburgh is haram, meaning that it has not been prepared in a way acceptable in Islam. Meat that is acceptable by Islamic standards is known as halal. For this reason, most Muslim students opt for a mostly vegetarian diet during their stay in Plattsburgh. Mohamed, Shahzad and other Muslim students primarily prepared meals without meat during Thanksgiving break.
“Although we don’t eat most of the meat available here, we still cooked a variety of meals during break,” Sohayla Erroui, an international student from Morocco, said. “We enjoyed items like pasta, stew, roti, broccoli, bread, and more.”
Yuri Chikuda, an international student from Japan, also made various dishes with her friends during Thanksgiving break.
“My friends and I made Japanese dishes such as Sukiyaki together,” Chikuda said. “We also made sweet potato doughnuts, which turned out great. I had a lot of fun making meals with them.”
On Thanksgiving, International Student Assistant Amanda Suriel of the Global Education Office prepared a large lunch for students on campus to attend. Held in the first-floor lounge of MacDonough Hall, the sprawling lunch consisted of a variety of items, such as roasted chicken, soup, pasta, rice, naan bread and pumpkin pie.
“The lunch was delicious,” Ruba Khan, an international student from Pakistan, said. “I was really thankful to Amanda and GEO for organizing it. It was great to see other international students here too.”
On Thanksgiving, some international students also spent time discussing the holiday and learning about the roots of it.
“It was a valuable experience to learn about what Thanksgiving is and where it comes from,” Shahzad said. “I’ve heard it’s a very important part of American culture, and I was glad to learn so much more about it.”
Mohamed spent most of Thanksgiving at a professor’s house, where she helped prepare a large lunch and also made little turkeys out of paper and plastic.
“It was so fun to be able to spend time with my professor and their family,” Mohamed said. “It was my first Thanksgiving, and I had an amazing time.”
The day after Thanksgiving, some international students experienced their introduction to another part of American culture: Black Friday. Shahzad, Mohamed, Erroui and Khan all woke up around 7 a.m. to go shopping and take advantage of the sizable discounts.
“We got to Target early in the morning, and it was already full,” Shahzad said. “I’ve never seen it so packed. The whole mall was so busy. At least, we got some good deals though.”
Mohamed said she spent a sizable amount of money at TJ Maxx.
“The deals were great,” she said. “I saved so much money. I spent a lot too, but it was worth it.”
Although the numerous international students who stayed on campus during break had a range of different experiences, they shared their appreciation for being able to experience so many aspects of American life and culture.