What Thanksgiving feels like when you are not from the US

I’ve always known about Thanksgiving and its traditions, from the big family meal to the stuffed turkey to even watching football. I know about this big holiday not because I do it with my family every year, but because of Hollywood, books or any media platform there is. Because the truth is, Thanksgiving is not a “thing” back home. It’s not a holiday in Argentina, where I am from, or in any country in South America. I’m also pretty sure it is not celebrated in other countries besides The United States or maybe Canada. So, as an international student on campus, Thanksgiving sometimes can make us feel odd, or maybe out of place, because we are not used to this big celebration. It sometimes makes us feel like we don’t belong.

Thanksgiving break was a bit scary at first. Although I am glad to have an almost week-long break at this point of the semester, it can be nerve-wracking to figure out what to do during those days. International students that do not have family in the States have to make plans and choose one of three options. Number one: Pray that an American friend invites you to spend break at their house. This is a great option to experience Thanksgiving, eat good food, and escape campus for a few days. Those who aren’t that lucky might choose option number two: travel to a big city and do some tourism. Going to NYC, Philly or Boston is a great option, but it can get a bit expensive. Most international students go for option number three: Staying on campus, which is not an optimal option. As expected, there is a lack of clear information regarding meals during break. Most students find out late that the school will provide no meals and that the caf and other on-campus dining options will be closed. Additionally, the very little aid the school provides is hidden, almost like a secret. For example, gift cards for Walmart provided by Residence Life are offered at the bottom of extremely long emails, which most students don’t even read. As I said before, figuring out what to do during Thanksgiving break can cause headaches. 

 But what struck me the most was realizing that Thanksgiving is the most “American” holiday, even more than the Fourth of July. I know this statement can be confusing, but this is the main conclusion I came to after speaking to a couple of friends from the US. For a college that claims to be globally diverse, most of its national student population is oblivious that Thanksgiving is not celebrated worldwide, which is why I think Thanksgiving is more American than the Fourth of July. Students recognize that every country has its independence day and that every country celebrates it with its particular traditions. However, when people from the US think Thanksgiving is a global holiday, they perpetuate this idea that “Americans” are the center of the world. Their ignorance of different cultures shows how they think everything is done the same way it is here. This also demonstrates a lack of understanding of why Thanksgiving is celebrated (a back story that is already sketchy and hard to believe), but one that pushes nationalist values at the end of the day.