For most people, Thanksgiving is their time off to return home to see family and eat their share of turkey and mashed potatoes at the dinner table. However, many international students just don’t have the luxury to do the same due to the many constraints that they face. To put it into perspective, it would take me two full days of travel and thousands of dollars just to return to my home in Shanghai, not to mention the inconvenience of time difference among other problems. Yet we still want to be with our loved ones during the holiday season, so my solution to this as an international student is… Friendsgiving
For the past two Thanksgivings, I have found a piece of home in New York, where my high school friends and I reunited with one another for the holiday seasons. Wednesday, the first day of the holiday break, was filled with many embraces and a whole semester of updates as people flew in from all over the country. Then came the whirlwind of Thanksgiving dinner. Our small Airbnb fridge was crammed to the brim with groceries and festive foods in preparation for the big meal.
This year, we had decided to go with a mashup of the traditional turkey dinner with a little flavor from home. What ultimately ended up on the table were two whole rotisserie chickens (we couldn’t find a turkey because of our last minute decisions), mashed potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce, and plates and plates of fresh dumplings we had hand wrapped that very afternoon, among other foods. Dinner was a family affair as we crowded around the loaded table, passed around foods, and ate our share. The laughter and rowdy conversations and warm atmosphere alleviated some of the pain of missing home. And although it was not explicitly expressed, there was the unspoken gratitude for one another.
Following dinner came Secret Santa, where outrageous exclaims and roaring laughter were thrown across the room as pairings were revealed and ridiculous presents were pulled out of gift bags one after another. We had chosen to do ours so early because once again, not everyone will be able to make it home for Christmas.
This is the life of studying so far away from home after all. I know of many other friends who were unable to return home for the holiday, but with some creativity and loved ones, they too were able to create their own home away from home. Although there are many obstacles and sacrifices we must make as international students, we always find time for the people we love.