(Clockwise from left) Fathima Nazeer of Sri Lanka, Christopher Bock of Denmark, Grace Chou of Canada,
and Mosoom Motra of India.

International Students: How Do You Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Each year, when Thanksgiving rolls around, The New School campus is eerily and uncharacteristically quiet. Having finished their last classes before the holiday weekend, most students head home to break bread with their families, reconnect with old friends, and remember all the things they’re thankful for.

But what of The New School’s huge population of international students, living far away from their families, who are left on campus? How do they pass the time? What do they think of Thanksgiving, anyway? We asked four international students how they’re celebrating (or not celebrating) America’s most popular secular holiday. Here’s what they shared:

Mosoom Motra, Design and Urban Ecologies ’18, India 

What do you think about Thanksgiving?

As an international student, it’s important to participate in festivals that are celebrated in the country in which you reside. I always look forward to being invited to some alternative parties that acknowledge histories of appropriation and remind us of the indigenous folk who seem to have disappeared from these narratives. I really like the idea of taking a day to be grateful for the last year and remembering the small and big things that made us happy and sad.

Do you plan on celebrating Thanksgiving?

Last year, an American friend and his beautiful family invited me for an intimate dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce, and casserole. I was a little nervous in the beginning about “proper” Western table manners and customs—in India, we share a lot and most families use their fingers to eat—but Max and his family made us all feel very comfortable. I still don’t have any invitations for this year, though I may plan to get out of town, as I really need a break from this hectic semester of learning and teaching.

Is there an equivalent holiday in your home country?  

Not that I can think of, although each region and culture in India has its own New Year’s, celebrating the beginning of the new season for harvest.

Christopher Bock, Media Management ’18, Denmark

What do you think of Thanksgiving? 

Since I never celebrated Thanksgiving before, and this is my first time in America, I don’t know what to expect. I do, however, appreciate that people want to spend time with their families. I am sure I will manage to have a great time with all the international students and the few Americans who are not heading home for the holiday. 

Do you plan on celebrating Thanksgiving?

Luckily, at The New School, there is a large community of international students. We look after one another, and I already know of several groups of international students who are having a get-together to celebrate Thanksgiving. American students are more than welcome to join if they aren’t visiting their families over the holidays.

Is there an equivalent holiday in your home country? 

We don’t really have anything similar in Denmark, but annually on November 11, for reasons unknown to me, we eat a duck for a holiday called Mortens Aften (the evening of Morten).

Grace Chou, Fashion ’18, Canada

What do you think about Thanksgiving?  

I think it’s a great time to give thanks and be with your family. I wish we would focus more on those aspects of Thanksgiving, instead of on sales. Thanksgiving should be less about the things we want to buy and more about the things we want to show gratitude for.

Do you plan on celebrating Thanksgiving?

My roommate, who is American, is inviting me to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner in New Jersey. It’s so nice to have a plan, to have something to look forward to. Last year, I ate at the dining hall!

Is there an equivalent holiday in your home country? 

We actually have Thanksgiving in Canada, but it’s in October. Our family has a fancy dinner, where we’ll have traditional Thanksgiving foods like turkey or nontraditional ones like steak and sushi.

Fathima Nazeer, Lang ’18, Sri Lanka

What do you think about Thanksgiving?

It’s a good opportunity to get together, not just as family, but as neighbors. It’s a chance to get to know people, to share your culture—and your food!

Do you plan on celebrating Thanksgiving?

Yes; I’m planning to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade! I love seeing the balloons and the festivities and hearing the music.

Is there an equivalent holiday in your home country? 

We celebrate the Sinhala and Hindu Festival, in which we make food and celebrate with family and neighbors, thank God, and give gifts. It’s like Christmas and Thanksgiving mixed together.