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Exchange students experience Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving traditions vary for international students in America. CW | Jonathan Daniels

Bailey Shoenberger

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From the football to the feasting to the excuse to gather with friends and family, there is nothing more American than a Thanksgiving celebration. From its origins in the colonial days as a celebration of harvest, Thanksgiving has evolved into a holiday dedicated to being grateful for all of the blessings in life and gathering with loved ones for a traditional dinner characterized by turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. 

Although every family’s Thanksgiving traditions are slightly different, most foreign exchange students who come to The University of Alabama have a good grasp on what the holiday entails. Renata Luane Dos Santos, a Brazilian student and senior majoring in environmental engineering at The University of Alabama, is excited to celebrate her first American Thanksgiving this year. 

“Because most the people of Brazil are also Christian, Thanksgiving would be a nice holiday for us also because you get to meet with your family, share grace and say thanks,” Dos Santos said. “It’s basically what we do on Christmas. I personally like it, but I am very family-oriented.”  

Paulo Luiz Lima Diniz, a senior majoring in civil engineering from Brazil, experienced an American Thanksgiving that was hosted at The Lofts apartment complex. He plans to spend the actual holiday in New Orleans with friends. 

“The meaning of this holiday is what makes it special; it’s a day off,” Diniz said. “When you say Thanksgiving, we imagine happy people together and maybe celebrating because it was a great year or something.”

Many foreign exchange students become familiar with the concept of Thanksgiving from American movies, television shows and cartoons. 

“The TV show Friends always shows Thanksgiving, so I’m expecting it to be a little bit like that,” Dos Santos said. “It’s definitely something I look forward to experiencing.” 

Central to the idea of Thanksgiving for both Americans and foreigners is the dinner. Everyone expects to see a turkey as the main dish, along with friends and family gathered together in celebration. Anh Chau, a senior majoring in civil engineering from Vietnam, looks forward to spending his first American Thanksgiving with fellow Vietnamese exchange students at a friend’s home. 

“In my mind, Thanksgiving would have a table with a family gathered together – maybe turkey and a lot of food; I see lots of people smiling and talking together,” Chau said. 

However, not everything about Thanksgiving makes sense to the foreign exchange students here at the University.

“I think its weird that it’s so close to Christmas,” Dos Santos said. “For students it’s a big break right before the end of the semester. It’s nice for families but hard for students. I guess it’s a good time to study for finals.”

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Exchange students experience Thanksgiving