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As the holidays near, the streets in Athens begin to empty just outside of the international building Gordy Hall. But many international students will be spending their holidays here on campus. 

Thanksgiving experience different across campus due to different backgrounds, traditions

Students across campus all have different Thanksgiving experiences, from international students who stay in Athens for the holiday or those from Native American roots. 

Holidays are a large influence on culture between countries, and as Thanksgiving break approaches, international students choose different paths in their plans for their time off. 

Some students have already left for the holiday, disregarding Monday and Tuesday’s classes. But for international students at the university, many do not travel back home due to the short time off and the fact Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in their home countries. 

“They don’t care much about Thanksgiving –– more about having days off,” said Liudmila Pestun, a graduate student from Belarus studying international studies. “They try to use the opportunity to travel (elsewhere). And those who stay, they either can’t afford it, or they have to study. So, most of them just stay here or travel around the U.S. It’s cheaper, and it makes more sense to go back home in the summer instead of just a couple of weeks.”

Pestun said she has always wanted to experience an American Thanksgiving. She will be spending the holiday with a friend’s family in Washington D.C. 

“My image of Thanksgiving is mostly formed by movies, and tv shows and stuff. I imagine a big Thanksgiving dinner, plus I’ve never seen an entire turkey cooked and eaten before like that,” Pestun said. “At the same time it’s an opportunity to explore an important piece of this country.” 

Jiawei Huang, a sophomore studying business, said she is just going to stay in her dorm with her friend over Thanksgiving break. It would take about 23 hours to return home to her family in southern China.

“I’m not going home, and I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving, since it’s an American holiday,” Huang said. 

Residential housing is providing opportunities for students on campus to gather during the Thanksgiving break. Huang said she’s waiting until Winter Break to travel home. 

Even some students who aren’t international grew up with different Thanksgiving experiences. Samantha Miller, a freshman dance major, is one-eighth Cherokee, and said her view of the holiday is influenced greatly by her Native American relatives. 

“We used to go to tribe meetings close to Thanksgiving, and gather with everyone there and learn some dances,”  Miller said. 

Miller said going to those meetings was the way for her family to show the importance of her history, and the roots of her heritage. She said that her great-grandmother was main driver behind attending the meetings. 

“She got pretty offended about Thanksgiving, but mostly because of the commercialization,” Miller said. “The stuff they put on TV like the costumes they portray, the noises they make, it’s not anything like that.” 


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