Thanksgiving without borders, international students celebrate an American holiday

By Molly Humiston
Staff Writer

Three weeks away and a single Thursday already hangs in the collective American mind, Thanksgiving.

For students, it is a chance to leave classes and schoolwork behind for a short while, but when they take off for home, 113 international students who can’t go home for the holiday.

The international students range from a stay of eight weeks to four years, said Christina Mager, the associate director of English Language Programs and an instructor of Applied Linguistics.

“Cross-culturally there’s a lot of similarities, and I think for us as Americans and for Chinese, Latin American, Vietnamese, whatever they are, family is something that is shared and something that is valued in all of our cultures,” said Mager. She has opened her home to international students and provided them with a traditional American Thanksgiving.

For those whose time in the U.S. overlaps with the holidays, some chose to travel the U.S. or go home with American students to celebrate with their families.

“I’m going to travel New York and Quebec City with my Japanese friends,” said Kumi Nagano ‘21, an exchange student who came to St. Michael’s last spring from Osaka, Japan. “This is the last time for me to see around the U.S. and Canada during my studying abroad so I’m happy to have this long holiday.”

Lia Christ ‘21 enjoys Thanksgiving with her family in Vermont with Brazilian friends and other international students from campus. “Everyone else is doing [Thanksgiving], so we might as well,” Christ thought after she moved from Brazil to Stowe, Vt. when she was 13. “My parents try their best to have their own little holiday and then make food and invite friends over,” said Christ. “We usually get together, have food together and we make some kind of Thanksgiving food and some kind of Brazilian food and Brazilian desserts.”

Talia Torkomian ‘21 brought home a Japanese and a Taiwanese student last year for Thanksgiving. “I didn’t realize how special for my family the holiday is until I got to share it with people who didn’t know the full concept of it,” Torkomian said. “When my family came over, I thought that they were going to be kind of shy, but [they] completely opened up and kind of took on the day by themselves.” The two international students even broke the wishbone.

“Living abroad myself for a number of years, I always appreciated when someone welcomed me into their home during a local holiday,” said Ben White, the Chair of Applied Linguistics/TESOL Department. “Not only does it enable one to observe meaningful traditions in a new culture, it provides the opportunity to participate and engage in those traditions.”