Panshak Dakup

Thanksgiving is an exclusively American holiday, but that doesn’t mean Columbia College’s international students aren’t embracing new traditions and celebrating on Nov. 22. From family gatherings to Black Friday bargain hunting, international students are looking forward to the holiday and a short break from school. Of the 92 international students on main campus – the majority from South Korea, China, Vietnam and Nigeria – six share their plans. Spoiler alert: you’ll find some of them at Wal-Mart.

Panshak Dakup // Nigeria
Sophomore studying chemistry

"Thanksgiving is a time when people try to connect with their families and to think about what they’re thankful for. To have a nationally recognized Thanksgiving holiday was news to me when I came here. We have thanksgiving services, but they’re more religious – towards to the end of the year, different churches recognize different Sundays as thanksgiving Sundays.

"Last year, there was a family that invited me over. I ate turkey and my favorite, the stuffing, otherwise called dressing. I can’t remember the names of all the foods because I didn’t know what they were, but Thanksgiving was the first meal I really enjoyed in this country. I also realized it’s not just about the dinner; it’s about the whole day. This year, I have three invitations, and I’m not sure which one to choose.

"Black Friday was very, very, very spectacular. We saw long lines and it was so cold, but we went to Macy’s, Target, Wal-Mart. I shopped for winter clothes because I didn’t have any. This year, I don’t really need anything, but if I find something I like, I’ll get it."

Thankful for: “I’m thankful that I’m alive and for my family. I’m thankful that I’m at this school. This is one school that is full of opportunities."

Da Yeon Kim
Da Yeon Kim // South Korea
Senior studying chemistry, environmental science and biology

"I came here as an exchange student from Kongju National University. I decided to stay and study here because students, faculty and staff are really nice and welcoming to international students. Also, I want to experience American culture. Last year, I went to my American friend’s house for Thanksgiving break, and I had a lot of fun. The food and people were so amazing! I definitely like it.

We don’t have Thanksgiving in my country, but we do have a similar holiday named Chuseok. It is one of the most important and big holidays. We celebrate it with our families, so I get to see my relatives."

Thankful for: I am generally thankful for everything. I am thankful for my parents – they give me a chance to experience the States, and they support me as much as possible. I am thankful for my friends who cheer me up and make me laugh.

Heeeum Kim
Heeeun Kim // South Korea
Junior studying human services

"Thanksgiving is much bigger holiday in the States than I thought. I like this holiday because most of families gather together and share love – and turkey, too! I did not really celebrate it last year because my brother-in-law was deployed to Afghanistan. But I will definitely celebrate with my sister and her family this year; I am excited because this is my first trip to North Carolina. On Thanksgiving Day, my brother-in-law will roast turkey. My sister and I decided to make a pumpkin pie with my niece (this is my first try to make it). We are also planning to go to a museum and the beach."

Thankful for: "Just everything. I have family and friends who take care of each other so much. I am healthy and enjoying my life now. I am thankful that I can study in the U.S. and expect to graduate next winter. Life in Columbia is going amazingly well."

Giang Lee
Giang Le // Vietnam
Senior studying math, finance, accounting

"We don’t have Thanksgiving in our country, and we don’t really have anything similar. I love Thanksgiving because people get together and express their appreciation to other family members. There are also a lot of good food and fun events."

"One of my American friends invited me to go to her house and have dinner with her family; it is fun to see how people celebrate Thanksgivings at their houses. I have gone to a lot of different families for Thanksgiving Day and it is really different every year."

"I will also invite some of my friends to my apartment so that we can have a meal together. We will go on a trip for Black Friday to go shopping because my little sister, who is here, wants to experience it. And, yes, I will do my homework as well because I have a lot of projects and exams coming up."

Thankful for: “My family, my friends, and a lot of people who helped me a lot through my good and bad days. I am thankful that I have so much fun at college even though I am so busy."

Pandaree Sahatsarangsee // Thailand
Freshman studying chemistry, forensic science

"I’ve been in America for two years, so I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving twice already – once in Texas and once in Wisconsin. This year I will be in Columbia. I love to cook. I plan to cook for myself and some people who are also here, but I won’t make a turkey – that’s too big! I’ll make a late breakfast: pancakes, banana muffins, ham and bacon casserole. I don’t want to get up early."

"I want to go shopping on Black Friday, but I need a ride. Maybe my friends who live off campus will pick me up. We’ll go to Wal-Mart; I will buy a TV if there’s a good deal."

Thankful for: “For my new college, my new friends. Also, I started doing new things, so I’m thankful I started to step out of my comfort zone."

Meena Swaminathan // Singapore
Junior studying forensic science and chemistry

"I will be going to my relatives’ house in Illinois. We are not really celebrating Thanksgiving; it’s just that this is the one time a year when everyone is free to gather. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving back home, and there is nothing similar to it."

Thankful for: I am thankful that I am right here now studying what I want to study; the reason for that is my parents, so I am very thankful to them.