Here in America, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is intertwined with tradition. It is a time in which college students can take a break from classes and studying to remember what they are most thankful for.
Likewise, Thanksgiving is a holiday that can be celebrated by all people no matter where their roots originate. Thus, with such a diverse student demographic here at ETSU, Thanksgiving for many students has become a holiday that is new, yet enriched by traditions remembered from their home country.
Rana Elgazzar who is a senior majoring in health science at ETSU is originally from Egypt. However, she spent most of her childhood in Japan. Thanksgiving was foreign to her until she and her family moved to the U.S. Elgazzar believes that Thanksgiving first became personal to her during her high school years.
“That was when I really began to really appreciate and be thankful for what I had, such as all my friends and what all my family had done for me,” Elgazzar said.
When asked what Thanksgiving means to her, she replied,
“I think a lot people giving thanks, including myself, originally give thanks for what material possessions they have, but I feel as a person grows older and wiser, they tend to give thanks more for the relationships and people that have come into their lives.”
Elgazzer offers advice to her colleagues this Thanksgiving holiday: “I encourage my fellow students to find ways to give thanks for the small things, and in doing so, remember those who don’t have as much.”
Another ETSU student who has recently been introduced to Thanksgiving is sophomore Stephanie Alu who is also a health science major and originally from Nigeria. Her favorite Thanksgiving thus far was when her mother decided to cook their family turkey a few years back instead of ordering one.
Alu recalls how memorable that dinner was because she and her mom were able to spend time together in the kitchen cooking, using Nigerian spices to make the traditional Thanksgiving turkey their own.
“To me, Thanksgiving means family. It means sharing good things in life and being thankful.”
Alu says that the best way for international students to enjoy Thanksgiving is to try and do something like her and her mother did with their turkey—add their own cultural traditions to this new American one.
“Don’t ever be afraid to celebrate Thanksgiving because you are from a different culture. Have fun and mix traditional dishes and spices. Make Thanksgiving special.”
Thanksgiving does have an original historical story, but as the American story continues to shift and change, so does the holiday. What matters most about Thanksgiving is not table settings, entertainment or turkey, but being surrounded by those who we are thankful for.