Experiencing America: Thanksgiving

This semester’s Global UGRAD students had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with their host communities, gathering with other international students as well as with American families. Enjoy these reflections by the Global UGRAD participants on their Thanksgiving experiences!

Souksavanh Vongthongchit, Laos, St. Ambrose University

“Thanksgiving is a special U.S. holiday when American people take this time to show thanks for what they have. As an exchange student in the U.S., I took this chance to reflect on things that I am thankful for, such as my achievements, and this life-changing experience. Studying abroad in the U.S. has given me loads of opportunities to enhance my academic performance, perception, and confidence.

During the holiday, along with the other Global UGRAD students and a few other international students, I had a Thanksgiving dinner in my dorm. We came up with the idea to cook our traditional foods and share them with one another. We also bought a big turkey to roast with our dishes. We were so thankful for the food that evening and to meet, talk, and share time together. We also got great Thanksgiving recipes to share with our friends and family back home!”

Mohamed Arar, Israel, Wayne State University

Mohamed pictured bottom row, left
Mohamed pictured third from left

“I was invited to my friend’s house for three nights to celebrate my first Thanksgiving. We had a bonfire with marshmallows, played board games and pool, and ate delicious turkey and lots of food and desserts. I went shopping on Black Friday at the mall. To sum up my experience, it was ‘joyful and unforgettable.'”



Zhanybek Akhmatov, Kyrgyzstan, University of Southern Indiana

Zhanybek pictured back row, left

“Thanksgiving is a special holiday for Americans. It is a time when families gather together to celebrate what they are thankful for. People thank their families and friends, and share gifts and love, which makes it a very special holiday. People cook a lot of food, salads, cakes, and the treasure of Thanksgiving is the turkey. In my country, Kyrgyzstan, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving; however, I had a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving as a Global UGRAD student in the USA.

After three months of studying, Thanksgiving break came. All the students were going home to visit their families and celebrate. I had an opportunity to visit an American family and experience Thanksgiving dinner with them. It was my first celebration of the holiday in the U.S. When I saw that family members reunited for Thanksgiving I thought “I am not alone, I am with family too.” At that moment I felt happy and loved. The food was so delicious including the huge turkey, mashed potatoes, fruits, cakes, and cranberry sauce. We sat around the table, eating and talking for hours. The atmosphere was so warm and welcoming and the background music made the atmosphere even more perfect. Everyone was smiling, enjoying the food and talking, and reminiscing about old family memories. I am thankful for this family giving me the opportunity to experience Thanksgiving with them.

Sometimes, in our daily routine of life, we forgot about all good we have. Thanksgiving serves as a reminder to us to appreciate and be thankful what we have. For me, Thanksgiving became a holiday for being thankful for family and friends and for all the good things I have. Even though I am not an American I was able to celebrate and be a part of Thanksgiving. I will continue to celebrate this holiday in the future too. What if we were thankful for all good in our lives every day? If we choose to be thankful in this way each day, our lives would be much brighter and full of joy and happiness. Thanks to World Learning and the U.S. Department of State for such an amazing and beautiful opportunity to have an incredible experience in the U.S.”