Thanksgiving dinner on campus for international students

Credit: Michelle S. Kim, University Communications at UCIrvine

Credit: Michelle S. Kim, University Communications at UCIrvine

The Thanksgiving holiday is coming up soon. Classes get out, vacation week starts and everyone packs up to go home. But international students and those who live far away might not be able to travel home over the break. No fear. College life doesn’t end with the holiday. There are many ways to have a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner in the company of others: attend a campus sponsored dinner, visit a local family, cook dinner in your dorm rooms or make a restaurant reservation.

Thanksgiving dinner on campus

Many colleges offer Thanksgiving dinner to international students who are unable to go home over the holiday break. University of California at Irvine hosts a “classic turkey fest” at Pippin Commons. “The meal allows us to connect with students on a day of reflection and gratitude,” Chancellor Michael Drake told Laura Rico in “Eaters on campus for T-Day still get feast” posted on UCIrvine News, November 19, 2012. “It also provides our international students the opportunity to experience an American tradition in a festive, small-group setting,” reported Rico. Last year the college dished up 250 meals for students and faculty.

Local families invite students to dinner

Oberlin College in Ohio has a Community Friends Program through which local families can sign up to host international students for Thanksgiving dinner. Interested participants provide information such as how many students they want to invite, their distance from the school and ability to provide transportation and date of the meal if it is not right on Thanksgiving Day. The college matches students with host families for dinner.

I was recently part of a Thanksgiving dinner that included college students from Nigeria. We had a great discussion of holiday traditions in different countries. Many cultures have a tradition of making a feast and sharing food with neighbors and strangers alike.

Maybe the Dean will invite you to his house

For out-of-state journalism students at Arizona State University in Tempe who can’t make the trip home, Vice Provost Christopher Callahan, who is also dean of the Walter Cronkite School, has opened his home for Thanksgiving dinner since 2007. “I hated the idea of a student whose family is far away and was alone for a family holiday,” Callahan said in “Vice Provost Callahan offers Thanksgiving to displaced students” posted by Alicia Canales on Downtown Devil, November 23, 2011. Callahan continued, “Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that the more people around our table, the more festive it is.”

One year Callahan hosted fifteen students and played foosball with them after dinner. Students even went home with leftover turkey and stuffing.

Cook your own Thanksgiving dinner

You can cook your own dinner and invite your friends who are also staying on campus during the holiday. If you live in an apartment, have access to a kitchen and are skilled enough, cook the dinner yourself. Shortcuts could include a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or turkey from the grocery store, pre-made salads from the deli and pie from the bakery.

Or have a potluck Thanksgiving where dinner guests bring something to contribute to the dinner. Contributions could be pre-made platters from the grocery store—vegetables and dip, cheese and crackers, fruit basket, mixed nuts. Or buy a fresh loaf of bread or a can of premade cranberry sauce.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

No, vegetarians aren’t missing out on Thanksgiving—just on the turkey. With all the mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, salad and rolls, vegetarians have quite a bit to pick from. If you have vegetarians coming to your dinner, ask them about their dietary needs. In “Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner,” from VegKitchen, posted September 29, 2011, contributor Nava offered tasty recipes including wild rice and mushrooms, vegetable pot pie, three sisters stew, sourdough stuffing, baked sweet potatoes and apples, and apple walnut cobbler for dessert.

Make reservations for a restaurant

Students not going home for Thanksgiving can dine in style at a local restaurant. But it could get pricey. And get your reservations early! Many restaurants specialize in fancy fixings beyond the turkey and gravy, including ham and salmon, in addition to their full menu. Some restaurants offer fabulous buffets with delectable desserts.

If you’re staying on campus over the holiday, what are your plans for Thanksgiving?

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