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Spending Thanksgiving Away from Home

by Carolina Portillo

During times of holiday breaks, many Montclair State University students pack up a bag and head home for the holidays. However, not everyone has the luxury of spending a long break with their loved ones. Some, such as international students, cannot go home because their home is in another country.

Even though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, many international students found ways to celebrate the holiday in their own way while far away from their families.

Lotta Nurmela, an international student from Finland, decided to attend the iconic Macy’s Parade in New York City. However, she found the experience hectic and confusing.

“I know I am a tourist here and all, but some signs or something would not have been a bad idea, because there was a massive crowd of people [along with] me and some friends standing where we thought the parade would go, only to find out that it went 200 meters ahead of us,” Nurmela said. “We could have been closer with a better view so the whole experience was a bit overwhelming.”

The streets were packed during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Lotta Nurmela

Many businesses close on Thanksgiving, giving students like Nurmela limited options for food. She explained that she was still able to find restaurants opened in Chelsea Market. However, none had offered a typical Thanksgiving dinner.

“I did not mind not having the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but obviously I would not have said no if we had stumbled into a restaurant that served this type of food,” Nurmela said.

The Office of International Engagement offered a free meal for all the international students who wanted to experience a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

The office offered students turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie as a few of the options.

However, some international students, like Ali Albaljani, opted to spend their day with an “American family” to get the true experience of Thanksgiving.

An invitation was sent by the Office of International Engagement to invite students to experience a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

The international student from Iraq explained that he had a wonderful experience with a true Thanksgiving meal, through an organization called The One to World. The organization gives international students the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with a family that hosts the students for a price. The prices vary with the highest being $30.

“The experience was wonderful, it was my first Thanksgiving here and the food was delicious,” Albaljani said. “The family not only hosted me, but also another couple from Poland and it felt more like an international Thanksgiving.”

Regarding the family that hosted, Albaljani said that he felt right at home with them.

“We had turkey, stuffing, squash, cranberry sauce and a lot of different types of desserts,” Albaljani said. “The family was so nice and friendly that it felt like home.”


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