‘Americans Are So Weird’: International Students On What They Know About Thanksgiving

Jorene He

Now that the voting season is over, international students can finally take part in another controversial U.S. festivity — Thanksgiving!

For many NYU students, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to catch up with family and friends back home or to catch up on their TV shows. However, for international students, this five-day holiday is not enough time to travel across the world to go home. In fact, it can actually be more exciting — especially for first-year international students — to stay in the States for their first Thanksgiving.

While it’s a favorite holiday among many U.S. students, it doesn’t really hold any special meaning for international students.

“It’s just a holiday, and we don’t have classes, so that’s awesome,” Nathan Nguyen, a CAS first-year said. “My friend and my cousin from Vietnam are coming to New York, so we’ll probably hang out. And I may go to Virginia with some friends. I’m actually more excited about that than Thanksgiving itself.”


However, not all traditions are lost among our international folks. When asked about Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to their minds is turkey.

“I don’t really know much about this holiday, but I do know there’s a turkey pardoned by the president every year,” Nguyen said. “Americans are so weird.”

I couldn’t agree more as an international student myself. What’s the point of freeing one single turkey from its destiny of being roasted while the rest of them are going to end up on dinner tables? I guess Donald Trump talking to a giant bird is a sight for sore eyes.

International students’ knowledge on Thanksgiving does not end with turkey. Although non-Americans are not as familiar with the story of pilgrims and Native Americans, they apparently know some fun facts that even Americans don’t know themselves.

Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated on a set date until the mid-nineteenth century, a fact that Seoyoon Chang, a Tisch first-year, is well-versed on. “It was only after or around Abraham Lincoln’s presidency people were like, ‘okay, we probably should fix a day for this,’ and that starts being every fourth Thursday of November.”

This wasn’t the only Thanksgiving fact up Chang’s sleeve.

“Oh, and popcorn existed,” Chang said. “Native Americans actually invented popcorn. And I feel like they should get more credit for this.”

Despite their shared Thanksgiving image of a family gathering with turkey served, some international students have their own thoughts on this traditional holiday.

Chang describes Thanksgiving with three nouns: legacy, fragment and secret.

“Legacy is because it lasts a really long time in [U.S.] history,” Chang said. “And nowadays [the holiday] is just a fragment of what it was, and that’s kinda sad,” Chang said, in reference to how much the holiday has changed.

“And in a way, Thanksgiving is a secret of its own because like basically no one is really thankful to the Natives for not kicking them out in the first place and not even after what they did to them.”

Dasha Troya, a CAS first-year, chimed in with a thought that has crossed many international students’ minds: “Does Thanksgiving really mean ‘thanks-giving’ though?”

With family members and old friends living across oceans, most of the international students plan to spend the time off with friends here in New York City or visit nearby states as tourists. But if you are an international student and don’t have things planned out yet, here’s some good news for you: R.I.S.E and OGS are presenting a free traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Palladium on Friday, November 16 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There is turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams, gravy, dessert, basically everything you saw in all that Norman Rockwell propaganda from the ‘50s.

Email Jorene He at [email protected]



  1. Being an international student away from home is difficult, compounded by our complex culture and language problems. Welcoming and assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources, including the White House, to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand.
    Something that might help anyone coming to the US is the award-winning worldwide book/ebook “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” Used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it identifies how “foreigners” have become successful in the US, including students.
    It explains how to cope with a confusing new culture and friendship process, and daunting classroom differences. It explains how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.
    It also identifies the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.
    Good luck to all at NYU or wherever you study or wherever you come from, because that is the TRUE spirit of the American PEOPLE, not a few in government who shout the loudest! Supporters of int’l students must shout louder.


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