International Students Celebrate Thanksgiving

By Leila Ataeva; Skokie, Illinois

CSI Student Abdul Shaik
CSI Student Abdul Shaik at International Education Week 2017
Since you became an international student you might have a lot of questions, and one of them might be about Thanksgiving Day. Of course, you are very thankful for having a long weekend from school, university, or college, but at the same time you wonder why people celebrate such a holiday in the United States. Let me help with that.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln approved an official Thanksgiving Day in late November. But in 1930, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to move the holiday a few days earlier. After a national discontent, the decision to celebrate holiday was made, and since then Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November.

But you might think “I’m not American, I’m an international student in the United States, what should I do”? One of our students asked himself that very question when he just started studying abroad.

Abdul Shaik is from India. He studied in China and now lives in the United States. Do you think he has a unique take on Thanksgiving? I do.


Dear friends, please welcome Abdul Shaik (applause). I got a chance to talk to him and asked him to share with me his “Thanksgiving experience”. Look what I got.

“Hi, friends. My name is Abdul Shaik. I’m a 28 years old guy from India. I have been an international student since 2007. I got my Bachelors in Medicine from China and Masters from the United States. Now I’m taking Administrative Assistant Professional Program at CSI. Living and studying in such different countries like India, China, and the United States, I noticed that people are always thankful for something, but they do it in different ways”.

“When I first went to China straight after high school in India, I didn’t know anything about Chinese languages or about the culture.”

Leila: I bet it was difficult for him to used to that.

“While I was studying in medical school there, I got the chance to learn language and culture, which was totally different from India. I enjoyed my life there and learned to be more kind and helpful in the society. I have celebrated many festivals there, but I liked “Moon Cake” festival the most”.

Chinese Moon Cake
Chinese Moon Cake
Leila: I was interested in that festival, and this is what I found out about it: “…it is the second most important festival in China after the Chinese New Year. To the Chinese, the festival means family reunion and peace, what is similar to Thanksgiving Day in America. The “Mid-Autumn” festival (It’s a second name of “Moon cake” festival) has history of over 3,000 years. It was originated from the custom of worshiping the moon during the Shang Dynasty (c.1600–1046 BC). Mid-Autumn was first celebrated as a festival during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). Like the emperors, ancient people believed worshipping the moon and eating together round a table would bring them good luck and happiness. Nowadays, moon cakes are the must-eat Mid-Autumn food in China. They are a kind of traditional Chinese pastry. Chinese people see in the roundness of moon cakes a symbol of reunion and happiness”.

“I came to America in the year of 2013 around Thanksgiving festival time and got a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with my American relatives here. They explained me about this festival while they were hosting a family dinner. That year I tried turkey for the first time and I liked it. I also realized, this holiday gives us a chance for family and friends to get together and share happiness and joy. I love being in America because I got an opportunity to make friends from many different countries, learn about new culture, and also learn how to cook turkey (laughing)”.

Thanksgiving Turkey
Thanksgiving! One of my favorite holiday in USA
“My plan for this upcoming Thanksgiving is to have a gathering at my place in Chicago and cook turkey with Indian spices and do a potluck dinner with close friends. I have lived abroad more than 10 years and tried different cuisines, but I still love our Indian food and miss it so much, that’s why each dish – American turkey or Chinese rice – I add Indian spices”.

“I also suggest for myself and my friends for this Thanksgiving to be thankful for everything around you and wish your friends, colleagues, and even a stranger when you grab a coffee, a Happy Thanksgiving Day!

If you are far from your home and can’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day with your family, don’t worry. Follow Abdul’s plan: meet your friends, cook some food (it even could be a turkey. Who knows, maybe you’re hiding your cooking talent?), go to see Thanksgiving parade, be thankful and have fun.

Related Readings

What Does It Mean To Be An International Student?
The America that International Students Can’t Learn from Movies

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