Students celebrate Thanksgiving break on and off-campus

With the first semester officially winding down in just a matter of weeks, students eagerly await the time off for Thanksgiving. However, not everyone celebrates or has the opportunity to head home.

Out-of-state students, international students, and students whose home lives make traveling for the short break impossible often stay on-campus during the holiday.

“For my freshman year Thanksgiving, I went to one of my friend’s houses so that I could experience what typical Thanksgiving is like. So that was awesome,” Saisha Bhandari, junior, said. Bhandari is a CA on campus as well as an international student. “And this year, I’m going to be working.”

Other students are excited to return home. “For students who have to travel more than an hour or so to come to school, it’s nice to be able to go back home and relax, and see our family and animals again,” Jenny Svec, first-year, said. ”I know for those who have them, people miss their pets since animals can’t talk on Facetime or a phone call, so it’s nice to go back and give them love”.

For many students, going home for the holiday is fairly simple. However, international students are left to their own devices as campus food options shut down for the week.

Here on campus, Bhandari loves to get together with friends for a meal.

“There are normally nine or ten of us. So it’s a big meal. It takes a lot of time at least two to three hours to cook because there’s a lot of us. Preparation itself already takes time, plus cooking and then finally having a meal and with the chaos of ten people is a lot. But also so fun.”

These meals mean a lot to Bhandari, who likes to “just [do] little things to realize we can have a nice meal and hang out together.“

For many people, it’s more than the time away that makes this break so special. It’s the connection between those we love, whether blood related or not, and the comforts of sharing a good meal.

For students on campus who aren’t able to head home, there is another option. A dinner will be hosted at Erickson Hall on Thursday by Lauren Williams. “With Thanksgiving coming up, I saw this as a clear opportunity to provide a space for students that were staying on campus,” Williams said. “Since I already live in the building, I thought it would be nice to host dinner.”

Williams acts as the Faculty-in-Residence in Erickson Hall, living in the dorm building full-time while she works in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program on campus. Williams decided to work with Dr. Cathy Webb, professor of communication sciences and disorders, to host the meal together.

Sharing a meal with your residence hall not only provides one with company, but also the chance to bond with your dorm family and find a friend. When living in a dorm environment, it’s important to reach out to the people you’re living with.

Plus, there’s nothing more comforting in the cold weather than a good meal (and it’s a given buffer from awkwardness when you can’t talk while you’re eating something!).

“I thought in my head like okay, I’ll cook. I’ll be able to cook for 25 to 30 people. So we’ll just have to RSVP until that number is matched or met or whatever. So about 17 students have responded from Erickson and then a couple of them are sharing that information with their friends too. Simply [for] just whoever’s on campus.”

It’s a nice opportunity for those on campus to get together and not be so alone.

Contemporary Thanksgiving traditions center on more than just sharing a meal. It is difficult to celebrate the holiday without acknowledging its origin. “I think an important aspect of the holiday is honoring and talking about the origin of the American Thanksgiving story,” Williams said.

Most tellings of the story focus on the friendships formed between colonists and indigenous Americans the first winter after the Mayflower came to America. While that version is certainly optimistic, it glosses over the real problems that arose as the colonies were settled.

“Honoring and talking about the Wampanoag tribe, honoring and talking about how this is not necessarily a celebration rooted in peace and gratitude but rather in the colonization of land and people and the people that are indigenous to this country,” Williams said.

Williams also focuses on more common practices for Thanksgiving dinner. “My family does [the gratitude practice,” Williams said. The gratitude practice entails going around the table and stating at least one thing you are grateful for that year or that day, with a focus on appreciating the people in your life among other positive aspects.

“Some years we love it, and some years we dread it.”

As COVID changed our world, the difficulties of staying safe and not having vaccines really made it hard for students and faculty alike to celebrate the same way as years prior. Many choose to do virtual celebrations or outdoor activities. As things this year return to some semblance of normal, we should be happy to embrace some old routines as well as welcoming the new.

“Be with whomever you feel happy with [in] your happy place,” Bhandari said. “It’s a break! Enjoy it and don’t put so much pressure on yourself.”