A Moho Thanksgiving
Being an international student on campus has come with some challenges like not understanding how to dress appropriately for weather (when it looks like it is sunny outside but the moment I step out, the rain starts pouring), or after three years here, still not being able to differentiate between all the coins and constantly fumbling at the checkout counter. These are probably things I am never going to get a hang of, and I have accepted that. But fortunately, the one thing I have learned my way around is the deafening sound of isolation that comes with family holidays. Specifically, Thanksgiving.
Despite not having grown up with the tradition of Thanksgiving, I’ve come to understand how integral this holiday is to the American experience. From stuffing yourself on stuffing and every kind of pie that you helped your family make, to battling relatives’ scrutiny about your career and love life, to dodging those family members who have a talent for making every encounter painfully awkward, the essence of thanksgiving seems to be “togetherness”. Of course, as an international student whose family is scattered all over the globe, thousands of miles away, this isn’t a tradition I have the privilege of recreating. So, like many international students, I’ve come to create my own traditions and second families during thanksgiving.
My first year at Mount Holyoke, the college paired all international students with alumni who lived locally. Even if it was just for a few days, I got a chance to step into the whole experience of celebrating the holiday in all its traditional glory. Not only did I get a chance to bake pies with my host, but also got a chance to indulge in the tradition of dodging those guests who always pose unsettling questions. That thanksgiving, not only did I gain that conversational skill but also gained a second American family who’ve visited me several times since. My second thanksgiving was an exploration of a different kind of thanksgiving tradition: friendsgiving, a tradition I’ve fallen in love with. There are no judgmental family members or creepy guests or forced conversations; just friends gathering around a table or a kitchen pear, recreating thanksgiving favorites on a budget.
I don’t know what I will be doing this thanksgiving, but this has started to become one of my favorite times of the year. I do not know what I will be doing this holiday or where I will be but despite the deafening isolation I feel from not having my actual family around, along the way, this holiday has helped me to broaden my sense of “family.” Now not only do I have a family in Dubai now, but also a smaller and just as significant one, in America. So whether I’ll be in connecticut with my alum host from first year or with my beloved friends recreating thanksgiving meals from whatever we could scrounge from dining halls, I’ll be with “family.”