If Emmanuel Raphael Rabit could describe Thanksgiving in two words, he would use “warm” and “fattening.”
“Thanksgiving personally, for me, has been like a totally wholesome experience because back home we only see it from the TV,” said Rabit, a second-year political science student from Indonesia. “It’s just a big culture shock and I can understand why Americans look forward to Thanksgiving.”
Before coming to USC, Rabit perceived that Thanksgiving was just a turkey-eating formality, but after experiencing the spirit of the holiday firsthand, he thinks differently. Issy Rushton, a third-year psychology and criminal justice student from Australia, said her understanding has also changed since studying at USC.
“I think that it’s a pretty cool holiday considering that I love food,” Rushton said. “However, we don’t have anything similar in Australia, so when I first came here I kind of didn’t really understand it, and honestly, probably still don’t really understand it that well, but I know it’s really important for Americans for family.”
But not all international students were aware of the holiday when they came to the United States. Rohit Kadlag, a second-year biological sciences student who was born in India but lives in Kenya, did not have any prior knowledge about Thanksgiving.
Last Thanksgiving, he went to his roommate’s house to celebrate for the first time. The most memorable parts of the meal included the turkey and plum sauce, Kadlag said.
For Risa Kawaguchi, a fourth-year international business and marketing student from Japan, Thanksgiving was not as much of a culture shock because she celebrated as an exchange student in high school.
“I would say it’s the best Thanksgiving because it was my first and also we cooked a turkey and then we also baked like apple pie because I love apple pie,” Kawaguchi said. “So the whole experience was amazing.”
For Thanksgiving last year, Rabit visited family in Ohio. Rabit’s plans for this year are the same, except he wants to try to cook a turkey for the first time.
Last year, Kawaguchi got to celebrate Thanksgiving again with another international student in Greenville. This year, she is using the break to go to Universal Studios.
Rushton, however, has created her own Thanksgiving tradition with her father. Though from Australia, Rushton’s dad visits every year for the Clemson-Carolina game.
Because she lived in a residence hall her freshman year, Rushton said she felt stranded when it closed for Thanksgiving break. If her dad had not visited, Rushton said she is not sure where she would have gone for those few days.
“I probably would've had to go home with a friend,” Rushton said. “Even being the first semester freshman year I had friends, but I wasn’t that close with them yet, or I possibly would have had to get a hotel, which would have been very pricey.”
This year, however, residence halls will remain open.
Last year, Rushton celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time with a friend in Philadelphia.
“Giving advice to other internationals, just because you don’t have any family or any reason to celebrate Thanksgiving just because you're not Americans, it's not an excuse not to try it out,” Rabit said.