Away from home for the holidays

UVU’s International Students find a way to celebrate when going home isn’t an option.


Natalie Psuik/UVU REVIEW

Thanksgiving is coming up and with all the celebrations, get-togethers and students flying everywhere to spend time with their families, one has to stop for a moment to realize that it is not easy for international students to leave the country to party with their families.

Most gather together in their apartments and intermingle with each other by playing games and watching movies – but, of course, without food, there’s no celebration.

This has been the way Mohammad Mustafa, an international student from Jordan, has spent the last four years he’s been here.

This year, however, his friends have decided that they are traveling to somewhere warmer to have some fun in the sun.

“I will be going with them,” Mustafa said. “We haven’t decided whether it is Vegas for sure or California, but either way, we will be going somewhere to have fun.”

Naser Alajmi from Saudi Arabia loves to hang out with his friends and will be accompanying them on this exciting trip.

“I will be going to Vegas to shop and gamble for the entire weekend,” he said. “But for Christmas, I will be going home to Saudi Arabia.”

Since Thanksgiving is a North-American holiday, most of the international students have become familiar with it while here in the United States, so it is like any other long weekend for them, except there’s a lot of food to eat. They, of course, like that extra aspect.

For out-of-state students like Monica Todazagenie from Arizona, Thanksgiving is a great time to visit family. She is going back home to celebrate it the Navajo way.

“We gather together and sing and do ceremonies of health,” she explains.

Joshua John, also from the Navajo nation, says, “All the families gather in a circle and the first thing we do is pray together, then we drink, eat and play games, in that order.”

He then explained why they drink before eating. They take one glass of water and everyone takes a sip from the same glass before dinner, which symbolizes gratitude and good health to everyone who drinks from it. Then the celebration goes on with food and games.

Many Latin-American students have adopted the celebration as their own, giving thanks for the opportunity to be in this country and the freedom that comes with it.

“Thanksgiving is a special day to remember every blessing and opportunity I have been given and the chance to be able to share it with others,” said Suany Riveiro from Guatemala, who will be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family in Utah.

Olga Mejía from Mexico feels that it is a preparation for something bigger.

“To me, it means a special time to be grateful and get closer to family and friends, but also a preparation for Christmas to remember Jesus and his love for us,” she said.

When diversity is one of the biggest assets of the university, it is not hard to find friends who share the same values or try to befriend those who don’t because they understand what it is like to be far from home.

As the majority, though, students who live here and have families close by might want to stop and think of those who don’t have their families nearby and try to integrate them into their own.

That is what Thanksgiving is all about, after all.

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