Annual thanksgiving dinner spreads holiday cheer to international students

Mckenna Corson

Kent State’s International Thanksgiving Dinner in the Student Center gave international students the opportunity to celebrate the holiday alongside friends, faculty and community members.

From turkey to cranberry sauce, every traditional Thanksgiving dish was available for international students to get a taste of the day of thanks.

While domestic Kent State students go home to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families and friends, international students are left in Kent, miles away from their families and unsure of what the holiday even is.

The Office of Global Education recognized that for international students to get the full American experience, they needed to celebrate American holidays.

Thanksgiving, an American holiday consisting of a large feast and joining together with loved ones, is an important holiday of the American culture — and one Kent State could replicate.

Delaney Graybill, programming coordinator for the International Student and Scholar Services and head of this year’s International Thanksgiving Dinner, saw the importance of the event for international students.

“The purpose of this event is to give our international students a sense of what a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is for Americans,” Graybill said. “It’s a chance for everyone to feel a little bit more familiar with each other, since that’s what Thanksgiving is about — being thankful.”

Entering the Thanksgiving dinner, a flurry of different languages made the room feel like a mix of cultures. Children of different races played with one another, while adults connected with new people.

The event cost $5 to enter, which gave people an all-access entry to the Thanksgiving buffet. Domestic students were also allowed to attend the event.

The event’s staff was quick to refill the eaten food, making the buffet appear to never run out.

According to Graybill, the food was made by Kent State Dining Services after the Office of Global Education gave them recipes they thought matched the traditional Thanksgiving experience.

Approximately 125 people were in attendance of the International Thanksgiving Dinner, a number that has remained relatively steady over the past three years the event has been put on, according to Graybill.

Graybill was happy with the turnout of the event, and said she hoped the international students enjoyed Thanksgiving.

Lola Raimbekova, a graduate student of curriculum and instruction from Tajikistan, was glad for the opportunity to celebrate her first Thanksgiving.

“This event gave me a chance to be with my friends and to get to know other international students,” Raimbekova said. “I was also able to share a meal, share a joy and to feel the spirit of this wonderful season.”

Subinuer Aierken, a junior applied communication major from China, was also happy to celebrate the American holiday.

“I came to try the food and make new friends,” Aierken said. “I never celebrated Thanksgiving back home, but here in the U.S., everyone is celebrating it. I think it’s good to fit in the culture and give thanks to your friends, family and professors.”

Raffle tickets were handed out when people first entered the room, and winners were announced periodically throughout the event. Prizes consisted of gift cards and other merchandise donated by downtown Kent businesses.

Graybill was pleased with the turnout, but said she hoped for more attendees next year.

“We are really happy with how the community responds to this event,” Graybill said. “It is really beneficial for everybody when so many people attend. I want to see future dinners bigger with more community and more faculty. Anything to where we can expand this a little bit more and get as many people as possible.”

Mckenna Corson is the international/grad affairs reporter, contact her at [email protected]