Students redefine holidays

By Clarissa Hinshaw

DeKALB | While American students are usually eating turkey and watching football on Thanksgiving, some international students are creating their own make-shift celebrations.

NIU has more than 1,000 international students from about 70 countries, according to Sim Chin, director of the International Student and Faculty Office. International Student and Faculty Office employees help international students transition to life at NIU. For Thanksgiving, Chin will host a Thanksgiving dinner Monday at the Holmes Student Center for international students.

“Thanksgiving is pretty much an empty week on campus [with everyone being] gone,” Chin said. “In the community, churches have Thanksgiving dinners open to all international students where they can go and share a meal together. [Many] students have friends here, so this is a good time to go and connect.”

Iyounan An, sophomore political science major from Cambodia, does not celebrate Thanksgiving in his home country, so he celebrates the season with the family he has made at NIU.

In Cambodia, there is a New Year’s celebration in April when families give thanks to their parents and grandparents. They cleanse the Buddha statue to give thanks, cook food and go to the temple.

“It’s really fun,” An said. “It’s a time that my extended family comes together. We all live next to each other but don’t really have time to spend together a lot, so doing the [New Year’s] celebration is kind of like a gathering for everyone.”

An said he sees a difference between Cambodian and American holidays and likes the gift exchanges for American Christmas because Cambodians don’t exchange gifts. He said he also likes the traditional Thanksgiving food and how families come together.

Courtney Woods, sophomore pre-physical therapy major from Australia, celebrates Thanksgiving by going out to eat with roommates.

Australians celebrate Christmas and Australia Day, their equivalent to Independence Day.

Australia Day consists of a big festival at the beach, while Christmas in Australia is celebrated similar to the United States. She said she likes the Australian holidays and getting a day off school.

“I think [American holidays] are celebrated a little more than back where I am from,” Woods said. “I like it. It’s very stereotypical like how I grew up watching in the movies.”