Football, shopping and unhealthy amounts of food intake are all parts of Thanksgiving. However, for international students, the holiday is as foreign as the country where they’re receiving their education.
The Baptist Student Ministry’s internationals ministry held its second annual International Thanksgiving Nov. 15 at First Baptist Church of Belton’s gym. Foreign students congregated with American students to celebrate and learn about a uniquely American tradition.
“The goal is to give them an experience of Thanksgiving,” sophomore nursing major Jessica Walker said. “They’re not going to go home to China (for the break), and Thanksgiving is an American holiday.”
Walker gave a brief history of the holiday, and then other students shared their individual family traditions that go along with the day of thanks.
An impressive spread of food consisting of everything from turkey and dressing to pecan pie was served to students. The event was intended to give foreign students the chance to learn more about U.S. culture.
Graduate student business management major Huajie Huang said he was excited to talk to Americans and learn about Thanksgiving at the event and hoped to forge new friendships.
The BSM internationals mission’s goal is to bring American students and foreign students together on campus. They hold an event once a month to accomplish the goal.
“Americans are nervous to talk to international students, and international students are nervous to talk to American students,” Assistant Director of BSM Jena Coulson said. “So we provide a place where both have been invited, and so it’s natural for both to intermingle. From that we hope that they will build relationships – one-on-one relationships.”
During the break that comes with this holiday, students from other countries are usually left with nowhere to go while American students return to their homes to spend time with families.
Some will stay on campus while others who live in dorms will have to move into local American homes. Huang has made plans for his break.
He is going to Austin to spend some time in Chinatown. He also is looking forward to shopping on black Friday to find good sales.
Those involved in internationals missions hope that American students will invest in foreign students so they will feel welcome at the university. Walker encourages Americans to meet and build relationships with them.
“Through the ministry, I’ve been able to get to know them (internationals) as really good friends,” she said. “Sometimes when you first meet them, it’s hard to get past that gap, but I’ve been able to get past that. They are now dear friends of mine. Some of them have come to know Christ, so it’s been awesome.”
Whether it’s talking about the holidays or football or shopping, Walker wants students to break the barrier between themselves and internationals.
“They’re afraid to talk to Americans,” she said. “It makes them nervous to get out of their comfort zone because Americans stay in their little group, and so do they with their culture. So they’re afraid of rejection, and they usually can’t keep up with us talking because we’ll talk fast and not be considerate.”