International students to experience American Thanksgiving in Chicago

Rachel Christian

Tom Gibbons isn’t going home for Thanksgiving this year, but it’s hard to blame him. His hometown is nearly 4,000 miles away.

Gibbons, a sophomore history major, is from Warrington, England, about halfway between Liverpool and Manchester.

This year, he is one of dozens of international students at USI who is staying in the United States next week during the five day holiday break.

He won’t be staying on campus, though. Gibbons will be traveling to Chicago with members of iClub, an organization of American and international students.

The 25 students going on the trip plan to attend a Thanksgiving parade, eat a Thanksgiving meal and participate in Black Friday shopping. Gibbons said that although the concept of Black Friday has spread to parts of Europe, he’s interested to see it on a much larger scale.

“It’s one of the fun things about being in America,” Gibbons said. “We all want to experience these customs and traditions that are unique to this country.”

There isn’t a holiday similar to Thanksgiving in England, Gibbons said. Christmas is about the closest thing.

In England, people are already counting down to Christmas, he said.
“Here, everyone is saying ‘No, no, it’s too early, Thanksgiving isn’t even over yet,’” he said.

Gloria Tatenda Sengwa, a freshman economics major, will also be traveling to Chicago over break. Like England, Sengwa’s home country of Zimbabwe doesn’t have a holiday similar to Thanksgiving. In fact, November is traditionally a month of reservation, where people don’t throw parties, get married or propose.

Sengwa said she thinks it’s cool that America has a day dedicated to “families reuniting and being thankful for what they have.”

Sengwa said there isn’t really a need for a holiday like Thanksgiving in Zimbabwe. Unlike in America, families members tend to live much closer to each other, so there isn’t a need to have one day a year where they all reunite, she said.

“But it is always interesting to see the unique and different things a country does,” Sengwa said.

Although Gibbons had been to the United States prior to studying abroad, his visits to New York and Washington D.C. were “worlds apart” from Indiana.

“Indiana – it’s sort of like the America they show in movies,” he said. “With the wide open spaces and just that American feel.”

Gibbons, who came over in August and will spend next semester at USI as well, said he misses home, but also knows it won’t be too long before he gets to see his friends and family again over winter break. He’s made friends with a student from Scotland, as well as several German students.

Gibbons said he wants to see as much of the country as he can while he’s here.

“People will say, ‘Well it’s not too far, it’s only about a four hour drive,’” Gibbons said. “Not too far? I can drive half way across my country in about four hours. There’s just so much space, so much to see.”