11/26/09 — Students enjoy Thanksgiving, American-style

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Students enjoy Thanksgiving, American-style

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 26, 2009 7:01 AM

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Troy Herring

MOC president Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter, far right, helps carve the turkey while his wife, Mary, hands a plate to student Mario Aguilar during the college's annual Thanksgiving dinner.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Going home for Thanksgiving might be a tradition for some Mount Olive College students, but for others, the last Thursday in November is just another day, the college's student activities director Julie Beck said.

Thanksgiving has its roots deep in United States history, and it is not a holiday people from other countries might routinely celebrate. As the activities director for a school with dozens of students attending not only from out of the state, but from out of the country, Ms. Beck has seen some international students embrace the holiday. Others use the time off from school to do some sightseeing to explore and learn more about the country where they are studying.

"A lot of our international students, since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in their home countries, they take advantage of this opportunity to go and do some traveling and see some things in the U.S. So many of them will get together, three or four international students, and jump in a car and off they'll go exploring," she said.

But of the more than 200 students who signed up for the college's pre-Thanksgiv-ing dinner this week, several of them were international students, Ms. Beck said.

And she will be counting her blessings this year, too, she added.

"I'm thankful definitely for my heath, and for my family and friends, and of course I think we all have to be thankful to have jobs in this economy nowadays," she said.

For some of the students, American Thanksgiving has become more than just a good meal of turkey, even though it is not a holiday they traditionally celebrated in their home countries.

Felix Reimundo, a volleyball player from Cuba by way of Miami, said Thanksgiving is about being together with his friends even when he can't be with his family. Getting together for Thanksgiving with his teammates helped fight off any potential homesickness, too, he said.

"Thanksgiving's not always about family, it's also about friends. It's a good thing, because a lot of us know each other either from back home, or from the team. This kind of makes it more comforting, knowing your friends and having each other around. I don't miss home, I really don't," he said.

Friend, teammate and fellow international student Noel Garcia said he also enjoys taking the time during the holiday to be with his friends. He's most thankful for his health this year, he said.

"Being healthy and being strong," Garcia said.

Canada, like the United States, celebrates Thanks-giving as a national holiday, but it falls a month earlier on the calendar than the American Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is always the second Monday in October.

The strange timing of having Thanksgiving in November was different to Calgary native Jarvis Karchewski when he first came to the United States to attend school, but he did not choose to celebrate the October holiday this year. His parents did call to wish him a happy Thanksgiving, though, he said.

"They're like, 'How are things there? And I'm like, it's October," he said.

Even though he hasn't been home for the past two years to celebrate his own country's holiday with his family, he has enjoyed taking part in the American version. Even if he does get a little homesick, Karchewski admitted.

"Yeah, I kind of miss them, but at the same time it's kind of like my second family," he said.

He decided to attend the dinner with his friends and sports teammates to spend time with them.

"I have nowhere else to go, and I look good doing it," he said, drawing laughs from his group.