The spirit of Thanksgiving is one of family, friends, love, inclusiveness, gratitude, and last but not least, a feast of amazing food. This holiday, celebrated mainly in the US and Canada, is a favourite for many because it isn’t focused on presents or crazy decorations. Instead, it’s about togetherness and being surrounded by friends and family.

While this is a chance to reflect on your lives, take time to appreciate everything surrounding us, and in turn be grateful. If you’re an international student in the US, and you don’t have family to celebrate this holiday, rest assured you can still find ways to make the most out of it and have your slice of pumpkin pie.

A great way to kickstart this fall season tradition would be the gift of giving. With plenty of charity events, donation drives, and other social gatherings organised by university students and committees, you won’t be amiss of this inclusive festivity. Below we explore some of the top universities in the US that go full-out with their Thanksgiving traditions and events:

Thanksgiving Dinner, Ohio State University (OSU)

Thirty years ago, a few graduate students decided to throw their own feast. Today, it’s become a legendary bash for students unable to make it home for the holidays. Last year’s Thanksgiving Dinner included 120 turkeys, 432 pounds of green beans and corn, 320 pounds of corn bread and 120 pies for 1,600 hungry guests. This year’s dinner is anticipated to have 2,000 guests and is OSU’s largest Thanksgiving Day dinner on campus.

Spirituality Development Month, Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) devotes the month of November to spirituality – in the spirit of giving, caring, and kindness. They showcase the religious and interfaith initiatives and organisations at the university.

Celebrating unity at Thanksgiving with Carnegie Mellon University. Source: Daniel Boczarski/AFP

Offering two Thanksgiving lunches in mid-November for students of all faiths, these meals are a chance for students to sit down with each other and appreciate the diversity of the college. The Spirituality Development Month is a chance to really bring everyone together.

The March to Kreiderheim, Lebanon Valley College

Here’s a less-traditional Thanksgiving tradition that is over 50 years old. The March to Kreiderheim happens when Lebanon Valley College’s football team beat their arch-rivals Albright College in a pre-Thanksgiving game.

If Lebanon Valley College’s football team wins, hundreds of students march to the college president’s home to petition for an extra day off over Thanksgiving break. Unsurprisingly, their request is usually granted. What a deal, a win for a holiday!

Turkey Trot, Lehigh University

The Turkey Trot doesn’t involve our feathered friends gobbling around campus – in fact, it couldn’t be further away than this. It’s a 2.6 mile run around Lehigh University’s campus, and strictly for human participants. Their numbers are estimated at 400 to 600 annually. Marking the end of Lehigh’s “Spirit Week,” runners can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner afterwards, a chance for both staff and students to refuel.

Run hard, eat big. The Turkey Trot at Lehigh University involves running 2.6 miles around the campus before indulging in a Thanksgiving feast for staff and students. Source: William West?AFP


Project Feast, University of Maryland

The University of Maryland medical school, alongside a variety of other professional schools, hosts an annual Thanksgiving feast for the homeless folks in their surrounding area. They provide foods like turkey, stuffing, pies and the whole shebang expected at Thanksgiving dinners. 

Along with this feast, they also arrange clothing, toiletry, and food drives in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Students can volunteer on the various different committees, cook a turkey and just enjoy the gift of giving. 

Giving back to the communities who need it most should always be something you should do, especially during Thanksgiving. Source: Mario Tama/AFP

Thanksgiving at Home, Yale University

Another popular Thanksgiving tradition, which is practised at many American universities, is to offer international students the experience of a traditional Thanksgiving meal with an American host family – a sort of homestay meal, if you will. Yale University is one of them.

American hosts come from a wide range of backgrounds with their own traditions, which could lead to international students discovering a Thanksgiving beyond what they’ve seen on telly. Yale’s programme is truly a gift of giving, as hosts open their home to international students for a full day of food and fun. 

In short, celebrating this American federal holiday can be all fun and games, but safety measures should be taken with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Precautions should be made to prevent transmission between people, and events should be modified to make it a safer environment. If you are unsure, you can follow WHO’s safety guidelines.

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