DHFS Friendsgiving can help international students feel more at home

Benroy Chan

As students return home next week to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday deeply ingrained in American culture, UT’s approximately 4,800 international students may view the tradition as a break from class and nothing more. Their disengaged attitude on this holiday reflects the student body’s failure to incorporate international students as a whole.

A 2015 study analyzed the negative experiences international students had in colleges in the southern United States. In interviews, these students said they faced social isolation and culture shock. While many students have to deal with being miles away from their families, international students must do so while learning new customs and eating unfamiliar foods. And due to language barriers, many of them also underwent academic struggles.

International students come to the 40 Acres for educational pursuits, but during this time, they have the right to grasp the city’s culture and be a part of it as much as any other student. Cultural barriers prevent this from happening, and more should be done to take them down.

This Thursday, DHFS will help create a Thanksgiving feeling at UT with a “Friendsgiving” dinner at J2 and Kinsolving. The title of the event is self-explanatory for students familiar with Thanksgiving, but without cluing international students into the idea of Thanksgiving’s, they’re effectively left out of the equation.

“I really don’t know much about Thanksgiving other than turkey and Black Friday,” geological sciences freshman Arisa Ruangsirikulchai said.
Ruangsirikulchai is from Bangkok, Thailand, and she started attending UT just this fall. Out of all the things she misses from home, she yearns for the community and food the most.

Although Ruangsirikulchai has been in the States for over a year, certain aspects of American culture trouble her that other students would deem as normal. 

“Americans seem really individualistic compared to Thai people,” Ruangsirikulchai said. “People starting random conversations with strangers also surprises me, and I miss the flavor [of Thai food] a lot.” 

Instead of letting international students remain disconnected from Thanksgiving, students and faculty at UT should encourage them to attend Friendsgiving. Students will have the chance to incorporate their international peers into the Longhorn family and, ultimately, American culture in general.

Chan is a journalism freshman from Sugar Land.