How out-of-town students are celebrating Thanksgiving this year.
For many of us, Thanksgiving is a day spent with family. Whether you start your day in the yard for an early morning Turkey Bowl game, or you lazily watch the parade (and the much underrated dog show) until it’s time to meet up with the folks later in the evening, it’s an annual chance to catch up and reminisce. But while some of us groan over the hasty carpool planning and squished two-hour trip back home to Cleveland, other students at Ohio State are facing thousands of miles and dollars between them and home.
There’s nothing wrong with having complaints about the lack of reading material outside of “HELL IS REAL” driving up I-71, but $35 for a full tank of gas seems like a small price to pay compared to a nine hour flight that would cost you damn near two months rent. Instead of focusing on the ways to entertain your drive, I want to provide you with some perspective. Perspective in the form of students who spend their Thanksgiving on campus, making families out of the friends they have met in classes, at the bars, and everywhere in between.
Take senior Erika Burwinkle, for example. She was ready to be a Thanksgiving host from the get-go. She’s been hosting a Friendsgiving with OSU friends since she first lived off-campus her sophomore year.
“My roommate and I started our day bright and early, wrestling a giant raw turkey into the oven,” she recalled. “As a vegetarian, it was disgusting. So I focused on making pies, vegetables, and an apple cider sangria to share with everyone.”
The meal itself is the most important component of any good Friendsgiving. That being said, don’t feel like you are solely responsible for all the food. Let everyone give their cooking a go for the first time! That’s how Burwinkle went about it.
“We ended up with enough food to feed 20-something friends for dinner and had enough leftover to reheat throughout the night as more people joined.”
Sophomore Maggie Poltorak flies in from California every year for classes here, and the rising costs of commuting to the west coast don’t allow her to return home every holiday. A quick search on Google’s Flights for tickets flying out of Columbus on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and returning on the Sunday before classes start at $400. Yikes.
Though $400 is a steep price to pay, the worst part for Poltarak isn’t so much the logistics or the finances, it’s the constant reminders on social media that you just aren’t at home with the family.
“Overall I wouldn’t say it’s the worst thing I have to endure as an out-of-state student. The worst thing is all of the pictures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. of everyone with their families around the Thanksgiving table,” Poltarak explained. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to go over to my grandma’s in Cleveland but I definitely miss my immediate family and wish home wasn’t so far away.”
She’s not the only out-of-state student who shares this sentiment. International students who can’t afford to fly all the way home for break (around a holiday that they’re not even used to celebrating) struggle to get through the weekend.
“I spent my first Thanksgiving with my host family,” Carrot Wang, a junior from China, shared. “Not a very entertaining story, but I had a dinner with them and we played some games. It was great to see how people here celebrate the holiday, and the turkey was much better than what I’ve had back in my home country.”
Wang pushes for international students to join Global Engagement Night where food will be shared and there will be some games and discussions about Thanksgiving.
Alternatively, our very own writer, Nicole Pizarro, offers some advice for making your Thanksgiving feel more personalized. As a graduate student and a native of Puerto Rico, she spends her Thanksgiving on campus surrounded by other grad students in the same position of not being able to go home for the holiday.
“It’s usually a potluck, sometimes there’s a turkey and sometimes there isn’t. We make it our own. Since I’m from Puerto Rico, I like making desserts from the island. These last few Friendsgivings I’ve made coconut flans, coconut puddings, and sangria.”
Since her Friendsgivings aren’t as strictly planned, she has plenty of freetime to bounce from her friends’ houses that are also hosting a get-together.
“Last year, my best friend and I Friendsgiving-hopped through different parties being held by both professors and students. It was very meaningful to be amongst friends, especially after hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and communication with my own family was incredibly limited. They made me feel welcome.”
As for coping with the short holiday, international student and senior Willy Chen offers this:
“Know that there are other people who are going through the same things. Be proactive so you’re actually coping with it instead of just letting it hit you in the face. Like last year I went to Toronto with my now-roommate; she’s from Missouri so she wasn’t going to go home for a few days. We were two people both not being with their families on this day where you’re supposed to be, so we had a Thanksgiving dinner at CN Tower. We had each other and it really brought us closer.”
And if you’re feeling up for it enough, try putting on your first holiday extravaganza. Your closest Buckeye buddies will be grateful, and it never hurts to craft some good ol’ warm fuzzies for yourself. Not to mention, when you are just looking for a sense of community and family, having terrible food isn’t the worst thing that could happen. It’s better to eat bad food with good company than it is to eat good food alone.
Feature illustration by Ryan Caskey.