Columbia, SC (WLTX) - While a lot of students leave college to go home for Thanksgiving, some stay behind because their homes are not in our country. That is why the International Friendship Ministries hosted an International Thanksgiving Dinner at First Baptist church in Columbia on Friday.
"Thanksgiving is a very unique American holiday," said Raj Aluri, the executive director of International Friendship Ministries.
For most Americans, Thanksgiving means spending time with families. For international students, family is sometimes an ocean away.
"Being in a different country sometimes is hard, especially on some special festival," said Ruiqin Gao, an international student from China. "We do miss our parents, friends, [and] relatives."
"In my country too, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving," said Mohammed Albasri, an international student from Saudi Arabia.
Aluri says he organized the International Thanksgiving dinner with students like Gao and Albasri in mind.
"I was a student many years ago and I really went through this lonely, not feeling at home," Aluri said.
Although they were far away from home, the dinner gave international students a seat at the table.
"I'm really excited, this is my first Thanksgiving," said Kazuho Kamada, an international student from Japan.
On the menu were Thanksgiving favorites: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a mysterious purple goop which students found out to be cranberry sauce.
"In China, we do not have this kind of food," Gao said.
It was not just the food that excited these international students.
"What's exciting about this is just the notion of giving thanks," said Matsepo Ramaboli, an international student from Lesotho, "because most of the time in life, we don't have the time of giving thanks."
It was the idea that family is not only the people you share blood with, but the people you sit around the table and share a meal with.
"We are far away from our friends, relatives," Gao said, "but here, we are [a] big family."