SMC Brings Thanksgiving to International Students

Santa Monia students receive yasui qian, a Chinese tradition which consists of a red envelope filled with money, during their Thanksgiving meal provided by the Associated Students of Santa Monica and the Asian Culture Exchange Association at the Santa Monica College cafeteria in Santa Monica, CA on Nov. 22, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)
Santa Monia students receive yasui qian, a Chinese tradition which consists of a red envelope filled with money, during their Thanksgiving meal provided by the Associated Students of Santa Monica and the Asian Culture Exchange Association at the Santa Monica College cafeteria in Santa Monica, CA on Nov. 22, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)

Desperately dropping classes, not getting enough sleep, and taking in massive amounts of caffeine. This is how most students have been spending their time at the end of another semester. Fortunately, Thanksgiving is coming up this week.

For the first time, SMC hosted Thanksgiving dinner in the cafeteria on Tuesday. This event was especially designed for international students, who usually do not have family close by and home is either too far or too expensive to visit.

Dario Gentiletti, 21, is an Italian SMC student majoring in business.

“For an international student, it is the most classic American thing. I feel so, because we have Christmas in Italy, we have Halloween, but Thanksgiving, I had no idea what it was. I feel like this is probably one of the most American traditions,” said Gentiletti.

The SMC campus will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but Thursday will also be a restless time for students applying to transfer. On a day where students usually prefer to enjoy time off  and forget about their academic problems, time is of the essence.

“My plan is studying, honestly, because I have to do my UC applications and my math exams,” said Gentiletti. “So probably I will join some American people that will play football for Thanksgiving, and have some dinner with my friends. With international friends, to celebrate America.”

Sheri-Anne Vaughans, 24, an economics major from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, explains how Thanksgiving is different in her native home. Despite not celebrating it as a November holiday like Americans do, they have the same idea of sharing and caring with the community.

“Well, in the Caribbean we don’t really have a Thanksgiving effect, it is just another day. Probably on a Sunday, whatever we grew in our gardens, we will pick it and give it to the church,” said Vaughans. “But we don’t have a big celebration or anything. If we have something like Thanksgiving, it is on October,” said Vaughans.

Most, if not all, of the international students were incredibly grateful for the event SMC hosted. For a lot of them, this is their first Thanksgiving experience ever. Dael Yang, 22, a sociology major from Paraguay was also grateful for Jennifer Chen, the host and person responsible for organizing the event.

“Actually I was really surprised SMC was able to pull this off. Thanksgiving is a very American tradition and it is a time to be thankful. Well, for international [students] to understand, being part of it is very good to adapt into a new environment,” said Yang. “And also, for Jennifer to even think about this and try to pull this off, it was something I am very proud of.”

Santa Monica College students serve themselves their Thanksgiving meal provided by the Associated Students of Santa Monica and the Asian Culture Exchange Association at the Santa Monica College cafeteria in Santa Monica, CA on Nov. 22, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)
Santa Monica College students serve themselves their Thanksgiving meal provided by the Associated Students of Santa Monica and the Asian Culture Exchange Association at the Santa Monica College cafeteria in Santa Monica, CA on Nov. 22, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)

In regard to what made her decide to host this event, Chen said, “Since I don’t have family here and I am mostly alone during Thanksgiving, if I look at other students, going back home to celebrate it with their family, I feel sad. Thanksgiving is just Black Friday shopping for me.”

Jennifer Chen, 21, is a business major, a President’s Ambassador, and the president of the SMC Asian Culture Exchange Association. When asked if organizing the event was difficult and time consuming, Chen answered in a very positive and subtle manner.

Dr. Katherine Jeffery serves herself her Thanksgiving meal provided by the Associated Students of Santa Monica and the Asian Culture Exchange Association at the Santa Monica College cafeteria in Santa Monica, CA on Nov. 22, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)
Dr. Katherine Jeffery serves herself her Thanksgiving meal provided by the Associated Students of Santa Monica and the Asian Culture Exchange Association at the Santa Monica College cafeteria in Santa Monica, CA on Nov. 22, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)

“Yes, it was a lot of work, but I don’t think it’s really hard. We are giving out free food, experience, and everybody loves to celebrate holiday together. The hardest part might be going to a lot of clubs to try to advertise this event and send out all the emails,” said Chen. “We got really lucky, because a lot of people actually loved this idea and really supported. Thanks to our advisor [Charlie Yen], we found donations so we could host this event and give out gifts to students as well.”

The  Asian Culture Exchange Association and Associated Students’ efforts gathered 280 students for the dinner. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables were served for international students to experience the classic Thanksgiving meal. Before everyone started feasting on the delicious food, Chen welcomed various students, board of trustees’ members, and the SMC president, with a heart-warming opening statement.

Chen said, “the reason why I asked you guys to do this is, I believe SMC is more than a place for education. We are your community, your friends, and even more, we can be a family to celebrate Thanksgiving together. That’s why we are all here!”