By: Michelle Karim
As the lights in the Tabler Black Box theater dimmed, the dance floor was bathed in flecks of red and green disco lights and the latest pop music blared from the speakers.
A handful of 20-somethings danced to Bachata music. In ten minutes, the entire floor was occupied with tapping feet and moving arms.
Small circle tables for six covered both sides of the theater and people were swarming in, some hanging their coats in the corner and a lot of them getting in line for some pie, soda and rice pudding.
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Every year, the International Student Organization at Stony Brook University organizes its annual Thanksgiving feast to make students who live thousands of miles away from their homeland, feel welcome in the community.
“I feel homesick sometimes,” Patricia Jin, 21 ,president of the ISO said. Patricia’s parents are from China but she was born and brought up in Portugal.
“For New Year’s and other events, I wish I could go back home because we cook a lot of food and the whole family gets back together.”
Patricia organized the event to help instill the spirit of Thanksgiving in students. “It’s a season to be thankful- for family, friends and life,” she said.
According to the U.S State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the percentage of international students increased to over 70 percent over the past 15 years.
The evening was a ritualistic display of Thanksgiving decor and food- the roasted turkey, mac and cheese, cranberry and pumpkin pies and apple cider. Even the napkins had large, robust turkeys printed on them.
For a lot of students, campus events like these make all the difference and for others , it makes them feel a little closer to the Stony Brook community.
“I’m generally not homesick for some reason and whenever holidays come, I just do whatever I want,” Liyun Li, a junior Computer Science major said. “I don’t miss home as much when I’m here.”
A lot of the students had never experienced the Thanksgiving holiday and to a lot of them, it was a pretty fun way of learning about history and the American culture.
“We don’t have this holiday in Russia,” Alexandra Didenko, a Political Science graduate student, who is a Fulbright scholar from Russia, said. “I can see how people are excited about this holiday.”
Didenko will not be going home for New Year’s this year. “I will miss home but I have my friends with me and there is a lot to do here,” she said. Didenko usually makes it to the on-campus events as much as possible. “It keeps me busy.”
For some, the culture shock is not as great as it seem, albeit something new.
“Here, people are very nice and the college is very diverse,” Lucy Yang, a sophomore Sociology major said.
Yang has never felt left out and she likes it here. She would like to start a new life in America someday. “People here are more open to different races and different cultures so I really like it here.”