International students plan to celebrate the holidays

The Pilgrims traveled many miles to experience their first Thanksgiving. So did UK international students.

As of spring 2017, UK had 1,625 international students, according to UK Institutional Research and Advanced Analytics data. That is approximately 5.6 percent of the student population.

Many of the international students stay on campus over the break, said Karen Slaymaker, assistant director for the International Student and Scholar Services.

She said many of the students are very interested in experiencing something new by celebrating American Thanksgiving.

“Campus gets really quiet that weekend, so we try to have fun things going on,” she said.

Two on-campus events will allow international students to celebrate Thanksgiving. On Nov. 20, the students will gather for a potluck dinner.

On. Nov. 21, a Multicultural Thanksgiving Dinner will take place at The 90, hosted by UK Alumni Association, Student Government Association, International Center and UK Dining, Slaymaker said.

This is the event’s eleventh year. Slaymaker said that more than 500 international students often come to the event, which used to be hosted in the student center’s ballroom.

Xiaolin Xi, a nutrition student at UK, came to the United States in March of this year, so this will be her first Thanksgiving.

Xi said she is probably most excited to eat pumpkin pie.

“I’ve never eaten roast turkey before, so I have no idea about that, but I think it will be good,” Xi said.

She said she plans to cook delicious food and prepare for her finals.

Not all international students celebrate the holiday on campus.

“A lot of times, they get to go home with their American roommates, and that’s really great,” Slaymaker said.

Mechanical engineering junior Khalid Al-Zadjali moved from Muscat, Oman, to the United States in 2014.

For several years, he celebrated Thanksgiving with other international students, but last year, he went home with a fellow student at UK for Thanksgiving.

“I experienced a real Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.

He compared the holiday to Eid, which is a holiday in his faith of Islam.

Communications junior Jincheng Zou, an international student from China, also spent Thanksgiving with an American family last year. He said his host family at the time invited him and other international students to Thanksgiving dinner.

“It was pretty neat,” he said. “I can taste the stuff that usually international students would not be able to get,” he said.

He said his favorite food was the turkey. He said he loved how the host family treated him, “a foreigner,” well.

This year, he plans to go to Louisville with his roommates to eat and shop.

Phoenix Feng is a student from Nanjing University in China. She said she learned about Thanksgiving from an English textbook in elementary school.

She plans to celebrate with classmates and UK professor Zixue Tai at a Chinese restaurant in Lexington. Their meal will also include a traditional stuffed turkey, which is the food she is most looking forward to trying.

“I am curious about the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce,” she said.

She said she and her classmates will be showing their appreciation to the Woodspring Suites staff, who she said have helped them a lot since they first arrived. She said they will buy them a gift card and write their thanks in a card.

Feng said many Chinese people show their thanks through festivals like the Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

“I won’t forget to keep in touch with my family members,” she said. “They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but I believe they can feel my thanks and love.”

Slaymaker said international students often compare Thanksgiving to fall festivals celebrated around the world, that celebrate bringing in the harvest or gathering as a family, for example.