a, Student Life

Friends, family, and food: an international perspective on turkey day

The traditional Canadian Thanksgiving calls to mind images of lively family gatherings, shameless gluttony, and moments of meaningful reflection. For many of McGill’s culturally diverse student body, however, Thanksgiving is a new experience. Separated by great distances from home and family, these students often find alternative ways to partake in the autumn tradition. We talked to fellow McGillians about how they have interpreted the turkey-fueled holiday and what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving.


Simon Rioche, U3 Management

“Before coming to Montreal [from France], I had no idea about Thanksgiving—[except] through Obama kissing a turkey on the TV. Even in my first year, I would see my Canadian and American friends leaving for home, but I had to stay and eat turkey in [residence]. Thomas, my Canadian roommate, invited me to his family dinner at a native reserve and they became my second family. They gave me a family gathering where I’ll feel welcome even though I’m a stranger[.…] So this year, I looked forward to going to it even though I know I’ll be so late in all my work. We will be having our beer in front of the hockey game, part of a Canadian family.”


Michele Kim, U1 Anatomy & Cell Biology

“I didn’t actually celebrate Thanksgiving with my family because we have a separate version of Thanksgiving in Korea. It’s not a super important holiday, but it reminds you to be thankful even for just a day, a meal, focusing on what you’re thankful for in life and what’s going well and what a lot of people probably don’t have. If you’re always focused on yourself, you can get very stressed out about what’s going on in your life. [When] you talk to your friends, your family, you gain perspective. It’s not just about what’s happening with you […] I’m honestly just thankful for everything. There are bad things, but everyone has bad things. Everything could be better, but life’s pretty great where it is right now.”


Enrique Pale, Masters of Business Administration

“In Mexico, we don’t have a special day like this. This is my second Thanksgiving that I am experiencing in Canada. For me, it’s a special time to spend with your friends and the family you’re staying with. I think a little longer about the things I have and this opportunity to study abroad[.…] It’s a moment to have good food, good drinks, and good company. Not everyone has this opportunity, for five months to be someplace nice like Montreal. I don’t meet people from all over the world normally in my hometown [.…] Getting to know many people from different cultures, different perspectives, what they want to do with their lives, and so on—that makes you grow. So I’m thankful for having these experiences for my future.”


Renuka Srinivasan, U3  International Development Studies

“The first time I’d ever heard of Thanksgiving was two years ago. I wasn’t actually aware that this was a thing; there is no Thanksgiving in India. For me, it’s an extra [vacation], a time to catch up on stuff, but I will stuff a turkey because I like the tradition of it, even if I don’t share any of the cultural significance. I’ve always seen it on TV and wanted to do it, even just for the fun of doing it with my friends[.…] I’m thankful for my health, for my family, for being here in Canada, this lovely day. I’m thankful for my friends, thankful for Montreal […] because the weather isn’t horrible yet.”

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