Gratitude Extends Around the World 

Posted on December 01, 2023

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“I’m thankful to share this meal and conversation with other international students.”   

Those are the words of Liam Ross, an international student from the Netherlands pursuing his master of fine arts in acting at UNCG as he celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday with other students involved with the International Programs Center (IPC) and the chancellor of UNC Greensboro.  

A Thanksgiving Invitation

Thanksgiving, a traditional American holiday, offers an opportunity for unity, gratitude, and a showcase of cultural richness. UNCG’s Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. put this sentiment into practice by inviting international students to his home for a Thanksgiving dinner. 

“We don’t have a holiday like Thanksgiving in the Netherlands,” comments Ross. “We do have two Christmas celebrations where we give each other gifts and eat a meal together, but it doesn’t feel like this.”

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be here,” says Favour Omondi, a Ph.D. candidate in human development and family studies from Kenya. “This is very different from Kenya, but it’s nice to see everyone coming together.”  

The International students at UNCG were offered the chance to not only partake in the traditional food and trappings of this American holiday, but to also foster a sense of belonging and unity among their peers who might also feel a bit detached from these cultural festivities. It was an opportunity for them to experience firsthand the spirit of Thanksgiving.

“I’m thankful for the connections that I made today and for the quality of education,” says Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano student Jiawei Qu from China. “I am also thankful for being here today, and for everything that I have. We have a similar celebration in China that is Chinese New Year!” 

The Thanksgiving meal consisted of the traditional feast: turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and many more American favorites. Students were encouraged to try new foods and speak about their own experiences in their respective countries. 

International Student Reema Al-Qiam from Iran and Vanita Choomuenwai from Thailand say they are both thankful for the beautiful campus at UNCG. “I came to UNCG during COVID-19, but the greenery of the campus was wonderful. I like the comfort of nature,” says Al-Qiam.  

“At UNCG there is an aspect of education for everyone,” says Anjali Ramineni, a graduate student in IT management and head of the International Student Association who is from India. “In India, we have just finished celebrating Diwali, which is similar to Thanksgiving in that it is a big celebration that brings people together.”

International Potlucks

The study abroad programs are tailored to suit the academic needs and interests of UNCG students. From short-term summer programs to semester-long or even year-long exchanges, students have the opportunity to study in one of UNCG’s many partner universities across the globe. IPC plays a significant role in continuing this spirit of cultural exchange and inclusion beyond the Thanksgiving dinner. The program encourages students to broaden their horizons and gain a global perspective by providing opportunities to study abroad.

“This Thanksgiving, I am extremely grateful for all the friends I have made studying abroad,” says Josie Pickett, a fourth year business administration in management student. “I have created a network of smart, ambitious women who empower each other every day! I do not ever want to lose touch with these amazing people!”   

Pickett is currently studying abroad at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. “I want to achieve a strong understanding of the business world, so that I can apply what I have learned to benefit whatever job I secure in the future,” says Pickett. “I am unsure what career path I want to pursue once I graduate, but I am inclined to search for a career that allows me to travel part of the time.”

“I got to Italy early – about mid-July – and started class at the end of August,” says second-year UNCG student Nicolas Rangler. “My classes include the Italian language, organic agriculture, local cooking and cuisine, and sustainability and ecotourism. We go on trips almost every week to surrounding cities and towns to experience the true Italian culture.”  

Rangler and Pickett were able to spend their Thanksgivings with other students in the program and reflect on what they’re thankful for. 

“For Thanksgiving, we decided to do a potluck where the Americans brought our traditional Thanksgiving dishes and the Italians brought classic Italian dishes,” says Rangler. “We created a wonderful Italian-American Thanksgiving. I cooked a chicken in place of the turkey, with gravy, glazed apples, dinner rolls, and mac and cheese. They were all hits, especially the mac and cheese!” 

“This Thanksgiving, I celebrated twice!” says Pickett. “Both were amazing. Everyone brought their own dishes, and it was an eclectic mix of foods from all over the world. On Tuesday, our friend Dana hosted us at her apartment. We had chicken pot pie cups – think mini chicken pies – with mashed potatoes, and carrots, the more traditional Thanksgiving foods. It was paired with chicken stir fry and various Asian noodles and dishes such as egg potato salad. On Thursday, our friend Greta hosted us at her place. She was amazing! She cooked for two days, whipping up traditional Thanksgiving food such as oven-baked mac and cheese, stuffing and dressing, and even cooking sweet potato pie from scratch. It was also another potluck, so other foods were thrown into the mix, such as beef and mushroom dumplings.”

Prepared for a GLobal Adventure

Studying abroad not only exposes students to different academic environments but also immerses them in a new culture, lifestyle, and language. It’s a transformative experience that fosters global awareness, personal growth, and the development of valuable life skills. 

The IPC provides comprehensive support services to ensure students are well-prepared for their study abroad journey. These include pre-departure orientations, visa assistance, safety information, and ongoing support during their time abroad. 

“If UNCG didn’t have this study abroad program, I do not know where I would be today,” Pickett says. “Being thankful doesn’t even begin to cover how tremendous this experience has been. I feel like I am becoming a new better version of myself, and I owe a lot of it to UNCG for allowing me this opportunity.”

Story by Dana Broadus, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

Young woman poses in a coblestone alley with Japanese signs and lanterns around her.

Broaden your horizons.


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