An International Thanksgiving

Many of us have been celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving full of family, turkey, and football, since we were young. But for most international students at SUU, their college years are their first introduction to the holiday.

Nouman Kante, a business management major from Mali. The junior never grew up celebrating the American holiday. 

“My culture is completely different from American culture typically. We have different traditions, different clothing, different food, different language[s], and different way[s] of learning.”

Kante explained that in Mali, there is no substitute for Thanksgiving. However, the country goes to great lengths to celebrate the new year, which resembles a lot of typical traditions of Thanksgiving. 

Besides the typical celebration on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve, Mali celebrates during the months leading up to the holiday.

“November and December are times for festivals and celebrations in Mali. Right now is festival time.”

As far as how this celebration is similar to American Thanksgiving, it all boils down to the food and family. During the New Year celebration, there’s one dish in particular that is particularly popular: chicken. 

Kante finds it amusing that while both holidays and countries are fairly different, both center around a poultry dish. 

“The main dish is chicken. And then here, [it’s] turkey. It’s like, both have this specific meat that everybody’s trying to eat.”

Although he didn’t grow up with Thanksgiving, Kante has learned to really enjoy the American holiday. And while he might not be with his biological family, he’s learned to enjoy the holiday with those around him.  

“I get to [be] with my ‘friend family’ all the time. I think it’s awesome. It’s good that people come together and celebrate as a family…I really like that aspect.”

This year, Kante will be experiencing Thanksgiving like never before. He will be travelling to Mexico, where he will spend time with his “Mexican family.” But just because he’s in a new country, doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of food. 

“We will have turkey, obviously, in a Mexican way, I guess,” Kante laughs.

For international students who will be staying in Cedar City over the holiday, the International Affairs office offers a Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 26 from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Great Hall.

“I’m really glad that we have something on campus that can give International students a chance to celebrate and see how Thanksgiving is celebrated in America.”

While we might celebrate different ways, Thanksgiving should be about being with loved ones, reflecting on the good things in life. Whether you’re from a small town in Southern Utah or one of the largest countries in West Africa, there’s always room to be grateful for something. 


Story by: Amanda Walton
Photo courtesy of SUU and