As local college students take a trip home with thoughts of a turkey dinner, those with parents on another continent are trying Thanksgiving meals for the first time, traveling across the nation or sticking on campus to study.
Iben Nielsen, a graduate assistant at Brenau University, left Wednesday to visit a family in South Carolina that she met as an exchange student at Brenau in fall 2006.
"We kept in contact after I went back to Denmark, then a year later the husband was promoted to a job in Sweden. In 2008 I started grad school in Sweden, and they took me in without hesitation and I lived with them while in Sweden," she said. "They will be back in Rock Hill, South Carolina, for Thanksgiving and so I am lucky enough to be able to go and spend the holidays with them."
Nielsen's host family in Gainesville cooked a pre-Thanksgiving dinner for her and five other Brenau students on Sunday before heading to Kentucky for the holiday. The group played football outside after dinner, which Nielsen said none of the international students had tried before.
"The family wanted to make sure that we as international students were able to experience the American holiday," she said. "They printed out and read out loud the story of how Thanksgiving came about. We each took our turn around the table to say what we are thankful for, and we got to eat way too much traditional American Thanksgiving food."
Trying another culture's tradition is what studying abroad is all about, said Julia Gosch, a North Georgia College & State University student from Austria.
"We don't celebrate Thanksgiving at all, so everything is new and exciting. I get the chance to go with a friend of mine to her family's house and experience a real American Thanksgiving dinner," she said. "I am excited about the turkey and all the sides because at home I prefer all the side dishes. The only thing we also have is mashed potatoes, so I will try everything I can get."
Renate Nikolaisen, a NGCSU student from Norway, is excited to visit her host family from the Rotary Club of Forsyth County.
"I am excited to try pumpkin pie because we don't have that in Norway, and when we hear about Thanksgiving, we hear about the turkey and the pumpkin pie," she said. "Since I am from Norway we eat a lot of fish, and unfortunately fresh fish is not a huge part of the diet here in Georgia. Most fish is fried."
The main dish at the center of the table is also different for Monica Muchene, a Brenau student who hails from Kenya.
"Usually goat meat is the main meat at the center of attention," she said. "And for the rest of the dishes, usually just rice and stew, so you can see it's not the whole mac and cheese, cranberry sauce and all. It's more like a day where we just have a regular meal and express thanks for what we have."
For Chen Ziwei, a Brenau student from Taiwan, it's about trying traditions around the country. A male graduate student at the all-female undergraduate university, Ziwei visited the Gainesville host family with Nielsen on Sunday and compared it to his experience in California last year.
"We really enjoyed the dinner, and my favorite dishes were the ham and mashed potatoes," he said.
"Honestly, I believe southern style Thanksgiving foods are much better tasting than those I had tasted in the West Coast."
During the break, Ziwei also plans to enjoy karaoke with friends, see the new Harry Potter movie and attend a Taiwanese wedding on Thanksgiving Day.
Fellow classmate Chang-Hsiu Chou, a Chinese student who also attended the host family meal, plans to brush up on her studies.
"I plan to go shopping but not on Black Friday," she said. "I'm mostly working hard on my finance course. It is the most difficult course in this section, and I need to work harder to catch up."