7 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner as an International Student

On the fourth Thursday of November every year, Americans observe Thanksgiving Day, a secular national holiday centered on giving thanks. The first Thanksgiving occurred in the 1600s when the Pilgrims and America’s indigenous people (also known as Native Americans) came together for a feast to celebrate the harvest and other blessings.

Though some things have changed since that first “harvest feast,” the holiday still centers on gratitude, and celebrating with friends and family over a shared meal. Dinner is the main event on Thanksgiving, and for many Americans, their traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of: roast turkey, turkey stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Of course, many Americans will have other dishes and desserts to commemorate the day, and will also participate in activities such as watching football on TV or going to see a local game, or watching the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV (or in-person if you live in New York City).

Regardless of what’s eaten, what’s watched, or how it’s celebrated, at its core, Thanksgiving is really about coming together with friends and family and reminding ourselves how much we have to be thankful for. As long as you’re reflecting and giving thanks, you are celebrating Thanksgiving.

If you’re interested in hosting your own Thanksgiving feast, we’ve gathered seven tips to help you celebrate the holiday:

Plan out your meal as far in advance as possible…

Start by figuring out your menu at least the week before (if not earlier) and determine what supplies you’ll need. Some things to start thinking about:

  • What food and ingredients you’ll need for the recipes you want to make
  • How many dishes and utensils you’ll need for your dinner guests
  • What sort of space do you need to host all of your guests — will you require more chairs or another table?
  • What time you want to host dinner

By starting to plan out the details of Thanksgiving Day, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to prepare and host the meal, and also means you have a game plan for grocery shopping, as the stores get crowded in the week leading up to the actual day. Planning ahead also means you can give your friends or family members enough time to make arrangements or to contribute and help you prepare.

…Including purchasing non-perishable items ahead of time

In addition to planning out your meal as far in advance as possible, try to buy as many ingredients or supplies as you need in advance too. For example, many families will purchase cranberry sauce pre-made in a can, which is something you can buy early. By purchasing some items well ahead of Thanksgiving, you can ensure that some of the ingredients or supplies are in stock and readily available for purchase.

Incorporate your own culture and traditions

The original Thanksgiving brought together the Pilgrims and the Indigenous people in America – each group coming from very different cultures. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, you too can bring your own culture into this American tradition to make it distinctly yours. Consider some of your own favorite traditions or holidays and the food and rituals that accompany them. Is there something you can incorporate into your Thanksgiving meal? Maybe it’s choosing one of your favorite dishes that could pair well with some of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Maybe it’s adding a course that represents your culture, or playing games that you typically associate with a holiday from home. It’s okay (and encouraged) to make Thanksgiving a holiday that is personal and special to you.

Accept help!

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is that it brings people together, so if you’re nervous about cooking the entire meal yourself, ask for help from the people you’ve invited. Encourage American friends to bring their favorite dish, or ask your fellow international students to contribute a dish that’s from their culture to complement the meal. You don’t need to do it all on your own, and oftentimes the meal is that much more enjoyable when you have friends and family sharing their dishes and participating in the cooking.

Create a cooking schedule

Cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal — with the turkey, all of the side dishes and desserts — is certainly a big undertaking, and one that requires a plan. Just the turkey itself can take several hours to cook, so you’ll need to plan when and how you’ll cook your other dishes with this in mind. Many dishes can be prepared completely or partially the day before (or in some cases, even a little earlier) so that you are only finishing or re-heating those dishes on the day of Thanksgiving.

Set the table the night before

If you have the space and are able, set your table the night before the meal to save yourself some extra steps on Thanksgiving. Lay out the utensils your guests will need and any other necessary dishes, so that you can be ready to serve and eat. This will save you time, and also cut down on any commotion in the kitchen during the meal.

Focus on enjoying the deal and your meal — not perfection

This is definitely the most important tip we could give you. Like we mentioned at the beginning of the post, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and being with your family and friends. It’s not about having the perfect table set up or the perfect meal. Don’t stress out too much about getting your mashed potatoes just right, the turkey taking a little too long, or having to fit a lot of people into a small space. What matters most are the memories you’re creating. Enjoy the work you put into your meal and be proud of yourself for bringing your friends or family together.

American Football for Beginners

They say that America’s favorite pastime is baseball, but if you’ve ever observed a Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night at a bar or pub, you’ve likely noticed that everyone is there to cheer on their football team. Football is an extremely popular American sport — though it’s not to be confused with the “football” that the rest of the world watches. American football is a lot different than its global counterpart, which Americans refer to as “soccer.” American football is a sport that both fans and non-fans alike gather together to watch, not just because of its entertainment value, but because of its cultural importance. That’s why we’ve compiled a handy guide to understanding American football for any beginner out there who wants to understand more about the sport (and the cultural phenomenon).

The Rules of the Sport

In football, two teams play opposite each other on a 100-yard field (that’s 91.44 meters) with the sole purpose being to score the most points in a 60-minute game, consisting of four quarters (15 minutes each quarter). Each team is comprised of 53 players, with 11 players on the field at a time, depending on if they are playing offense or defense against the other team.

Each team tries to move the football into the opponent’s end zone, which is located at the end of the field, to score a touchdown. A touchdown is worth six points, but you have the opportunity to score an additional one point with a field goal or an additional two points with an additional play.

Teams move the ball down the field through a series of plays. The offense must move the ball 10 yards down the field, every four plays (called downs). To get a first down, the team must successfully move the football 10 yards. Teams do this by either passing or handing off the ball to their teammate, while the opposing team tries to block the pass or stop the running from making his way down the field.

When It’s Played

32 teams play in the National Football League, or NFL. The NFL football season begins in September and lasts until the end of December or early January, with the final game of the season being the Super Bowl, which occurs sometime in January or even early February.

Games take place on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays throughout the season.

Cultural Impact

American football is more than just a sport – it’s a bonafide cultural phenomenon in the U.S. Many people are fans of the sport due to their love of the game itself, but even non-fans watch football. This is because of the culture surrounding football games. For those people who watch the games in person, it can be a day-long event that starts with tailgating – a term which refers to people gathering around in the parking lot of the football stadium, grilling, listening to music, and hanging out by their cars until the game begins. It’s something that everyone can enjoy, even if they’re not necessarily a big sports fan. Similarly, for those people watching at home, they might invite friends over, and plan snacks, drinks, and food around the game. It’s a reason to gather together and support a team – or engage in a little rivalry. As a result, watching football sometimes transcends the sport itself and more so prompts the social activity or feeling of camaraderie. Even if you’re not sure you’re interested in the sport itself, we highly recommend attending a game or game-day social gathering to get a sense of what it’s like to support one of America’s favorite sports.

5 Reasons Why We Love Fall

It’s finally feeling like fall. The air is crisper, people are starting to wear their sweaters, and the pumpkin spice frenzy has officially spread to coffee drinkers. Summer tends to get all of the fanfare when it comes to favorite seasons, but we’re here to make the case as to why you should love fall in the U.S.

Leaf peeping

Depending on where you live, you may be able to witness the magic of Mother Nature as the leaves start to change colors. As the chlorophyll in leaves starts to break down, they go from their natural green color to a vast array of colors normally associated with fall: reds, yellows, and oranges. There are places across the U.S. where you can see this phenomenon in action. The New England area tends to be known for its prime leaf peeping locations, but there are other states where you can catch a glimpse of these radiant colors too. Enlist a few friends, rent a car, grab some hot chocolate, and drive around taking in the colors.


Fall in the US tends to be homecoming season. Homecoming literally means “coming home” – but when used in the context of your university, it tends to mean the time of year (usually a weekend or week) when alumni return to campus for various school-focused events. You may have first been introduced to the concept of a “homecoming dance” in US TV shows and movies. Some universities may have those, but mainly homecoming consists of a big football game or sporting event, and other fun events geared towards reuniting alumni with each other, and providing ample opportunities for bringing the student community – of past and present – together. Check out your school’s event calendar to see what sort of fun activities your university has scheduled for homecoming.


Calling all candy lovers! Halloween is definitely a reason to love fall. For one thing, there are lots of Halloween-themed events, sites, and activities usually planned throughout the month of October. Throughout the country, there are pop-up theme parks that you can go to where they have multiple haunted houses and rides intended to scare and thrill you. Many cities and towns have ghost tours that you can go on that will show you the spookiest spots and share scary stories.

Additionally, someone is always throwing a Halloween party this time of year – expect the weekends, and days leading up to Halloween to be filled with opportunities to have fun with friends in your spookiest (or most clever) costumes. People tend to take their costumes very seriously, with many planning weeks and months ahead of Halloween. Be sure to get your costume ready ahead of time as many of the Halloween stores tend to sell out as you get closer to the holiday. Finally, if parties or haunted houses aren’t your thing, you can always hand out candy to kids in your neighborhood. Stock up on candy in advance, leave the light-on outside of your apartment (or put some fun Halloween decorations up on your door) and wait for trick-or-treaters to knock!

Apple-picking and pumpkin-picking

Sure, at first glance, it might seem like “apple-picking” and “pumpkin-picking” is just picking fruit. But going apple-picking and pumpkin-picking are fall past times. It’s more than just about the “picking” of the fruit – it’s about the entire experience. You go to an orchard or a farm with some friends, and you spend the day selecting some apples or the perfect pumpkin (did we mention it also makes for great Instagram posts?!) After you’re done picking, you can either enjoy the fruit of your labors (sorry for the pun – we couldn’t help it!) or you can indulge in the various snacks the farm likely has to offer. Many farms offer things like hot chocolate or apple cider and cider doughnuts for purchase, offering the perfect complement to a day of picking. Take your apples home to bake into apple pie or apple crisp, and carve your pumpkins into a spooky design just in time for Halloween.


Baseball might have the title of America’s favorite past-time, but it’s football that really has America’s heart. You can find many Americans every Sunday gathering together to watch football, whether in person or on TV. It’s a distinctly American sport, and there’s something for everyone, whether or not you’re really into the sport itself. For starters, many colleges and universities have football teams. We definitely recommend attending a game at your school, even if just for the camaraderie and school spirit alone. The games are usually a day-long event, with people tailgating, meaning that they’ll host a pre-game event with food, music, and drinks to prepare for the game. If you want to watch a pro team, in-person is really fun, but you can have a great time gathering around a TV with a bunch of friends to watch at home. Even if you don’t love sports, there are always plenty of “game day” snacks – think Buffalo chicken wings, nachos, chips and dip – and usually some great commercials in between the game.