International students from Baylor celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S.

By Rachel Leland, reporter

International students from Baylor celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S.
International students from Baylor celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S.

This Thanksgiving, Baylor University international students gave thanks and ate their fill of turkey over the five day break.

Finland graduate student Otso Tolonen traveled with Baylor ambassador Mary Andrews to her home in Austin where feasting, friends and football awaited them. 

Andrews had befriended Tolonen and thought the Finnish international student would enjoy spending the holiday with her family in Austin. 
“He got to experience the food, food coma, football, and family fun that is Thanksgiving at my house!” Andrews said. 

Andrews said that her family which is quite large, enjoys inviting guests and friends over to share Thanksgiving dinner with.

“There were probably about 20 people there,” Tolonen said of the gathering. The meal was large enough to provide for the crowd. Tolonen said his favorite dish was the pie, of which there were five to choose from, including chocolate, pecan, pumpkin and apple.

“It reminded me of Christmas,” Tolonen said. “You have your family together and you eat similar food.” 

Tolonen, who was familiar with the holiday’s origin prior to coming to the United States, said that the access to American culture in his native Finland exposed him to the history surrounding the tradition.

“I know it is about the Pilgrims and how they were welcomed by the Native Americans,” Tolonen said before adding that this version of America’s “first Thanksgiving” is often romanticized. 

In 1621, Wampanoag Indians attended a three-day feast hosted by European settlers in Plymouth colony in what is now considered to be the first Thanksgiving. 

Tolonen admitted that he had celebrated the American holiday once before when he worked with an American colleague in Romania. The meal was a modest and only consisted of turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, but Tolonen was eager to use the opportunity to learn more about Thanksgiving. 

According to Tolonen, for many Finns the holiday is surrounded by intrigue and it is not uncommon for Finns to host Thanksgiving gatherings of their own. 

“A lot of American culture has landed in Finland,” Tolonen said. However, Tolonen admitted that the European attempts were not as meaningful as American celebrations. 

“You want to celebrate Thanksgiving but its not the same because you are with Finnish people and there is on emotional connection,” Tolonen said. 

Spanish senior Alvaro Elices had also celebrated Thanksgiving before with his American roommate at the University of Sterling in the United Kingdom. 

However, Elices said that nothing prepared him for the delicious Thanksgiving dinner his friend’s mother prepared in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

“The mother, it’s incredible how she cooks,” Elices said of Grand Rapids senior Collin Brook’s mother’s talents. 

Brooks who knew Elices from University Parks invited the Spanish student to celebrate his first Thanksgiving in America with his family. 

“In the morning we had pancakes,” Elices said. “It was very American.”