Campus News

Turkey Time and Family Fun: International Student Shares Thanksgiving Experiences

Haruna Yamagata
Haruna Yamagata

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 22, 2017) With studying abroad, comes the excitement of making new friends and experiencing new traditions and holidays that influence a culture. University of Kentucky freshman Haruna Yamagata enjoyed every moment with her host family when she first experienced Thanksgiving as a high school exchange student in Ashland, Kentucky.

“In Japanese daily life, my family has dinner together every day. But here in the U.S., it’s hard to find family time because everyone’s schedules are so different,” Yamagata said. “I view Thanksgiving as a meaningful way for families to finally get together and share special moments.”

Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Yamagata explained that Japanese citizens do not celebrate Thanksgiving. Rather, the holiday they celebrate after Halloween is Christmas. This year, Yamagata, a student in the Lewis Honors College, said she plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with a classmate who she recently grew close to during her first semester at UK.

“My new friend and I hang out a lot, and I’m really excited to spend time with her family during Thanksgiving break,” Yamagata said. “Oh, and of course I’m excited for the food!”

When asked about her favorite Thanksgiving foods, Yamagata said she enjoys ham the most. “I had never seen a whole ham in Japan … only the thinly sliced kind for sandwiches,” she said. “I loved the taste!”

Yamagata mentioned her main take-away of the day she first celebrated Thanksgiving. She recalls the warm moments with her host family sharing stories and laughing throughout the Thanksgiving feast. Yamagata also described the new foods she tried.

“I was surprised by how much food my host family provided,” Yamagata said. “I had never seen a whole turkey in my entire life! My house dad let me touch the raw turkey, and I freaked out a little bit,” she continued.

Yamagata’s face lit up as she shared what she is thankful for this year: her family. “Without their support, I couldn't be here at UK,” Yamagata said.

She also said she’s thankful for her friends. “Even though I have trouble with participating in fast conversations, they are patient and really show that they care about me,” she said. “I have so much fun with my friends. They’re a huge reason as to why I love this campus so much.” 

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