Friendsgiving at SBU: Inclusion and Cultural Exchange

Thanksgiving break marked the last few days of rest and relaxation for students at Stony Brook University before the rush of finals season. While most students return home for the break and enjoy large meals with their families, not all students have that luxury.

A large portion of the student body at Stony Brook lives outside of New York, or even outside the United States. Without an easily accessible home to return to, these students often find themselves having a very quiet holiday break on an empty campus. As social media is bombarded by photos of scrumptious home-cooked meals, the students remaining on campus undoubtedly experience a feeling of missing out.

Friendsgiving dishes

In recent years, however, the phenomenon known as “Friendsgiving” has developed in the student community, and helps foster a sense of inclusion for all students, regardless of their ability to return home for the holidays.

Friendsgiving is essentially a large potluck. Groups of students work together to organize these events and prepare a variety of dishes for everyone to enjoy. Because of Stony Brook’s diverse demographics, the resulting collaborative effort leads to unique meals that transcend individual cultures.

For instance, at one Friendsgiving held in Tabler Quad, the classic, decadent Thanksgiving dishes of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables were accompanied by pico de gallo and Puerto-Rican style rice and beans. At another Friendsgiving organized by SBU students, typical dishes like pumpkin pie and stuffing were accompanied by mushroom biryani and raita.

Friendsgiving plate

Due to this unique scenario, Friendsgiving provides a platform for cross-cultural exchange in the context of a communal celebration. It also gives opportunities for students to present their cultural heritage to their social circles in a — pun intended — digestible manner.

“It gets pretty lonely here during the holidays,” said Mahir Alam, an international student from Bangladesh who experienced his first Friendsgiving this year. “Friendsgiving makes you feel like you’re part of a community. I didn’t think of Thanksgiving as anything important to me before, but after Friendsgiving, I’ll be looking forward to Thanksgiving every year because Thanksgiving has meaning to me now. Spending time with your friends, having good food, having fun. That’s what Thanksgiving is to me now.” 

— Boaz Abramson

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