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Ryan Johnson, Published November 22 2012

NDSU international students take Thanksgiving 101

FARGO – This might have been the first year Huawei Lee and Karmun Koh celebrated Thanksgiving, and the international students from Malaysia were anxious to dive into the American holiday Thursday afternoon.

“We’re looking forward to getting to know the culture,” Lee, 22, said.

“And, of course, the food,” Koh, 21, said.

Lee and Koh were guests for the afternoon at the apartment of Anne Campbell, a part-time business instructor and doctoral student at North Dakota State University, as part of a program that matches international students with faculty and staff members to give them a taste of the Thanksgiving traditions and American culture.

The program, now in its third year, brought 77 students to 26 host families across the community this Thanksgiving.

Campbell said she was glad to share her work in the kitchen, and her quality time with boyfriend Kevin Litzau and his family, with Lee and Koh.

“It’s nice to be able to bring in people that don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “Thanksgiving is a time to be with family and enjoy them.”

Lee said while Malaysia doesn’t celebrate this particular holiday, they have a similar tradition of gorging on home-cooked food and spending time with loved ones for Chinese New Year.

“It’s like a family reunion dinner,” he said.

They made sure to share their own traditions, too, bringing over Malaysian pancakes and rolls they made.

Campbell said she made the classic Thanksgiving food that she enjoys cooking every year – a turkey and a ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, crescent rolls, green bean casserole and Stove Top Stuffing.

After dinner, the group planned to finish the big meal with pumpkin and apple pies.

Campbell said the family would also enjoy a few games with their guests, another one of her traditions for the holiday.

“We’re going to try to do Taboo, maybe Skip-Bo and a couple card games,” she said. “And watch football. That’s kind of a given.”

Koh said it’s easy to see why Thanksgiving is an important holiday for many Americans.

“It’s the get together because normally everyone’s busy with their own lives,” she said. “This is the holiday where they have a chance to get together and sit down and talk and really communicate, with good food, of course.”

But Lee admitted he still had a few things to learn about America’s traditions – including the “rough” game of football and perfecting a pass.

“I’m not sure how to throw a spiral,” he said.

“We’re still learning,” Koh said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587