For two foreign exchange students, Thanksgiving is all about one thing: the turkey.
“Turkey and all of that stuff, right?” Swedish exchange student Viktor Granelli, 17, said when asked what he knew about Thanksgiving. “Is pumpkin something, too?”
Italian exchange student Beatrice Bresciani, 17, knew a bit more about the holiday’s origins, though she also stressed that turkey was important.
“I know — because in Italy we studied English and a little bit of culture, but not that much — there is like a harvest thing with the Pilgrims, when the Indians helped the Pilgrims with the harvest, something like that, right?” she asked with a laugh. “I don’t know really; I just knew about turkey.”
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Both Granelli and Bresciani will celebrate their first Thanksgiving on Thursday, as part of their year studying in the United States.
For Granelli, a senior at Nipomo High School, the year has so far been about living in a place that is very different from his home in Stockholm.
“I was thinking of going to the U.S. for a long while, after my Swedish high school,” he said. “After my first year, I hated my class back home. So I came over to the States in August. My favorite thing was a camp in New York with other foreign exchange students. We did activities and saw New York. Here in California, my favorite thing has been family, friends and the weather.”
Granelli and his host family — Nipomo High School French teacher Michele Cossey, husband Steve Cossey and son Alex Cossey — will be traveling north of Stockton for the holiday, to have a Thanksgiving dinner with his “host grandparents,” he said.
I’m thankful for my real parents, and my host family. My real parents, because they gave me the possibility to come here, and I think they are proud of me that I stayed even after the first month when it was hard. And my host family because they treat me like their daughter.
“It sounds like fun,” he shrugged and smiled, though he noted that it is a little different from Swedish holidays such as Midsummer — his favorite holiday of the year.
“We have a tree, or something like a pole, and we dance around it and people sing songs and there’s alcohol and people drink a lot,” he said. “It’s a very good time.”
For Bresciani, also a senior at Nipomo High School, coming to school in the United States was about the language and seeing something new.
“I live in a very little village,” she said of her hometown, Brescia, in northern Italy. “I decided to come to the United States, not especially California, to learn English better was my first reason. Also to make friends, and see a new culture and new traditions — of course, Thanksgiving is one of them. And to take a break from my everyday life, because here is really different.”
Though at first the transition was hard — “I was very homesick” — Bresciani said that now she is loving life in California.
“After one month, it gets very better,” she said. “Now I’m more comfortable. I don’t want to go home.”
Though they have done a lot of traveling while she has been here, Bresciani said she and her host family — Mike Brunick, Jennie Brunick and daughter Elizabeth Brunick —are planning on staying at home in Nipomo for the holiday.
“My host mom will cook. She said turkey, of course, mashed potatoes and desserts; I don’t know all the things you eat,” she said. “My host dad said it is his favorite holiday because he can just lay down and can’t do anything. He said there will be a football game — I don’t remember what team — but he said he will watch the game and eat.”
No matter their plans, both teens said they have things to be thankful for this year.
“It’s going to sound cheesy,” Granelli said. “But I’m thankful that I’ve gotten the chance to study abroad.”
Bresciani has similar sentiments.
“I’m thankful for my real parents, and my host family,” she said. “My real parents, because they gave me the possibility to come here, and I think they are proud of me that I stayed even after the first month when it was hard. And my host family because they treat me like their daughter. So I’d like to say thank you to my host family and my parents.”