Nearly 9,000 miles from home, the Northeast Community College students who hail from Malawi are experiencing a variety of firsts this school year.
Another will take place Thursday when they see what Thanksgiving in America is all about.
In a recent interview at the college’s Welcome Center, the students said they’re excited for the holiday but also a bit nervous about the cold weather that traditionally comes not long after Thanksgiving. Malawi, after all, isn’t exactly a place where winter coats are needed.
Even though Western culture has had its effect on Malawi, the students said they do not celebrate Thanksgiving back home. Some said they don’t know a lot about the holiday — except that they get a few days off from classes.
But others had a better grasp on what Thanksgiving is and means in the United States.
“Thanksgiving is about giving thanks,” Charlotte Kadangwe said. “Friends and family sit, eat and celebrate together.”
“Thanksgiving is a time where there is love among the people,” Jimmy Ndipo said. “They share things and different stuff.”
“The way the name suggests, it’s the time of giving thanks to God for the year,” Taurayi Sawerengera said. “You celebrate with your family and your friends. I have heard that most people travel because they want to gather somewhere where they have friends or family.
“As for me, I am one of the lucky people here because my host parent is taking me to another state,” she added. “So I am really looking forward to that. I am going to Indiana. I am really excited, and I can’t wait.”
Meeting friends and family of his host family is something that Macphinley Dzanja said he is looking forward to about Thanksgiving.
Students said they also are looking forward to the food that will be prepared and eaten — and meeting new people.
For many of the students, this is the first time that they will really celebrate a holiday other than Christmas.
“For the whole year, (Christmas) is the only time (people in Malawi) celebrate holidays where you have family and friends gathering together,” Taurayi Sawerengera said.
Another student expressed an opinion about why he thought this holiday was unique.
“(Thanksgiving) is kind of unique because it concerns everyone in the country,” Macphinley Dzanja said.
One of the things the students are less excited about this time of year is the coming wintry weather. They got a little taste of cold conditions earlier this month.
“I have been here for a year,” Charlotte Kadangwe said. “I absolutely despise the cold. I am not looking forward to it.”
The students said seeing snow for the first time was an interesting experience.
“It was kind of cool because in 18 years I had never seen snow,” Macphinley Dzanja said. “It was really super awesome seeing snow.”
But there was a downside.
“Despite that,” he said, “I had to wear a coat everywhere and gloves on my hands. It was really super weird. I am kind of anxious for more, but I don’t know if I am going to adapt to it.”
They also talked about how their host parents are helping them adjust to the culture here, such as the changing of the clocks when daylight saving time ended Nov. 4.
“Some of us have night classes,” Karen Kadangwe said. “Before the time change, it was still light out when we came out (of class). Ever since the time change, it is really dark at like 6 and then you just feel like sleeping.”