Noah Ramey’s favorite part of the Thanksgiving season is celebrating “Friendsgiving.” They like to take out an old turkey hat and take photos with it.

“I’ve got a really awesome group of friends. We do a big Thanksgiving celebration, like the day after Thanksgiving,” he said.

Ramey is one of many University of Maryland students who are thankful for getting to spend time with their friends this year. But students don’t necessarily celebrate Thanksgiving because of the traditions or historical prevalence.

“It just means a time to just relax and to see people that you don’t generally get to see,” Ramey said.

Sophia Hrabinski, a junior information science major, agrees. She celebrates Thanksgiving because her parents do and since it is common practice.

“And I think it is a good practice to just be happy,” she said. “Again, it’s really easy to get really dreary and bogged down, you know? So it’s a nice little pick me up with food and friends and something to focus on.”

When asked about a particular moment they’ve been particularly thankful for this year, students often brought up experiences they had with friends.

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“I actually went on a big camping trip with my friends, and we have a hard time getting plans together,” Ramey said. “It was over the summer, and it was cool to actually have it all work out because over the years it gets increasingly hard to get everybody together.”

While students are often grateful for things year-round, Ramey and Hrabinski noted the emphasis on gratitude — especially actively thinking about it — around this time of year.

International students said while they haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving before, they said they were thankful for very similar things: family and friends.

“I’m thankful I have family in this state, so I’ll be able to spend Thanksgiving with them for like, the first time ever, which will be really cool,” junior international relations major Louis Redway said.Redway is here studying abroad from the United Kingdom.

Giuolo Damiani, a junior government and politics major studying abroad from Italy, is thankful for the opportunity to study in the U.S.

“I’m thankful for the connections that I made here because I think some of them will be lasting for the entirety of my life,” he said. “However, I’m also very thankful for my family, who are back home waiting for me because they’ve been supporting me since I’ve been here, and it’s also nice to know that they’re there when I’ll be back.”

Damiani is intrigued by the holiday’s origins.

“I’m always fascinated by the way that traditions begin to kind of become part of the folklore of a country or of a populace,” Damiani said.

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Damiani loves to travel, and he said the more he does, the more he realizes how lucky he is. He wrote an article for his home school in the Netherlands about being grateful and thinks about it when he travels to new places.

Redway is also thankful for the opportunity to travel. When he was young, he had a book about 100 wonders of the world, and he said it made him want to travel and see the world.

“That was always kind of my aspiration. And now doing it, it kind of feels right,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed what some students are thankful for.

“I think that freshman, sophomore year, especially, there was just a lot of stuff with COVID, where I was just thankful I wasn’t sick, I was thankful that my family had their health and stuff,” Hrabinski said. “And now I’m more thankful that I actually get to hang out with them and meet up with other people.”

Redway noticed as he’s grown older, the things he has been thankful for have matured.

“It’s kind of interesting how the things you’re thankful for change, because they get bigger and your perspective kind of grows as you get older,” he said. “You see how great the world is in places and also how awful it is in other places and you realize how lucky you are to be doing what you’re doing.”