On Friday, November 29, a very special 11th Annual Thanksgiving Celebration was held at Shang Shufang in the PHBS Building for members of Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School (PKUSZ). Every year, faculty, staff and students meet up for this brilliant night. The event was graciously supported by multiple divisions of the university, including the Chancellor’s Secretariat Office, the International Affairs Committee, the School of Transnational Law, and the HSBC Business School.
Two hundred people, including international and Chinese PKU students, faculty, volunteers, and staff members created a warm environment to celebrate the beautiful occasion together. All this was made possible with the support of the English Association and International Student Union who contributed over 40 volunteers.
The evening started with socializing and photos as everyone arrived at the elegantly decorated outdoor patio of newly renovated Shang Shufang restaurant. Hosts Rebecca Frebortova and Li Li welcomed all the attendees. They helped explain what Thanksgiving is all about. To put it simply, it is originally intended to celebrate a good harvest in America, but now people take this opportunity to reunite with family and friends. It is also the beginning of the season of festivities of Christmas. But many people who celebrate Thanksgiving now prefer it to Christmas because it is simple: no shopping, no gifts, no Santa Claus coming into your house. It is simply about spending time with friends and remembering to be grateful for what you have.
Before the feast could begin, Peking University School of Transnational Law (STL) Director of Graduate and International Programs, Cole Agar, gave an opening toast. He further unpacked the contradictory history and meaning of Thanksgiving, and wished everyone who had gathered together, many of whom were celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time, to be joyful and grateful during this special occasion.
Then it was time for the delicious turkey! The turkeys were catered by Sam’s Club, sides of roasted vegetables, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, salads, and more were cooked by the chef and kitchen staff of Shang Shufang, and peach and cherry cobblers were provided by Baeckerei Thomas in Shekou. Everyone lined up to enjoy the delicious food. Seeing the cooks hand-carve the turkey and place it on your plate made the meal well worth the wait.
For such a huge gathering of individuals, flavorful food shouldn’t be the only delight. Right when the guests were feeling drowsy from eating too much, there was a Lucky Draw to bring them back to life!
At the beginning of the event, each attendee had the chance to write their name and what they were thankful for on the lottery ticket. The hosts then announced five winners and what they wrote. The winners happily took to the stage to receive their small prizes—one more great thing they could be thankful for!
Following the lucky draw, the entertainment for the evening began. The first performance was two special songs by Masha Semenenko and Daniel Vüyk exchange students at PHBS. They performed ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran and ‘Valerie’ by Amy Winehouse. Next up, Sha Wei, a PhD student from the School of Urban Planning and Design, delighted the crowd with his version of ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran. The final touch was by Chinwe Alli and April Wan from STL, along with Nigel Wong from PHBS, and Bai Xinyue from the School of Environment & Energy, all members of the Nanyan Art Troupe Musical team. The quartet gave the most special performance of the Chinese song ‘My Tomorrow’ (我的明天) on violin, keyboard, guzheng, and cello.
The most ideal approach to get the sentiment of the night is to hear from the people who joined the memorable occasion.
Officer of International Programs and Academic Affairs, School of Transnational Law
“It was my first Thanksgiving Celebration at PKUSZ, and I couldn’t give enough thanks for the great experience from such an amazing event. The delicately decorated venue presented itself with a home-coming warmth. The speech from Director Cole Agar helped me gain a deeper understanding of the culture of Thanksgiving. For the Thanksgiving dinner, there was abundant food served to each guest to his or her great satisfaction. Moreover, as we enjoyed the well-prepared food, there were wonderful performances contributed by talented students from different schools. I want to pass my sincere appreciation to the hardworking hosts of this Thanksgiving event. The experience itself will remain a reminder that there are so many things to be grateful for in our lives.”
Jackson Collantes from Ecuador
“I enjoyed this event not just for the delicious and great performances, but also for the memories that we made with our friends. It was a space and moment where Chinese and international students shared a new experience. As an Ecuadorian (and I believe for most Chinese and non-American students), we do not celebrate Thanksgiving. Experiencing this American celebration for the first time was delightful. It was a great moment that I will always keep in my mind.”
Brandon Stefano from Indonesia:
“My first Thanksgiving in Shenzhen was quite a surprise to myself. I would’ve never thought that I’d be able to celebrate this holiday in PKU even more in China. Thanksgiving itself is a symbol of good harvest for Americans and it has been a time where families get together and enjoy a hearty plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and greens. It was a great honor to be able to help organize this event, because I understand how some international students miss holidays like this and it’s nice to help them feel closer to home through holiday celebrations like these. Many of the students I talked with mentioned how good the turkey was and they were enjoying their time. It was a great moment to take a step back and relax from our usually hectic schedule. The night got better thanks to great performances by fellow international and Chinese students.”
Ilse De Clerck from Belgium:
“It was a very nice evening filled with joy and laughter. The student-organized performances made it even better. But that’s not all, some lucky people even won a nice PKU pillow! Everyone did a very good job organizing this event and arranging the classic Thanksgiving meal: a nice turkey with mashed potatoes. I’m already looking forward to next year!”
By Hari Vamsi