Countless students across the country plan to take a much-deserved break this holiday weekend to spend Thanksgiving with their families and loved ones. For University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School LLM students, who are all international, Thanksgiving is a new tradition abundant with Penn collegiality and American holiday spirit.
“Most of the LLMs do not get a chance to go home and spend the season with their families, and since they’re aware that there are all of these family-oriented things going on, we always try to make everyone feel welcome and part of the LLM family,” said LLM Class President Tatiana Corcoran LLM’22.
An international Thanksgiving tradition is born
The tradition of the LLM Thanksgiving Dinner began years ago.
“In the past, LLMs were sometimes invited to local homes for Thanksgiving dinner. About 10-15 years ago, the class officers, with the support to the Law School, planned an event for the LLM class to introduce them to Thanksgiving,” said Executive Director of Graduate Programs Elise Kraemer L’93. “Happily, this tradition has continued.”
This year, the LLM class includes more than 150 professional students from 30 countries across the world. Though experiencing an American Thanksgiving may not strictly relate to one’s academic studies, it is nonetheless important to cultivating a sense of belonging, both within the Law School community and within the U.S. more broadly. At the Law School, LLMs study, volunteer, and socialize alongside JD and ML students, contributing to a vibrant educational and social environment wherein ideas are freely and enthusiastically exchanged.
Given that some LLMs are only planning to be in the U.S. for a short time, one of the main aims of the event is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get a taste of one of the country’s most famous and beloved holiday traditions.
“LLMs come here for a year, and they have to learn a lot of things from scratch. Making this event successful makes them feel more like a part of the U.S. culture, and it gives them an opportunity to experience events that they don’t have at home,” Corcoran said. “Everyone is so excited because this is such a unique opportunity. Thanksgiving is very much part of the North American tradition.”
An inclusive and environmentally conscious atmosphere
As much as the event is about celebrating American culture, the organizers also work to create a space that is truly multicultural and inclusive. In addition to serving the traditional turkey and mashed potatoes, the menu will also include vegetarian options to accommodate for a diverse array of dietary preferences. The globally-minded group also elected to take steps to make this year’s dinner as sustainable as possible by opting out of unnecessary plastic and paper catering products.
Further, because every holiday party needs music, the LLM class hired a DJ to play songs from around the world in accordance with the attendees’ backgrounds. In years past, LLMs have taught one another traditional dances, thus incorporating their own cultures into the day’s festivities.
“We are very lucky. You usually see groups that are comprised of people of many nationalities and cultures, and it is fascinating to see them working together,” Corcoran said. “We have a very cohesive group.”
The allure of pumpkin pie
In true Thanksgiving fashion, the highlight of the holiday is expected to be dessert.
“Everyone is really excited about the pumpkin pie because a lot of us have participated in pumpkin decorating events around campus, but a lot of people have never had the chance to try pumpkin in a pie,” Corcoran said. “A lot of people are wondering about what it’s going to taste like, because pumpkin is a vegetable — how do you put it in a sweet pie? They are definitely curious because they’ve heard so much about pumpkin pie on movies and TV shows, and now they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll finally get the chance to try pumpkin pie in the U.S.!’”