President Aoun and Northeastern students celebrate Thanksgiving on London campus

President Aoun dances with a student at Northeastern's Thanksgiving celebration.
President Joseph E. Aoun celebrates Thanksgiving on Northeastern’s London campus. Photo by Carmen Valino for Northeastern University

LONDON — “How many of you are celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time?” Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun asked. 

There was a show of hands among the 330 students and faculty sitting at long candlelit tables in London’s Plaisterers’ Hall. 

“Well,” he continued. “At Thanksgiving we eat a lot. Enjoy it and thank you all for being here tonight.”

Northeastern University hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the fourth time in London. For American students, the dinner helped bring a piece of home to the campus across the ocean.

“Thanksgiving dinner at Northeastern is an incredible experience,” said Jess Coverdale, a residence life manager for the London campus. “So many students experience homesickness and miss their families. President Aoun is so connected with the students. Even students for whom this is all new get really into it.”

Lewis Andrews, a second-year law student, was one of those students.

“As Brits we don’t exactly know what Thanksgiving is all about, but it’s an opportunity to appreciate American culture,” he said.

The venue was decorated with a Thanksgiving theme. Colorful leaves, pumpkins, and Golden candlelight cast a warm glow across the room.

Barbara Dempowska, a Northeastern student from Poland was celebrating her first Thanksgiving. 

“It’s all so cozy and beautiful,” she said. “I’m excited about trying the food, especially the pumpkin dishes.”

Jermaine King-Babali, a politics and philosophy student from the U.K., is a big fan of Thanksgiving. 

“This is my third Thanksgiving with Northeastern,” he said. “I enjoy the community. It’s like Christmas, but with your friends.” 

The atmosphere was relaxed and playful with a DJ and photo booth. Before the eating commenced, several students shared what they were thankful for this year.

Regan Doherty, a student from Chicago, said she was grateful for the opportunity to study in London and experience a Northeastern education in a global city.

“A year ago today I didn’t know I would be studying in London and traveling Europe and I couldn’t be happier with the opportunity given,” she said. “I’m grateful for all the people that I’ve met so far at Northeastern, from my roommates, to the faculty, to my professors. I couldn’t be happier to have met you guys.”

Asyirah Sofia Kamal Hisham, a student from Malaysia celebrating her second Thanksgiving, introduced Aoun.

“President Aoun, we are so thankful for you,” she said. “Thank you for bringing this beautiful tradition across the pond and sharing it across all of the Northeastern networks.”

After the applause died down, Aoun shared his own reflections. 

“I would like to start by thanking the faculty and staff who make everything happen here on a daily basis,” he said.

A traditional Thanksgiving menu was served, complete with turkey, corn bread, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, salads and macaroni cheese, finished with pumpkin or pecan pie.

Plates were scraped clean and enthusiastic diners returned for seconds. 

Jenna Hutton, a second-year law student from England, enjoyed “experiencing the American traditions.”

Throughout the occasion, Aoun greeted students and made conversation with them. After the meal, he set the tone for bringing people together by standing up and giving everyone an “assignment.”

“Pretty soon we’re going to do two things: have dessert and dance,” he announced. “But before that, here is an assignment. How many of you here think that you know everybody in this room? See, not even me.”

He raised his own hand. 

“I want you to meet at least four new people before the end of the evening,” Aoun said. “Can you do that for me? Good. Once that’s done it’s time to dance and enjoy yourselves.”

Chatter and laughter broke out across the room as students fulfilled their assignments, introducing themselves to their neighbors and working out how many new friends they’d made. 

The dance floor soon became very crowded with Aoun at the center.

“I’m thankful to you all for spending the evening with us,” Aoun said.

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