Bright Spots: Alabama student welcomes strangers for Thanksgiving

Christmas Parade 2021

On Thanksgiving Day, University of Alabama student Camille Kohtala’s living room was filled with dozens of fellow college students from all over the world.

“I could not believe how many people showed up,” Kohtala said. “It was crazy.”

Kohtala, whose home is in Orono, Maine, couldn’t make the nearly 1,500-mile trip home this year. But she didn’t want to celebrate alone.

“Since I was staying, I wanted to not only have something fun for myself to do, but knowing that a lot of other people felt the same way as me, I thought it would be cool to bring all of the people in the same situation as me together,” Kohtala said.

So she did what any college student might: took to social media, Facebook specifically, inviting students who couldn’t make it home to Thanksgiving at her Tuscaloosa home. In all, nearly 40 people showed up for the festivities.

“If you would have just walked in, you would have thought it was a bunch of people who had known each other for years because it was so easy for everyone to talk to each other,” she said. “It was just cool. None of these people I think would have ever gotten the chance to meet each other if it hadn’t been for this occasion. It goes to show any group of people can be friends and have a great time with each other”

Camille’s post reached thousands, and not just students. Parents wanted to help, too.

“I was so overwhelmed about how many people reached out who didn’t know me and whose kids weren’t even coming,” she said. “It helped so much because I really underestimated how much it was going to cost to feed 40 people. At first, I thought people donated too much money. It turned out to be just enough, and that was good because it alleviated the pressure on me and meant my guests had the option to bring something but if all my guests could bring was themselves, they did not have to feel any pressure to contribute.”

Kohtala said the group plans to reunite for a Christmas party later this month.

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Categories: Bright Spots, Community