Arnor Halldorsson

Junior, Psychology
Hafnarfjörður, Iceland

Photo courtesy of Arnor Halldorsson

I am from Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, near the capital of Reykjavík. My town has a large harbor and lava fields where Hidden People, or elves from Icelandic lore, are rumored to live. We have many celebrations, such as a holiday that may seem bizarre to Americans, called bolludagur (bun day). Children make a “bun stick” to hit their parents’ behinds and shout "bolla," which means bun. In exchange, the parents give their kids chocolate-covered buns. Another is the Viking festival called Þorrablót, a midwinter feast that involves celebrating with family and friends and eating traditional Icelandic foods, like fermented shark.

Cassandra Van Dam 

Junior, Women's Studies
Hancock, Michigan 

Photo courtesy of Cassandra Van Dam

Hancock is a small town on the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, known for being an old copper-mining town and for its large Finnish population. We have unique local foods, including pasties and pannukakku (a custard-like pancake served with jam). I have gotten stuck in the airport going home due to freak snow storms. There are limited flights, so if I miss mine, I have to wait hours until the next one. However, it’s turned out fine every time, because I’ve met some great people on my adventures.



Jojo Amonoo 

Ph.D. Student, Applied Physics
Accra, Ghana

Photo courtesy of Jojo Amonoo

My hometown in Ghana is known for its ancient castles, which were built by European traders in the mid-1600s, as well as its traditional fishing villages and markets. We’re known for our wonderful, spicy food, and drinks like maize beer and palm wine. We’re very welcoming and enjoy showing traditional Ghanaian hospitality to guests. Once, on my way home for the holidays, I got stuck at the Frankfurt airport in Germany for 12 hours due to a snowstorm.


Emilee Lewis

Junior, Political Science
Memphis, Tennessee

Photo courtesy of Emilee Lewis

I’m from Memphis, Tennessee, which is best known for its music and food. People come for Graceland (Elvis's home), Beale Street (which has live blues music), and delicious barbecue. My family’s Thanksgiving celebration includes meeting up with the local Michigan Alumni Spirit Club to watch the Michigan-Ohio State game together. Each year, we also pile into the car to take in a drive-through light show that winds through a large urban park. Of course, no trip home is complete for me without seeing the Grizzlies, our NBA team. Our holiday meals include smoked turkey, homemade cornbread dressing, and banana pudding from one of my favorite BBQ places.


Zain Halawani

Junior, Near Eastern Studies
Amman, Jordan

Photo courtesy of Zain Halawani

I’m from Amman, Jordan, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a Jordanian. We like to go camping in Wadi Rum, a beautiful desert that has gigantic jebels that have become soft sandstone over 50 million years. We are also proud of the ancient Nabatean caravan city called Petra situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. It’s entirely carved into pink and peach stone, and it’s surrounded by mountains and gorges. Our biggest holiday is the month of Ramadan, because much of Jordan identifies as Muslim. My family volunteers every year to package donations and distribute them to the less fortunate.


Doug Watts

Senior, Minor in Earth and Environmental Sciences
Anchorage, Alaska

Photo courtesy of Doug Watts

Every year on Christmas, my family wakes up and eats moose sausage and egg casserole. Then we open gifts and go for an annual family cross-country ski outing. Then we have a dinner of moose fondue. We cube the best cut of moose meat and fondue with hot oil (although the cut is so good that we sometimes just eat it raw). For dessert, we have one of my favorites: moose mincemeat pie, with a filling of moose meat, raisins, apples, and butter. My older brother goes moose hunting every year, so our freezer is always full. We eat a lot of moose.