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Trojans, far from their families, spend Thanksgiving at the USC president’s house

C. L. Max Nikias and his wife, Niki C. Nikias, hosted more than 300 students for a special holiday dinner

Niki C. Nikias with guests

Niki C. Nikias, left, greets two of the Thanksgiving Day guests. (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)

For Budapest, Hungary-born USC sophomore Lilla Spanyi, Thanksgiving is so special precisely because it is an American holiday.

Lillia Spanyi and Precious Nwaoha

Lillia Spanyi, left, and Precious Nwaoha share a Thanksgiving Day hug before heading to the USC president’s house for a special holiday dinner. (USC Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

“My family doesn’t actually celebrate Thanksgiving, but I am in a weird position where I consider myself American because of the culture and the people, and I can’t really imagine a future for myself anywhere else,” said Spanyi, a Trustee Scholar and member of the Trojan Marching Band Silks. “That is why Thanksgiving has always been a holiday I wanted to celebrate, but didn’t have the opportunity until I came to USC.”

Spanyi was one of more than 300 USC students hosted for Thanksgiving dinner by Niki C. Nikias, wife of USC President C. L. Max Nikias. The annual dinner at the USC president’s home brings together Trojans unable to spend the holiday with their families.

Alexis Brady makes a plate

Alexis Brady helps herself to the Thanksgiving feast. (USC Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Being away from family on Thanksgiving can be hard for students like USC junior Alexis Brady. Back home in Maryville, Tenn., Brady and up to 30 family members spend the entire holiday cooking traditional dishes, watching movies, and playing dominoes and spades together.

“It gets pretty crazy, which I love,” she said.

A USC women’s rugby player and soprano in USC’s Saved By Grace Gospel Choir, Brady said she’s grateful to have had the opportunity to share Thanksgiving with the Nikias family every year since she arrived at USC.

“It’s really expensive to fly home,” she said. “So it’s really great that USC does this for the students who can’t go home for the holiday.”

The tradition also exemplifies what it means to be part of the Trojan Family for Spanyi and many others.

“Being part of the Trojan Family means being part of a community where people care about you and your well-being, and wherever you go in the world, you will have people to reach out to and people who care about you, for the rest of your life,” Spanyi said. “It is something I will never take for granted.”

Students filling their plates

Some 300 students enjoyed a holiday feast with all the trimmings. (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)

Lillia Spanyi, C. L. Max Nikias and Alexis Brady

Lillia Spanyi, C. L. Max Nikias and Alexis Brady display the traditional USC Thanksgiving salute. (USC Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

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