A time to count blessings

Two UB students express what they are most thankful for this Thanksgiving

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The Spectrum

As the UB community prepares for Thanksgiving, people begin to think about the things in life they are most thankful for. Thomas Safran, a sophomore business administration major, and Michael Tyson, a student currently on a leave of absence from the Graduate School of Education, shared what they are most thankful for with The Spectrum. The two have words of advice and suggestions for the UB student population during this holiday season.

Cancer-free this Thanksgiving

Tyson is participating in the "month of gratitude." Every day this month, he is updating his Facebook status noting one thing he is grateful for.

"I started doing this simply because I'm really happy to even be here for another Thanksgiving," Tyson said.

For three years, Tyson felt a mounting pain in his back, he said. The pain became so bad last year that he finally got an MRI. Doctors found a "softball-sized tumor wrapped around [his] thoracic spine."

He received his first surgery - it's been 11 months since - and even though he is down two vertebrae and four ribs, he's walking around and enjoying life.

"I could seriously be thankful for that alone each day of this month, but I wanted to list the many blessings in my life beyond my actual life," Tyson said.

After two rounds of radiation and two surgeries, Tyson was finally free of cancer. Just two weeks ago, he received an official scan that said he was clean.

The biggest lesson he learned is to take life one day at a time.

"When you're looking at the treatments before going through them, the process can be overwhelming," Tyson said. "But if you focus on only one step at a time, you can keep from going mad. I feel that translates well to any aspect of life."

Learning abroad

Safran is thankful for his summer experience abroad.

He was always interested in learning about other cultures, but he never pursued this desire until this summer. He was finally able to immerse himself in the Asian culture in Singapore.

Upon arrival in Singapore he made friends with local Singaporeans who showed him great places to explore and eat, he said. They even introduced him to a restaurant that served frog.

Safran was thankful for the ability to try the new Singaporean cuisine, from chicken feet and murtabak - dough stuffed with meat and onions - to Milo, one of his new favorite drinks.

The first weekend after he arrived in Singapore, students at the Singapore Institute of Management created a scavenger hunt across some cities. He and his soon-to-be best friends found different landmarks with the clues provided during the hunt.

He became fond of the public transportation system in Singapore. He was able to travel from Little India, to the Merlion statue, to a Buddhist temple and more, in just one evening.

The experience has taught him the importance of diversity, tolerance and respect toward those different from himself - he realized how crucial it is to be able to communicate with people from different cultures.

"Just go out and try something new, whether it's trying new food or joining a club on campus where you don't know anyone," Safran said. "You may be surprised and actually enjoy it. Remember to say hi to people you don't know. Many of the international students are looking to make new friends, too."

Safran said you don't necessarily have to study abroad to gain a diverse perspective, because UB offers ample opportunities to meet people from around the world. Safran urges students to get engulfed in other cultures and allow them to change their lives the way his life changed this summer.

He is thankful for the opportunity because of the worldly insight he gained on the trip. One weekend, he and his friends took a journey to Bali, Indonesia. The experience was unforgettable, he said.

He rode around a forest on an elephant, and he said being so close to such majestic creatures was a surreal experience.

The insight and mentality about culture and diversity he gained abroad, as well as the unforgettable experiences exploring the city of Singapore at night, studying at the Singapore Institute of Management and riding elephants in other cities, is what Safran is most thankful for this Thanksgiving.

email: features@ubspectrum.com