While most of UCSB’s population was elbow deep in their turkey dinners last weekend, more than 50 of the university’s international students were enjoying the natural splendor of Thanksgiving in Yosemite National Park.

The university’s International Student Association continued their time-honored annual tradition of carting a group of international students from UCSB to Yosemite for the weekend so they could escape the dreariness of an empty holiday weekend in Isla Vista. In total, 62 students went on the Wednesday-through-Sunday trip, primarily from UCSB’s international student body. Several American UCSB students joined in as well, as did several international students from other California colleges.

The ISA members and others on the trip – the largest event of the fall quarter for the ISA — took buses to Yosemite and stayed in a mountain resort 25 miles from the valley, using a chartered shuttle service to take day trips in and out of the park. They returned yesterday evening after several days of hiking and exploring the famous national treasure.

This year, Amir Gohari, an ISA member, went on the Yosemite adventure as an organizer and leader for his third time. The trip, he said, provides the perfect occasion for international students to enjoy the all-American holiday in a beautiful setting, at a low price.

“As far as I know, the Thanksgiving trip to Yosemite National Park has been the major ISA event for Fall Quarter, basically because international students do not have a family in the U.S. to spend this holiday with, and this trip is the most affordable and enjoyable option for a big group,” Gohari said in an e-mail.

And at only $200 dollars a person — funded partly by the ISA, partly by individual contribution — international students have flocked to the opportunity for years, said ISA president Sam Rosenblum, a fourth-year Japanese major.

“It always fills up because it is the best thing we do in Fall Quarter,” Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum, an American student who humorously refers to himself as the ‘improbably-American president of the international scholar’s association’, said the annual trip saves foreign students from the loneliness of a desolate Isla Vista during Thanksgiving, when the majority of its college-age residents are at home.

“The Yosemite trip came about because people noticed that all the American students went home, and all the international students were left around this dead campus with nothing to do,” Rosenblum said.

After spending Thursday night having a traditional Thanksgiving meal, the ISA members hiked the valley Friday and Saturday, and drove back to Santa Barbara on Sunday, stopping for a small hike at the largest grove of giant sequoia trees in the park — Mariposa Grove — to see the renowned Grizzly Giant and Faithful Couple, some of the world’s largest trees.

The ISA, a student organization geared to provide international students opportunities to experience different cultural aspects while promoting global friendship, organizes a number of cultural, social and recreational events every year. In addition to their Yosemite trip, the ISA hosts foreign movie nights, dances, sports events, wine-tastings and trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios.