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STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) — For 19 years, the University of the Pacific has treated students in Stockton to a special holiday meal, and this year the tradition continues. 

Last year, UOP had to adapt because of COVID-19. 

This year, students piled up their plates with turkey, mashed potatoes and their choice of pie — all the fixings of a Thanksgiving meal. 

“They’ve provided so much for us, and it’s more than I expected,” said graduate student Gianna O’Connor.

O’Connor told FOX40 it’s a little taste of home. 

“I just thought it would be easier just to kind of stay here and focus on my studies, but it’s kind of nice just being able to have a Thanksgiving meal since I can’t go back home,” O’Connor said. 

UOP has served up as many as a hundred meals to students who can’t make it home for the holiday. 

“We think it’s important that we create a Thanksgiving festive atmosphere here at the DeRosa Center for the students who are here,” said UOP President Christopher Callahan. 

Students had to take their food to go last year as the pandemic kept people separated. Both staff and students said it was good to be together again. 

“It isn’t much of a difference as far as like the intent the heart of Pacific, however, being in person, it becomes more real,” said student Matthias Lopez.

”It’s nice being around everybody because, even in class, like you kind of are still supposed to be like social distanced and stuff, and it’s just nice being around people on a holiday,” O’Connor said. 

‘We’re back. Students are here together, breaking bread, enjoying a meal together, enjoying the spirit of the holiday. Night and day,” Callahan said. 

For staff and students, their gratitude goes beyond the traditional meal. They said they’re also thankful for their campus community. 

“I am truly thankful for our students being able to be here and not just studying and learning but being able to interact and grow together on campus,” Callahan said. 

“I’m thankful for having like a good community here and like having so many friends. I’m really close with all my classmates, and it’s a really good community,” O’Connor said.