Since most DU students go abroad for fall semester so as to miss only one quarter not two, a lot of people will end up experiencing what it is like to be away from home for some traditional American holidays.
Even though I studied abroad in Copenhagen, I ended up being in Zurich for Halloween night at the Youth Hostel Zurich. My friend and I spent all day in transit to get from our housing in Copenhagen to the hostel in Switzerland. By the time we got there we were absolutely exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep before starting our exploration of Switzerland. I had totally forgotten that it was even Halloween. I remember I was getting ready for bed in the shared floor bathroom when I heard two giggling girls come in. All of a sudden one of them jumped out at me from behind a door! She was wearing black and white face paint but very little else that would suggest a costume. I admittedly jumped a little bit and she laughed. Her friend came out and they started joking in a language that I did not recognize. I smiled and left the bathroom when I was finished. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had tried to talk to them and ask them their plans for Halloween, especially since they evidently were not American and probably would not have grown up with the same traditions as me.
Thanksgiving is another holiday that most people studying during fall semester will miss. I remember talking to a number of Americans at my school about this, and many people were very distressed that they were going to miss out on their usual traditions, as well as traditional Thanksgiving food. Canned pumpkins are apparently not something that all countries like to carry in their supermarkets, nor are whole turkeys. This started getting people a little bit worried about what food they were going to have for Thanksgiving. I admit that I had a special advantage in making my Thanksgiving dreams come true. I had a thing called a visiting family which is a Danish family that I hung out with a lot but did not live with—mine was a couple named Lars and Lilly. Lilly was a former caterer; so needless to say, I ate like royalty when I was at their house. Come Thanksgiving, Lilly took it upon herself to prepare an entire Thanksgiving dinner for just for the three of us! It was spectacular! Even though there was no pumpkin pie, and the turkey that we had was just a part of a turkey and not the whole turkey, all the other elements of an American Thanksgiving dinner were present: cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and more. And like with American Thanksgivings, we ate until we could barely walk.
My recommendations for other people who are abroad for Halloween and Thanksgiving is to make the best of what you’ve got. It may not be exactly the same as your American traditions, but that is okay. On the one hand, it is a shame that I did not have the opportunity to dress up for Halloween, but on the other hand it was interesting to see something reminiscent of Halloween in a completely different culture. As for Thanksgiving, not everyone will be as lucky as I was in being able to replicate American traditions, but finding a new way to celebrate can be just as rewarding whether it is making food and celebrating with a group of Americans, or having a nice sit down meal with local people and local dishes. In the end, I found that the holidays were an interesting way to observe a culture differently, and to experience something new out of something old.
– Rosa Calabrese, DUSA Peer Advisor