Thanksgiving Abroad

If I were in the United States at this time of year I’d be spending this week curled up in my parent’s living room, spending time with my friends and family, and helping (or hindering) my parents as they prepare for the event of the month: Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving in the United States, despite its problematic background, is a time for families to come together, share thanks, and eat copious amounts of food. While I don’t have a large family outside of my parents and brother, I have grown up using this holiday as a time to reconnect with friends new and old, and now that I’ve moved halfway across the country for college that time is even more important to me. However, this year is different. Instead of traveling from Denver to Vermont for Thanksgiving, I’ll be spending the week in Aix en Provence!

While it can be hard to be away from my family home on Thanksgiving, I’m lucky to be able to have my family visit me during the holiday week. My mom, dad, and brother all arrived on Monday to spend the holiday with me and my friends, bringing a piece of the holiday to me! While they spent much of their week here taking in France and enjoying their holiday, their visit for me was about connecting with and spending time with my family. Rather than a turkey dinner complete with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and typical Thanksgiving side dishes, my family enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner of steak tartare, escargot, and charcuterie…. maybe not traditional, but certainly no complaints.

Although my 2022 Thanksgiving experience was a far cry from the typical American Thanksgiving, it could only be considered more special for it being celebrated in France and still surrounded by the people I love the most. However, holidays abroad can be challenging for many reasons, and there were still many things to miss about the classic American experience.

Although I had my family with me, this was the first time in a decade that I had not celebrated Thanksgiving with my close family friends. Since leaving for college, spending time with the people closest to me has become rarer and rarer. Missing one of the only times of year that we can all be together makes the distance feel farther, and I’m sure many other students abroad are feeling the same thing. Not being in your family home for a holiday can increase feelings of homesickness, especially so late in the semester.

No matter how you spent your Thanksgiving this year, whether it was home or abroad, with family or friends, eating turkey or not, it is a time to be grateful for the good that we have. This year I’m grateful for my family, my friends (near or far), and especially for this amazing experience that I will never forget. With that, I wish you all the happiest Thanksgiving and start to the holiday season!


Bon Anniversaire! (From Annecy)

While the south of France has been filled with sunshine and warm weather up until November, over the past two weeks Aix has begun making the transition to winter, bringing with it cloudy skies and rapidly dropping temperatures. Instead of taking the weekend to escape the cold weather, my friends and I decided to embrace the incoming winter season with a trip up north to the beautiful town of Annecy! Fondly nicknamed “the French Venice,” Annecy is a beautiful and historic town situated on the edge of the French Alps and centered around a crystal blue lake, complete with no shortage of beautiful architecture and canals. This town is not just the perfect place for a weekend getaway, but also the perfect place to spend a birthday, which is exactly what we were going there to do!

We began our weekend/birthday festivities with a beautiful bus ride through the French countryside, which took us to our Airbnb that resembled nothing less than the home of a 19th century French noble. This Airbnb was selected by none less than the birthday girl herself, because what is a queen’s birthday without a castle? We spent our weekend enjoying our temporary home, exploring the cobblestone streets and beautiful lakeside, and eating as much as we could stuff ourselves with. As a Vermonter at heart, the Annecy landscape, complete with the mountain-surrounded lake and autumn foliage, reminded me of home… despite Vermont’s devastating lack of castles.

While every second in Annecy made me feel like I was living in a real-life fairytale, this trip for me was more importantly a reflection on the relationships I’ve built since coming abroad. Spending a weekend in a beautiful place, surrounded by people I didn’t know the names of just two months ago, and celebrating one of my best friends, I felt overwhelmed by love and appreciation. I went abroad for many reasons. For the culture, for the language, for the learning experience… but being able to share this experience with new people and learning how to form deep connections in different situations has only allowed for deeper personal growth.

So instead of this being a post to the town of Annecy (although its beauty should not be overlooked), this is a post for my friends. As we enter the last month of our abroad semester, I can already feel that the last few weeks are going to fly by. Instead of being sad about the end of this chapter I hope to cherish every moment of my time left here, in this beautiful place and surrounded by the amazing people I’ve met along the way. Starting a new life somewhere, even for just a few months, can be both terrifying and thrilling, but being rewarded by new experiences, new memories, and new life-long relationships could not be more fulfilling. These newfound friendships have helped me grow both as my own person and as a global citizen and only make me more excited for my future travels and what new people I may meet along the way.