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!


Away From Home for the Holidays

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