While Marist Students migrate home for the holidays according to schedule, their abroad friends live off of a completely different calendar. Abroad students may be immersed in the greatest experience of their lives, but that comes with immersion into foreign culture and tradition.
The exclusively American tradition of Thanksgiving revolves around family coming together, and, above all, the over-consumption of magnificent home cooking. While abroad students may not have access to these Thanksgiving staples, they still celebrate in their own way. So far away from home, students manage to capture the spirit of a day specific to homeyness, home cooking and their home country.
Nadine Choucri and Katie Wilhelm spent Thanksgiving last year combing the streets of London for American food. They finally found a little restaurant in South Kensington that was advertised as American style. “I think I got turkey with cranberry sauce and a side of beans,” remembers Nadine. “Some restaurants in London actually have Thanksgiving menus,” says Melissa Kleimen who is studying there this semester.
Fortunately for Kleimen, she will not have to hunt down American food, since her family will be visiting for the holidays. “They’re getting a flat,” she explains excitedly, “so we’ll have a kitchen to cook Thanksgiving-like food.” Melissa Mandia, Kleimen’s friend who is studying in Florence, will meet up with the Kleimens for the holidays. “Thanksgiving to me is more about family,” Mandia explains, “I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces,” she adds.
A lot of programs serve a big meal for American students on Thanksgiving. When Brianne Kaine went abroad to Sevilla, Spain, her program rented out a restaurant and served a big Thanksgiving dinner for all of the American students. “We said prayers in Spanish and English of what we were thankful for,” Brianne remembers, adding, “of course, it wasn’t a full spread of food that my mom makes.
Hazel Edwards, who spent last fall in Bolivia and Peru, had a potluck with the rest of her program. “It definitely wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving meal,” she says, “but it was delicious and different from the diets we were eating in our homestays.”
While most programs acknowledge the American holiday, international schools do not give time off for the event. Even on the Florence campus, Melissa Mandia has class the morning of Thanksgiving. In London, Melissa Kleimen has to go to her internship before dinner with her family.
Such different traditions make the distance from home even more apparent over the holidays. “It was a weird experience because I was in a country where Americans were celebrating being thankful for originally escaping that country,” points out Andrew Brown of his Thanksgiving in London last year.
Regardless of the location, holidays are a time for family and memories. They often bring about the worst bouts of homesickness in the final stretch of the semester. “I felt extremely homesick when I was Skyping with my family,” admits Nadine Choucri.
For others, the authenticity of abroad overshadows the holidays that will dependably come again next year. “I’m only abroad once,” reflects Melissa Mandia, “and missing one Thanksgiving is worth all the experiences and memories I’m making here.”