Last year, I studied abroad at the University of Leicester in Leicester, England. One of the most difficult things about being abroad is missing out on holidays with your family. There’s no way around it, while you’re abroad, you’ll miss your family and you’ll miss certain American traditions. BUT there’s no use in living abroad and thinking of all the things you’re missing out on; the only way to remedy it is to come up with new traditions, involving new friends and new “family.”
In the US, with my family, Thanksgiving is a big holiday. We usually spend it with my dad’s side of the family, and it involves a gourmet feast prepared by my mother and aunt. While lunch is being made, a massive game of touch football breaks begins in the field behind my cousin’s house. And after dinner (served around 3 pm), we eat pie and sit around conversing, usually talking smack about the bedlame game, and watch non-controversial football games on TV. It’s the typical American Thanksgiving, I suppose. It’s really just a time to see family you haven’t seen in a while, and find out what’s going on in everyone’s life. And that’s what I was craving when I was in England.
It was especially strange to be in England because, without Thanksgiving, they move onto Christmas directly after Halloween. And I’m one of those that hates seeing a Christmas ad or lights on houses, or trees being sold before we’ve had the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving! While I was abroad, though, I had a lot of international students that were curious about the holiday; maybe they’d seen it in movies, or songs, or heard me talk about it. So as far as I was concerned, it was decided, I would throw a Thanksgiving feast for all of my international, English, and American friends. My problem is, I have too many friends. Okay that sounds disgustingly self-assured, but, it’s true. I found myself inviting everyone I loved to spend time with, to come to my Thanksgiving celebrations. Well, before I knew it, there were 25 people who had RSVP’d, and that was about the time I realized I had never actually cooked Thanksgiving in my life. In fact, I don’t find myself to be much of a cook at all.
After a few frantic calls home, I had my recipes, I had my groceries, and I set out to do the impossible: cook Thanksgiving dinner. Luckily, I had a lot of help. My close friend Mirte, whom I met my first day at Leicester, helped me cook, and I had several people keep me company with encouragement, good conversation, great wine, and good music. I had one American friend I made in Leicester, Erin from Colorado, and she was thrilled about the concept of having Thanksgiving, so she came to help me set up the dining space (which was actually just the common room in my flat building). I also had a friend Jenny, who was studying at Keele University from OSU, who traveled to Leciester in order to check it out and join in on the Thanksgiving celebrations. And lastly, my close friend Becca, whom I met in my Art History classes at Leicester, came over to help cook because she, and several of my other friends, are vegan, and she wanted to make sure they could partake in the festivities.
It turned into a wonderful time. I made two turkey breasts – I didn’t want to be overambitious and go for a full turkey – green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and rolls. Each of my guests brought wine or beer, and some brought desserts. The desserts were the best part! One of the guys that came was from Germany, and he had just been to Germany the weekend before, and had brought back the most wonderful chocolate cake. Another girl brought an Italian cake I couldn’t begin to remember the name of, but similar to angel food cake with a bit more substance, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. There were also all kinds of fruit pastries and pie. It was heaven.
Though not everyone knew each other, most of my English friends not knowing my international friends, everyone got along really well. I even made everyone go around in a circle and say one thing they were thankful for before we ate. And afterwards, we rested and rallied to go out that evening (it was a Thursday, after all). It was such a wonderful time.
The purpose of this is to tell you how great my Thanksgiving was. But, my real message is, when you’re abroad, there are times, especially around the holidays, when you’ll miss your family. No matter how great the English culture and customs were, I still found myself craving pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. But instead of crying about it, make new traditions! Make traditions that incorporate American culture and your abroad culture. This year, I find myself longing for my friends, my not-as-good-as-my-mom’s cooking, and a good night out, instead of the usual football and food with my family. You’ll be surprised at the memories you make while you’re abroad if you make the best out of every situation.
Written by: Emma Rupert