Thanksgiving Abroad: Unravelling all the Feelings

Emilie Agras headshot
Emilie Agras
December 3, 2023

As November unfolds, college students across the United States find themselves caught in a whirlwind of last-minute assignments, aching for a break, and yearning to return home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The quintessential scenes of turning on the TV to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and relishing in a filling Thanksgiving meal surrounded by family are etched into the American college experience. It's a time when parents pamper their children, providing a much-needed respite from the demands of academia. Yet, for those of us studying abroad, this familiar script undergoes a fascinating transformation when we find ourselves halfway across the world.

Customs and traditions take on a new guise, and the anticipated home-cooked meal and the comforting tableau surrounded by loved ones may not materialize for students abroad. For many, this shift can be both a cultural awakening and an exciting adventure in newfound independence. However, it also has the potential to evoke a sense of loneliness as the traditional elements of the holiday season seem conspicuously absent.

This past Thanksgiving, my own experience was celebrated uniquely. While it felt unfamiliar, there was an undeniable acceptance that resonated within me. Many of my friends and roommates were fortunate enough to have their parents fly out to Rome to join them in marking this special occasion. Observing their interactions highlighted the joy of having a piece of home in a foreign land. The comfort derived from shared meals and travel with close loved ones underscored the beauty of this unconventional celebration.

Studying abroad is undoubtedly the adventure of a lifetime, yet there persists a subtle yearning for home among many of us. Admitting to this sentiment is often accompanied by a reluctance to appear ungrateful for the extraordinary experience. However, Thanksgiving, being a time for connection and reflection, adds a layer of significance to the holiday. In my own Thanksgiving celebration, I had the opportunity to meet up with my mom in London for a day of relaxation and catching up. With my usual hectic schedule, these moments are rare and precious.

Thanksgiving day itself presented a few challenges, as my flight was delayed, resulting in a late arrival at 4 p.m. With the weariness from a day of travel, we opted for takeout and settled down to watch Thanksgiving episodes of FRIENDS. It was an untraditional but undeniably needed celebration, bringing an unexpected sense of relaxation.

Ultimately, the location doesn't dictate the essence of Thanksgiving. It's about spending time with those we hold dear. For those whose parents couldn't make the trip, solo travel became an opportunity for personal gratitude, reflection, and embracing the changes and independence cultivated during our time abroad.

In conclusion, Thanksgiving abroad is an evolving narrative. While traditions may not mirror those at home, there's an importance in embracing change and finding gratitude for the unique experiences and newfound independence that have shaped our time away from home.

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Emilie Agras headshot

Emilie Agras

Hello! I'm Emilie, a junior at Villanova, passionate about beauty, fashion, adventures, and meeting new people. Fun fact: I studied abroad and lived in London for high school. Can't wait to explore Rome and indulge in the finest gelato!

2023 Fall
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