Thanksgiving 2013 has come and gone. It wasn’t my first time away from home during this glorious holiday; in fact, I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since high school. But this year was different. There was no Macy’s Day Parade, no sweet potato casserole, and no plopping in front of the TV for an afternoon football game. There were classes and essays and baguettes, but in the end there was some turkey, too.
After a long day of marathon paper writing I hopped in the van with my host mother to attend the IES-sponsored Thanksgiving meal at a local restaurant. I rarely have time alone with my host mother as she’s understandably occupied with managing her household and caring for her four children, so I really enjoyed our evening together. She always goes above the call of duty and I’m thankful for having been placed in her home.
When we arrived at the restaurant, French waiters in American flag ties greeted us with glasses of champagne. Nothing says Thanksgiving in France like stars and stripes and bubbly wine! Rather than piling as much food as possible onto our plates like at a normal Thanksgiving meal, we were served in a three-course sequence. It wasn’t far from traditional, but it was tasty nonetheless, and how many times will we be able to say we ate turkey and cranberry sauce in France?
For those of us abroad, Thanksgiving is almost as patriotic a holiday as Independence Day. It’s a time to give thanks, yes, but it’s also a time when we’re reminded of the beauty of American culture. It’s not just the beginning of the holiday season or the prelude to winter; it’s a peculiar day that every one living in the U.S. can feel free to celebrate without constraints of race, gender, or religious beliefs.
Throughout the evening we were treated to musical performances from several different IES students. It was really neat to discover the hidden talents of some of my friends. The night ended on a beautiful note when one of the students performed the national anthem. We put our forks down and stood up as the familiar tune rang throughout the room and in that moment everything about Thanksgiving made sense. For an American abroad it’s a symbol of unity, hope, and identity. We 41 students are from several different states and many different universities, but in France we’re united in our American identity and today was a time for us to reflect on what that identity looks like. As bizarre as this day was, I can only imagine that we’ll cherish Thanksgiving 2013 in our hearts for years to come.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Katie Nodjimbadem is a junior at Northwestern University majoring in journalism and planning to minor in French. She enjoys writing about diversity and culture for North by Northwestern magazine and loves interacting with prospective students as a campus tour guide. Katie bleeds purple and loves to cheer on her fellow wildcats at varsity sporting events. As the daughter of two Francophone parents, she desires to improve her French to better understand her heritage and strengthen her ties with her extended family.</span></p>