Celebrating Thanksgiving in Nantes, France, was a surreal experience. This event marked one of the biggest celebrations of the semester, and it was an occasion to get dressed up and extend invitations to friends and family. Sharing this American tradition with every IES Abroad host family, alum, faculty, and staff member made it an exceptionally meaningful memory.
Thanksgiving dinner was held at a local, up-scale restaurant. Everyone began to arrive around 7 p.m., and there were several students and alum that I recognized. It was exciting to meet new alumni, especially those already immersed in France through work with TAPIF. Hearing about their experiences was fascinating; it was interesting to hear all their stories from their time abroad, and to hear what they’re doing in France now. I even got to see one of my friends who did the Nantes program and used to live with the same host family that I have now! By chance, we have the same first name, attended Gettysburg College, chose the same IES Abroad program and were randomly assigned to the same host family.
Shortly after, all the students and host families chose their seats at the table. We were served three courses that represented the classic thanksgiving meal; a light soup as an appetizer, the turkey and potatoes as the main course, and an apple tart for dessert. The plates were vibrant and colorful, and the atmosphere was cozy and welcoming. Many host families already knew each other, which created a truly warm environment. For the most part, parents sat in groups while the students stuck together.
Part of what made the night so special was the music. Several students sang or played an instrument during the meal. Following the appetizers, I took to the piano. Additionally, following the main course, I had the pleasure of dueting a Waltz with a friend who plays the violin. However, an unexpected moment occurred when, just as we were called up to perform, my friend was on vacation in the men’s bathroom. As I was panicking, he came out slowly and calmly. He took a minute to tune his instrument and our grammar teacher came up to us to make light conversation. She asked us how many times we had practiced together. We explained to her that we had not yet practiced together, but improvising is what makes the best performances. What a magical night.
The meal ended around 10 p.m. and everyone went to take pictures together at the photo machine. I got photos with my host mom, friends, IES Abroad professors, and one of the professors that I do my internship with! After dinner, some of us caught the tram and headed to a local club. This was a fun way to end the night.
This memory stands out as a vibrant chapter in my study-abroad experience and serves as a reminder of the power of shared moments in a new place. It is moments like these that make you recognize the life that you’ve built in a new country, surrounded by friends and family.
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I became inspired to travel abroad after reading the book "Banner in the Sky" by James Ullman. Since then, I've dreamed of visiting Switzerland and climbing the Matterhorn during the day and snowboarding down the Swiss mountains at night!