I knew Thanksgiving away from my family was going to be difficult. It’s the first time I’ve had the holiday without them, so the entire month I’ve been bracing for the impact of a new wave of homesickness, which has up until this point gone almost entirely away.
I’m just so used to Nantes now. It feels like home in an incredible way—I feel safe and surrounded by places that are familiar but never boring, I have a favorite boulangerie, I can get anywhere on public transport, and I travel frequently enough to get homesick for Nantes and its calmness whenever I go away for too long. Being annoyed by midterms and the past two weeks’ waves of homework adds to that feeling—nowhere can be truly homelike without the stress of school! Now that I’ve lived in France for months, I have so many places I want to visit: I want to see snow from a little French mountain town, go to Jura and taste yellow wine, take a train to Strasbourg and tour several of the marchés de Noël in Alsace, have a seaside weekend in Nice, go to Lourdes and its cave of Massabielle, spend a day in Chantilly, which has the same name as the glorious cream my aforementioned favorite bakery uses in their strawberry tarts (which have now tragically gone out of season).
But back to Thanksgiving, a holiday that’s smack-in-the-face American in Nantes, a city already glittering with Christmas lights and an open Christmas market. IES Abroad students and our host families gathered for dinner Thursday night, which was easier than I expected. The food was American-inspired but very French, and the portion sizes were much smaller than at a typical Thanksgiving meal.
It was nice like that, because it didn’t feel strongly like Thanksgiving, just a big fun dinner with friends. The food wasn’t familiar enough to make me homesick, but the staples—turkey, stuffing, pumpkin-flavored things (soup in this case), sweet potatoes, and pie—made sure I didn’t feel like I missed out on the holiday.
I’m glad I get to go home for Christmas. That would be much harder to deal with than Thanksgiving, and part of what made getting through turkey day more easy was knowing that most of the dishes my mom makes for Thanksgiving are ones she makes for Christmas too. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the holiday vibes—as a SoCal girl, I’ve never lived through a real fall, and watching the leaves change has been spectacular. It’s cold here now, too—cold enough to wear heavy coats and gloves (and scarves, to blend in) and grab some vin chaud (hot wine) at the Christmas market.
But as the semester draws closer to the end, I’m drawn to the Christmas market more and more often...not just because it’s a cute place to be, filled with stalls selling chocolates, gingerbread, pastries, and vin chaud, but because I need to start getting presents for friends and family back home. Procrastination is key—I mean, at some point this week I’ll send out the postcards I bought everyone weeks ago. Right? Right.
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<p>Hi! My name is Suzan Frierson and I'm a junior at the University of Redlands. I'm a Creative Writing major and French minor, and the language inspired me to study abroad in Nantes. I love traveling, writing, and going on adventures.</p>