Now that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, it’s almost time for many Americans to eat pumpkin pie, roast gobblers and spend quality time with their families and friends. But what if you’re studying abroad?
Adjusting to life in a new country on a day-to-day basis is difficult in itself, so it’s understandable for homesickness to rear its ugly head around this time of year. Here are a few tips that should quiet your qualms and help you make the most out of your Thanksgiving away from home.
1. If you can, resist the urge to go home.
Plane tickets are expensive now, and they will be up until after the new year has started. Any attempt at returning to the US for the holidays will cost you a lot of money — maybe even that quick trip to Edinburgh you were planning to take once classes are finished.
Just as there are many resources for international students studying abroad in the US during the holidays, there are certainly resources for American students studying overseas. Ask your institution’s international student services office if they will be offering any kind of celebration for American students. Keep a look out for US embassies, too, that may be hosting American holiday celebrations.
2. Immerse yourself in your new country.
Instead of focusing on where you aren’t, focus on where you are. Place a spin on your holiday homesickness by taking the opportunity to learn more about the country in which you’re living. For example, Guy Fawkes Day (November 5) and the history behind it is a pretty big deal to the Brits. Celebrating holidays that aren’t normally celebrated in the US might just take your mind off of what you’re missing.
3. Limit calls to the family in the days leading up to the holiday.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but trust me – you may not want to hear all about who’s coming to dinner, what weird dessert Grandma has decided to bring this year or anything else that will remind you that you are missing a traditional family event. It will just make you wish you weren’t studying abroad and you were still at home – a feeling that you’ll undoubtedly regret once you realize how much fun it is being abroad in the first place.
4. Talk to your new friends about Thanksgiving.
While speaking with your family members about spending Thanksgiving away from home could make things worse, speaking with your non-American friends could make things a little easier. Not only will it be a cool tidbit of cultural information to share, but it may even give you a fresh, new look on the holiday itself.
You may even realize that while Thanksgiving has its history, it can be incorporated into any new environment. Nowadays, it’s all about eating and good company, anyway! Which leads me to tip number four…
5. Celebrate your Thanksgiving away from home in your new country.
There’s a saying that goes something like, You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Fewer things are more heartwarming than sitting around a table with a group of wonderful people whose lives just so happened to intersect with yours because you happened to study abroad.
Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving abroad the traditional way, change it up. Roast a chicken instead of a turkey. (In some countries, the former is probably going to be easier to find.) Have your friends bring dishes that they would normally have during their own family holiday celebrations.
Eat everything, take lots of pictures, and — if you’re as hokey as my group of friends was when we had our own makeshift Thanksgiving abroad — go around the table and say what you’re thankful for. You’ll find your list to be a considerably long one.