Are you studying abroad and spending Thanksgiving alone? Read about how to handle being away from home during the holidays!
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.
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.
Graduating senior? Apply for an opportunity to make a difference.
Apply for the Wallenberg Fellowship.
2014 Wallenberg Fellow, Lilly Bonadonna is spending the year in Lima, Peru to study and write about the social contexts of tuberculosis that is endemic in neighborhoods of poor urban immigrants.
"Today, Raoul Wallenberg's legacy continues. I along with all of the other students receiving fellowships in his name get to explore that which intrigues us because of him. It is hard for me to express how thankful I am; how lucky I feel to be able to come here, to learn about health and Peru and in turn, myself."
Last but not least, we highlight Peer Advisor Aubrey!
We hope you've enjoyed our International Education Week show of appreciation for our fantastic Peer Advisors! Stop by the Office in the Student Activities Building to meet them in real life!
Aubrey Sitler - Dual Master's student in Social Work and Public Policy
1. How has your international experience influenced your life academically and professionally?
Every time someone asks me this, I think of what I'm pretty sure is an Albert Einstein adaptation of an old adage: "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." Global engagement feels like this kind of intellectual, personal, and cultural curiosity to me, and this translates directly into my academic and professional life. My experiences studying, working, and traveling overseas have taught me more about who I am, what drives me, and what I believe to be worth working for than anything else in my life. I can confidently say that without various encounters in Spain, India, and Argentina, I would not currently be pursing graduate degrees in public policy and social work. International experience has become inextricably linked to who I am and what I do.
2. Would you recommend traveling internationally to other U-M students? Explain.
Absolutely. It can teach you so much about what you want out of life and how you fit into a larger global context, if you go into it with an open mind, humility, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. The people you meet -- whether in hostel bunk bed above you, on overbooked RyanAir flights, in the community in which you live, or elsewhere -- have the capacity to expand your worldview in specific ways that I have never experienced in a classroom.
3. Tells us about one place you are dying to visit! Why?
Indonesia -- While I was doing a social work field placement in Australia this summer, one of my clients was from Borneo. She talked frequently about how much she missed it, how delicious the food is, how beautiful the islands are, and how much she preferred the culture, language, and lifestyle. All of this inspired me to want to visit. (Plus, let's be honest: Bali sounds and looks like the most incredible/culturally thriving place EVER.)
4. What is your travel motto?
"You do you." You want to spend your summer in Buenos Aires traveling to new places every weekend? Do it. You'd prefer to eat your way through Paris and never leave the confines of the city while you spend a semester there? Fantastic You plan to spend your time in Salamanca memorizing the interior of its every bar and chupiteria? Be safe! (XOXO, -Mom/Dad) But "you do you." Always.
International Education Week Peer Advisor Highlight!
Brenda Duverce -- 1st
year Master of Public Policy student
1. How has your
international experience influenced your life academically and professionally?
experience helped shaped my academic and professional goals. I always had an interest
in issues facing people in marginalized communities, and going to Botswana,
South Africa, and Morocco reinforced this interest. I had a chance to work with
organizations focused on promoting gender equality, preventing new HIV
infections, and ending poverty. Those experiences helped shaped my educational
goals to pursue a degree in public policy, and a career in making a difference.
2. Would you recommend
traveling internationally to other U-M students? Explain.
abroad is a nice way to incorporate what you learn in the class outside of the
classroom. You learn to be more patient, flexible, and more creative. Often
times you find yourself in situations you never in a lifetime expected to be in
or experience, and you laugh, cry, or do both. My fondest memory as an
undergraduate student was studying abroad.
3. Tells us about one
place you are dying to visit! Why?
The one place I am
dying to visit is Alaska. I have had the opportunity to travel to many
countries, but now it's time for me to explore more places in the U.S.