How to Celebrate Thanksgiving While Studying Abroad

By Brittany Hawes on November 21, 2017

You’re in a beautiful, foreign country for maybe the first time and you’re loving every moment of it—the town, the buildings, the art. You’re learning all there is to know about the culture and the history of the country, you’re meeting new people, making new friends, discovering things about yourself, maturing as a young adult … Overall, you’re having the most amazing time of your life.

But when Thanksgiving approaches, what do you do? Many students might find themselves feeling homesick because they’re away from their families and from what is familiar to them. Your family isn’t there to celebrate with you and cook with you. So, you might feel at a loss of what to do. Can you celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t recognize it as one of their country’s holidays? Will you celebrating it be worth the effort?

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I believe that celebrating Thanksgiving while studying abroad is worth the effort. Not only will you be celebrating a holiday that is special to your country, it can be a fun way to introduce your new friends to a holiday that is special to you. This can also bring together other American students that may also be feeling that tinge of homesickness. They might be at a loss of what to do when the fourth Thursday in November approaches.

So, how does a student have Thanksgiving while studying abroad in a country that may or may not have the resources to have a “proper” Thanksgiving meal?  For starters…

Gather friends, classmates, roommates, and teachers

In order to celebrate Thanksgiving, you are going to need someone to celebrate with! Who better to celebrate with than your new “overseas family”? Ask the people you sit with in class if they’d be interested in helping you have a Thanksgiving dinner. Let your roommates know of your plans and if they’d like to join in. If you’ve had the chance to make friends with any of the local townspeople and students, you should let them know about your Thanksgiving plans and invite them to come and celebrate. Your teachers might even want to join. Of course, that’s going to be a lot of people to house for one dinner, so your next step in having Thanksgiving while studying abroad is to…

Find a place for the party

Since dorm rooms can be notoriously small, you might have to consider other venues to host your Thanksgiving Day dinner. If your dorm building has a cafeteria or dining hall, you could entertain the idea of having it there. A public park could be a nice place or even a restaurant. The proper parties will have to be informed if you’re going to be eating at a place that needs to prepare for your arrival, such as a restaurant because of seating arrangements. If you opt to eat at your dorm’s building or another place that requires you to bring your own food, then food is the next thing you should plan out.

Embrace your new home’s food and show yours

It could be a fun idea to have everyone who is coming to Thanksgiving dinner chip in by bringing in a dish that makes them think of Thanksgiving or is special to them. This way, you’ll get to know your overseas family a little better and try some new and delicious foods. Encourage your new friends, locals of the country, to bring foods that they love, too. That way, you each get to share a little of your culture with one another. If you can’t find any traditional foods that you know how to make, try making something with the local cuisine by substituting ingredients by what is available to you.

Get in the festive mood with some decorations

Wherever you’ve decided to eat, you don’t want the place to look boring for the party. For decorations, ask some friends that you’ve invited to the Thanksgiving dinner if they wouldn’t mind going into town with you to buy some decorations for the dinner. It may be hard to find anything specifically Thanksgiving-themed in a foreign country, so another theme you could search for while in stores is a fall theme. Things like paper plates, napkins, streamers, signs, tablecloths, confetti, table decorations, candles, and candle-holders could all be bought in a fall theme to make your dinner look more inviting.

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Enjoy the experience

Don’t get bummed out because you’re not at home for Thanksgiving. Missing your family and home is to be expected but don’t let it make you miserable and miss the opportunity to create a new Thanksgiving memory with new friends. Now is the perfect time to embrace the change that comes with studying abroad.

Once you’ve got everything planned out, you’ll see that it is very possible to have a fun and exciting Thanksgiving dinner even while you’re studying abroad. Even if you’re miles away from home, you can still have a great time with the people you’re with and make some new Thanksgiving memories.

Hi there! My name's Britt and I'm a senior majoring in English major at Florida State University. I have these crazy, big dreams of traveling the entire world and writing novels in my spare time. I love music, food, and the Japanese culture. I plan on teaching English in Japan upon graduation from Florida State. My first YA novel, Twisted, was published by Deep Sea Publishing Company in 2014. It won a Readers' Favorite Book Award that same year. Alongside schoolwork, I'm working hard on the second book in the Twisted series as well as a number of other novels.

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