Celebrating Thanksgiving When You’re Studying Abroad

One of my favorite memories of being in Korea last year was convincing 13 of my brave students to head to a western style restaurant with me to celebrate and enjoy the delicious comforts of a typical American Thanksgiving.  I’m still not sure if they were more nervous about being around so many foreigners, or trying turkey for the first time, which was the case for several of them.

As Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and just the thought of succulent turkey and seasoned stuffing makes me salivate as I type, I was beyond excited to share such a tradition with my culturally curious students. Though it turned out to be a bit of a disaster (the restaurant failed to keep our reservation, and they ran out of turkey moments before my turn in the buffet line, which resulted in a Thanksgiving steak), I was somehow still filled with that same sentimental warmth that the holiday usually brings when I’m at home.  I quickly realized that holidays abroad don’t need to be sad, lonely, or even lacking of the same traditions you’re used to at home. There are several ways you can still celebrate and enjoy the holidays, like Thanksgiving, while you’re studying abroad!

1) Be open to adapting your Thanksgiving to whatever is available to you! As I learned in Korea, turkeys are not commonly eaten, so this is where your adaptive skills as a traveler come in handy. Try switching things up by trying a new type of edible bird that may be easier to come by in your host country, like goose, duck, guinea fowl, or chicken.  (side note: I did learn that turkeys can be found at Costco in Korea, so if you’re fortunate enough to be living near one of those, you’ll be in good shape…if not, I’d highly recommend duck!)

2) Try adding hints of the local cuisine into your meal. Asking everyone to bring a side dish of their choice could be a fun way to get an eclectic mix of food. Adjusting certain recipes can also reflect your globally maturing taste buds. How about trying wasabi mashed potatoes, curry infused green bean casserole, or a spiced up pumpkin soup to tastefully combine ingredients in your host country to those old secret family recipes that could use a modern twist?

2) Invite both American AND non-American friends! Teaching others about your home country’s holidays and traditions not only educates them on these cultural differences, but it makes you reflect on, connect with, and appreciate the holiday even more when you can share these experiences with people from diverse backgrounds. It also increases the likelihood of them inviting you to their holiday gatherings in the future! It’s really a win-win situation.

4) Enjoy and be thankful! You’re in a new country and chances are, having the time of your life. Share the tradition with your new international friends and openly discuss the awesome things we all have to be grateful for!

Abroad101 wishes you a gobble-icious Thanksgiving all across the globe!