There’s a lot to adapt to when studying abroad. The food, environment, weather and meeting new people. But one of the strangest things to wrap my head around is this:
What do you mean, no Thanksgiving?!
Thanksgiving is as American of a holiday as it gets and, unfortunately, it is not celebrated worldwide. But I’ll be lucky. For my Thanksgiving experience, I’ll be in Dublin searching for a turkey to stick in the oven, potatoes to mash, and something with pumpkin in it with my best friend, introducing Irish locals to my favorite American holiday.
As grateful as I am that I’ll be with someone very special to me on a very special day, being on a different continent for over three months now and celebrating one of my favorite holidays away from my family has made me think about what I truly am grateful for this year:
I don’t tell them enough. But without them, I wouldn’t have been raised with a roof over my head, clothes to wear every day, dinner every night and an opportunity for education that has brought me to SDSU and beyond. And of course, I would not be studying abroad without the sacrifices they’ve made for me to do so. To my parents, I don’t know how to sincerely put into words just how thankful I am for you and all that you do.
My friends, old and new
I’m grateful for the people who have stood by my side my entire life, for a few years, or even just a few months. To the friends at home who have consistently been involved in my life, have put in the effort to maintain a relationship separated by vast ocean, and who surprise me with FaceTime calls in the morning (which is your night), I thank you. And to the new friends I’ve made while studying abroad, you have played an immense role in shaping this experience, and – from traveling around Europe together to karaoke nights in Rome – you’ve become my family. I couldn’t be more thankful that you all walked into my life when and where you did (you know who you are).
The opportunity to travel
I never would have imagined that at the age of 20 I would be able to explore and see as much as I have. I’m blessed to be introduced to new people, cultures, food and traditions across multiple borders. I’m thankful for the morning naps in international airports, the nights getting lost in tiny streets in Venice and Amsterdam, the language barriers that were far too stressful at the time (like the time I was handed an all German menu!) and the experiences I’ve been able to share with my friends around Europe that I will never forget.
One of the biggest wake up calls while studying abroad was that everything may not be as convenient as it is in America. Walgreens or CVS? Not quite. Over the counter cold medicine? Nope. Iced coffee to go? They don’t do that. Having to adapt to how different parts of the world live on a day-to-day basis makes me eternally grateful for all the amenities that I have when I’m home. I took those little – often trivial – things for granted, and have now realized just how lucky I am to have them all at my disposal when I’m in America. I’m thankful for the convenience that isn’t so available everywhere.
It’s not just my comfy full-sized bed or my mom’s cooking. I’m grateful to have a place to call my home after three months of traveling and not having a stable one. Yes, Rome has been my temporary home for a few months now, and I will forever have a piece of me here, but with so much traveling and exploring, and not so much down time, it can sometimes feel like I’m living out of a suitcase and a hotel. When I return home in December, I know I will no longer take my home – the place I know, where I feel comfortable and that I can call mine – for granted.
Thanksgiving is a few days away, but being away from the pumpkins and turkey drawings made out of hand prints has made me appreciate the American holiday even more. And it has given me a reason to be grateful for so much. Take some time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, whether you’re at home with your family, or abroad.
I’m thankful for the chance I have gotten to go big, and leave home.
What are you thankful for?
Kassandra Ferrante is earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Rome, Italy this fall.