Home Away from Home

How do international students celebrate a special American holiday, Thanksgiving, when they’re thousands of miles away from home? Our Alumni Relations intern, Elizabeth, shares why she enjoys celebrating her favourite day of the year with her closest friends from St Andrews.

Thanksgiving is the best day of the year. It is a day reserved for eating too much delicious food, enjoying the company of your friends and family, and reflecting on the things that we are grateful for on a daily basis. While some American students decide to fly back to their families to celebrate the special day, I truly enjoy sharing my favourite holiday with some of my favourite people in St Andrews.

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Since I arrived in Fife as a fresher in September 2013, I began scheming away to make preparations for the “big day,” even though it wasn’t to be celebrated until the fourth Thursday in November. As I met and spoke with other American students in my hall, University Hall, it became clear that others looking for ways to celebrate Thanksgiving as well. As we began to plan, we faced our first obstacle: how do I cook a holiday meal for the first time, when previously my cooking experiences went as far as me stealing pieces of the turkey as my father carved it in the kitchen. Luckily, our hall chef, Ross, generously agreed to cook the turkey for us! One Risk-Assessment form later and a pre-dawn walk into town to collect our bird from the local butcher, Minnick’s, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving meal away from home. Other Americans brought their favourite sides of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and roasted vegetables, and plenty of Brits stopped by the celebrations to see what all of the fuss was about. One holiday meal later, and my sceptical friends discovered why this day is so wonderful!

Last year as I moved out of halls and into my own flat, Thanksgiving preparations began once more, with my British friends asking in early October if we would be celebrating Thanksgiving again. This time the responsibility of cooking the meal fell squarely to me, so after a care package from the States and a pep talk or two from my parents, I slid a 12 kg turkey into the oven, and hoped that it would be ready when my guests arrived five hours later!

With two tables full of sides and couches and chairs crammed with friends protectively guarding their plates piled high with food, we went around and shared what we were thankful for—half-joking, but also with a tinge of self-reflection and honesty. Hours later, everyone rolled home with full stomachs and happy hearts, already marking Thanksgiving 2015 on their calendars.

This year I look forward to celebrating the best day of the year with my friends who have been with me since first year, and with my academic children, some of whom have never been to a Turkey Day celebration before! While it is tough to be away from home during this very special holiday, every year I am incredibly thankful to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my St Andrews family.

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