The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Students celebrate Thanksgiving abroad, cope with homesickness

During the holiday season, many students spend their time with family and friends. Others, however, are far from home and have a different way of celebrating.

“All of the students here miss their families, but it was extremely hard during the holiday when we are normally able to be together,” said junior Tyler Thom in an e-mail from Nicaragua where he is studying abroad.

Every year, more than 400 UW-Eau Claire students study abroad. According to the 2007 Open Doors Report from the Institute of International Education, Eau Claire ranks 14th in the number of students who study abroad among all master’s-level universities in the nation.

When Thanksgiving and Christmas come, spending these traditional holidays abroad provides students new experiences, students said.

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“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I couldn’t let it go by uncelebrated,” said junior Kerri Larson in an e-mail from Lancaster, England, where she is studying.

Larson and junior Kara Braun, who is also studying in Lancaster, decided to cook a Thanksgiving feast for all of Larson’s flat mates. Larson said she sprayed water and turkey juices all over the place when she cleaned the huge turkey, but it was eventually successfully cooked and all her British flat mates loved it.

Larson said it is very hard to explain what Thanksgiving is to British students; even though they said the turkey was extraordinary.

“When you can’t be at home to celebrate something that means a lot to you with your family, you have to celebrate with the people around you and don’t lose sight of what the holiday actually means,” Larson said in an e-mail. “How to deal with homesickness is to not let it beat you down.”

American holidays are also celebrated differently in Eastern countries.

“Our International dormitory hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the international students and had a combination of Thai food and American food,” said senior Paula Meyer in an e-mail interview from the university she is studying at in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The university also decorated its café with fall-colored foliage.

“It was heart-warming but nostalgic, delicious but different,” Meyer said in the e-mail. “My Thai friends looked quizzically at me when I mixed my turkey with my potatoes and gravy in one big heap.”

Homesickness struck Thom, and he said he spent a disappointing Thanksgiving in Nicaragua. Some of the American students went out to eat at a restaurant that had a “Thanksgiving Dinner.”

“When we got there, they were sold out of turkey and didn’t have a lot of other items either,” said Thom. “It just made things worse.”

Thom said they waited two hours and were served small, yet expensive, portions.

“We are all excited to get back home for Christmas,” Thom said. “It will mean so much more to see families after being gone for so long.”

Through celebrating Western holidays abroad, students said they gained a better understanding of the people from other countries who celebrate their national holidays in the United States. When the students return, some said they would like to learn more about other cultures.

“I would want to ask these people what the holiday means to them and truly learn about it,” Larson said, “because I know it made me feel great to talk about Thanksgiving with other people.”

Sophomore Kristen Wysocki, who is currently studying in England, said in an e-mail, “I would respect them and like to share that experience with them.”

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Students celebrate Thanksgiving abroad, cope with homesickness