What it’s like to spend holidays abroad

Mountain in Wicklow.
Mountain in Wicklow.

My family, like most, has a Thanksgiving tradition. Every year, we drive into a little corner of Indiana and spend the weekend visiting and eating (mostly eating) with the entirety of my Mom’s side of the family. This year, the tradition lives on without me.

I wasn’t expecting this to be a hard thing for me. I genuinely haven’t felt homesick since being in Ireland. My past travel experience has prepared me for the distant separation from family, and now thanks to Skype and every other glory of the Internet, it’s not an issue to keep in touch with them.  We still talk and my parents still tell me to “Have fun, but not too much fun!”  And let’s face it—one of the greatest things about studying abroad is that it tests and grows your independence. I’m glad I don’t want to go home, because for me that’s a sign that I’m doing this whole living-in-Europe thing right.

Now Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I’m surprised to find myself really, really wishing I was going to be sharing my thanks at fold-out tables in a heated garage crowded with aunts, uncles, cousins and kids, like I always have.

Friends at home have asked me how it feels to be in Ireland, where there is no Thanksgiving holiday. I have to say that it’s definitely strange…Christmas preparations have already started here, which goes against the generally accepted US rule of no Christmas until the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone. Just last weekend, I went to a Christmas market in Galway where a nun nearly convinced me I needed to start buying ornaments for my tree.

Photo taken in Western Ireland.
Photo taken in Western Ireland.

Without the holiday and without the family, Thanksgiving becomes complicated. I was beginning to think that the weekend would be hard to get through without either. Then my study abroad group proposed that we do our own Thanksgiving dinner. So the holiday was no longer missing, but what about family? Then I looked up and realized that family wasn’t missing either. While won’t be celebrating with biological family, I will be sharing a turkey and all the fixings with the group of amazing students I am here studying with. These people have formed my family away from home—a different kind of family to be sure, but one that has become just as real.

So, yeah, it will be hard for me to miss the chaos at home and I’ll certainly be thinking about all of my family as we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner in different countries. It’s not so bad, though, because I’ve realized that I’ve made a new home and a new family here in Dublin.

Enjoy your holiday, wherever in the world you are.

Amy Rubenstein is a junior journalism major in the Honors Tutorial College. She is currently studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Follow her travels on twitter @amyelisabethx.

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