For many, the holidays in the United States represent a coming together of family, friends, and community. When you are in a country that does not celebrate one of the festivities that you have become so used to taking part in, it can be hard to feel at home. You feel a sense of loss and isolation. For obvious reasons, there is no Thanksgiving in Italy. No gigantic turkey spread with homemade gravy poured all over. No mashed potatoes coupled with various stuffings, roasted veggies, and of course the cranberry sauce. But most importantly no apple, pecan, and pumpkin pies. In a way, you are deprived of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
I have always loved the holiday season, especially one like Thanksgiving that focuses so much of its celebration on gorging oneself with food. I also attend multiple Thanksgiving events and dinners throughout the holiday weekend, not forgetting of course discount shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, for this November, I have been dreading not being able to visit relatives and catch up over dinner and desserts. But I was pleasantly surprised with the responses and actions of my fellow classmates to the lost holiday.
Instead of lamenting in their deprivation of a hardy, carb-loaded meal, many students at Temple Rome hosted various get-togethers, “Friends-givings”, and late-night food runs. I guess I forgot that other students may be facing the same holiday nostalgia as myself, and I find it important for you all to know that you will not be alone. You should not be held back from studying abroad because you are worried about missing holidays with the family; there will be many holidays in the future to be spent with them. You can invent your own holiday tradition with some other amazing students on your campus, bridging connections with your classmates once again.
A number of my friends went to a “Friends-giving” on Tuesday, creating a potluck hybrid of Italian and American foods. My roommates and I went a different route. We decided to get together after our classes on Wednesday and pick up some trappizino sandwiches and head to our local pub to celebrate with our newly-made Italian friends. With all of us travelling over this Thanksgiving weekend, we wanted one moment together to commemorate the occasion as a pseudo-family.
For myself, I wanted to take a leap, and treat myself to a weekend away from Italy in Brussels, Belgium. It had always been a thought in the back of my mind to go here, and so I decided to take charge. By making this weekend more exciting and jam-packed with travelling, sightseeing, and the like, I have been able to take my mind off the fact that I am away from my family. If I had stayed in Rome with no plans, I feel like I would have become despondent and felt even more isolated from the festivities I know are taking place back in the US.
I believe this all goes back to making sure you are giving yourself the proper mental health care. Constantly reminding yourself what you are missing at home, will only distract you from the magic and excitement that is Rome. This tactic of bogging down your mind with thoughts of the “lost things of US” is unproductive for you as well.
Temple Rome really becomes like a family for many of the students studying abroad. We are a strong network of diverse, interesting people, who want to immerse ourselves in the cultures, sights, smells, and places of Rome and the beyond. Who cares about one holiday; you will have holidays all throughout your life. Think of studying abroad as a long, studious and adventurous holiday for yourself; that way you can think of your time here as just as meaningful as your time at home.