Thanksgiving in Italy by Emily Turner

Thanksgiving always hits me like a ton of bricks. Every year, this holiday of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes gives me more nausea and anxiety than my uncle’s inflammatory comments at the dinner table. It has absolutely nothing to do with the holiday, and rather its proximity to the culmination of the semester and my absolute nightmare: finals week.

Every student returning to campus after Thanksgiving break knows what they will have to face. The library hours change, professors begin to pile on last minute assignments, and final exam study guides begin to form. This year, I knew I would be spending the fourth Thursday of November in Italy as a study abroad student, but I was unsure what I could expect from a country that does not even celebrate Thanksgiving. Almost every student in my program was from the United States, but the semester calendar revealed that we were supposed to attend class on Thanksgiving day. We were left with so many questions: how do we watch the parade? Where do I find a turkey? How does the time difference affect my scheduled Zoom with the extended family? If sufficient statistical data were available, I am sure that the VPN purchase rate skyrocketed during Thanksgiving week in Perugia as every American student scrambled to watch the parade, the football games, and my personal favorite, the dog show.

As if the two remaining weeks of the semester after Thanksgiving were not overwhelming enough for me, I had classes scheduled for the holiday. I was sure that this was the year I would begin to hate Thanksgiving forever. Instead, my roommate Carmen saved the day – “what about a Thanksgiving potluck?”, she suggested.

We hosted around 13 study abroad students from the program in our apartment. With everyone already vaccinated and safely attending classes together every day, it was a safe and responsible congregation of individuals. What’s more, it was a diverse one – our Thanksgiving potluck included dishes from multiple cuisines around the world. Jasmine made her aunt’s famous Mac n Cheese, AJ made his grandmother’s jam cookies, Sabrina brought chocolate liquor from South Africa to pour on top of ice cream. We covered the table with aluminum trays of food, placemats, and candles, and toasted to new friends and a new family in Perugia. As we ate and shared stories of our own Thanksgiving traditions at home, I began to feel sentimental. I originally thought this would be my first Thanksgiving without my family, but I was wrong – although I was over 4,000 miles away from home, I spent Thanksgiving with 13 of my newest family members in our new home.

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