10 Ways for Students to Celebrate Thanksgiving While Studying Abroad

Thanksgiving is a time for family, food, and gratitude, but what do you do when you find yourself celebrating Thanksgiving abroad? Being away from home can be hard enough, and being in a different country during a holiday may make you feel homesick. Despite longing for the smell of your grandma’s pumpkin pie or family turkey roast, this is also a great opportunity for you to get creative and have a unique Thanksgiving.  

Let’s explore some ideas for making your Thanksgiving away from home a heartwarming and unforgettable experience. 

1. Embrace Local Flavors

One of the coolest things about celebrating Thanksgiving in a foreign land is getting to savor a unique fusion of cultures and cuisines. Instead of searching high and low for turkey and cranberry sauce, why not embrace the local flavors? Try traditional dishes from your host country and even experiment with some Thanksgiving-themed dishes using local ingredients. You might stumble upon a new favorite!

2. Host a Potluck 

If you want to simulate the communal feel of Thanksgiving at home, hosting a potluck can be a fantastic idea. Invite local friends or friends from your cohort to contribute their own dishes, and you’ll end up with a diverse and delicious spread that celebrates not just American traditions but also the international flavors of your current home.

3. Share Your Culture

Thanksgiving is all about sharing gratitude and traditions. Use this opportunity to educate your international friends and classmates about the importance of this holiday in the United States. Share the history, customs, and stories that make Thanksgiving special. You might even teach them how to make a classic pumpkin pie or decorate a turkey-shaped centerpiece.

4. Virtual Family Time

Being away from family during Thanksgiving can be tough. Luckily, modern technology can bridge the gap. Plan a video call with your loved ones back home so you can join in their celebrations, even if it’s only virtually. Share stories and take part in the family conversation—it’ll feel like you’re right there with them.

5. Thanksgiving Decorations

Transform your living space with some simple Thanksgiving decorations. You can make DIY crafts like paper turkeys, fall-themed wreaths, and garlands to create a warm and cozy atmosphere. Don’t forget to light some scented candles to set the mood and remind yourself of the comforting aromas of home.

6. Community Celebrations

Many countries have their own celebrations and festivals that coincide with Thanksgiving. Explore local events and attend them to soak in the culture and make new friends. Who knows, you might discover a new tradition that resonates with you or develop a deeper appreciation for your host country’s customs.

7. Volunteer Opportunities

Thanksgiving is also a time to give back and show gratitude for what you have. Seek out volunteer opportunities in your host country to help those in need. Giving your time and energy can be incredibly fulfilling and make you feel more connected to your temporary home.

8. Express Gratitude

Take some time to reflect on what you’re thankful for in your life right now. Whether it’s the new friends you’ve made, the incredible experiences you’ve had, or the personal growth you’ve achieved, there’s always something to be grateful for. Create a gratitude journal and jot down your thoughts each day leading up to Thanksgiving. It’s a simple yet powerful way to celebrate the spirit of the season.

9. Movie Night

If you’re feeling a bit homesick, host a Thanksgiving movie night with your friends. Have some snacks, get cozy, and watch classic Thanksgiving-themed movies. It’s a great way to bond with your fellow international students and have a good laugh.

10. Reach Out to Other Expats

Chances are, you’re not the only one celebrating Thanksgiving abroad. Connect with other expats or international students who are going through a similar experience. Share your plans, tips, and experiences. They may have some great advice to offer or even invite you to join their Thanksgiving celebration.

Celebrating Thanksgiving abroad doesn’t have to be a sad or lonely experience. With a little creativity and an open heart, you can turn it into a wonderful adventure that could be a core memory of your study abroad experience. Remember to embrace the local culture, share your own traditions, and connect with others around you.

Whether you’re feasting on local delicacies, volunteering in your community, or simply having a virtual chat with your family back home, Thanksgiving can be a special time no matter where in the world you are.

Are you looking for more tips about how to navigate life abroad? Check out our articles for your burning questions. Happy Thanksgiving, and may your heart be full of gratitude no matter where you are!