Abroad for the Holidays

Post submitted by Amber Hedquist, 2018 – 2019 Valencia First Year Abroad program participant. Amber is a Pre-Nursing major at FSU.

Food, Football, Family: the Holy Trinity of Thanksgiving. Well, maybe in America. The one hiccup to studying abroad is exactly that: you’re abroad. During the FYA program, I experienced my first Thanksgiving away from home, and here’s how it went…(spoiler alert – it couldn’t have been better).

Waking up on Turkey Day

Instead of waking up to bitter New England air, I woke up in a hotel in Madrid. My first non-traditional Thanksgiving was off to a fitting, non-traditional start!

My peers and I rolled out of bed to the same breakfast buffet we had eaten all week – but something was different. Red, White, and Blue jumped from the walls, and the smell of pancakes filled the room! The decorating crew was none other than our directors – who, mind you, don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving. How lucky are we to have a program staff so invested in making us feel at home? It was only morning and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

An American Thanksgiving breakfast abroad.

For those back home, this next bit will be nothing out of the ordinary. My English Professor asked if anyone would be interested in giving a speech at our Thanksgiving breakfast – and I’m sure you can guess who raised her hand. It’s odd to quote my own speech, but to summarize my main point: “We may not be home for Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean we’re not surrounded by family.” After living, studying, and running through airports with my peers, they do feel like family. That’s how I made the most of my Thanksgiving: of course missing my family at home, but not forgetting to be grateful for my little family here.

Our Valencian Thanksgiving – Preparation

Our Thanksgiving itinerary was as follows: breakfast until 11, depart Madrid on a five-hour bus ride, and either return to Valencia or head off for weekend travel. For the 50 of us going back to Valencia, we were left to our own devices. Or, as I saw it, we were left to what would inevitably become Holiday-Homesickness.

Not on my watch.

Channeling my resume of high school planning and senior night decorating, I proposed a potluck to my 50 peers. A few hours later and I had a spreadsheet of who was coming, what they were bringing, and a recipe for a 50 serving mac and cheese.

I didn’t brave it alone – my friend Caroline and I took on 5 pounds of noodles and 4 pounds of cheese for a monstrous dish.

Next-Up: the question of what would be our “dining room”. After getting the ok from my flatmates and the apartment across the hall, their apartment became the kitchen, and mine, the dining room. Three tables, one desk, and three couches later… we had a dining room!

Thanksgiving dinner table.

Our Feast

Let’s revisit the Holy Trinity, shall we?

Football? Check.

We may only have four news channels on our TV, but that didn’t stop us. With the help of an HDMI cord and a third party website, we brought football to Spain.

Food? Double Check.

Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole – you name it, we had it! Everyone showed up with full hands, which means everyone left with full bellies. My dad always tells me you can taste when a dish is “cooked with love,” and, in each bite, I couldn’t miss it.

Family? Check.

If there’s one thing this experience has done, it has reconfigured my definition of “family.” That’s what I was thankful for on Thanksgiving, and every day I spend here – that I am lucky enough to have a loving family in New Hampshire, and in Spain.

Thanksgiving dinner in Valencia!

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