On Thursday night, when most families in the United States were gathered together over colossal amounts of food, I found myself in La Cave aux Huiles – literally a cave under one of our school buildings – surrounded by over a hundred classmates and professors.  There were two long tables decorated with fallen leaves, candles, wine, and baskets of baguettes, of course.  Even as I sat among some of my new, closest friends, I felt torn.

The atmosphere was beautiful, but it wasn’t quite the same as my dining room table at home. The friends and professors surrounding me were some of the kindest, most amazing people I’ve met, but they weren’t my parents or my sister. The meal was good – French turkey, vegetables, mashed potatoes mixed with squash, pumpkin pie, and a glass of Beaujolais – but it wasn’t the same as the turkey my dad prepares or the pies my mom bakes.  I looked around and felt grateful for every moment and every opportunity that I’ve been given in France, yet I couldn’t help but wish, just a little, that I was with my family on this holiday.

After dinner back home, I have a tradition of shopping on Black Friday with my mom and my sister.  Around midnight, we pile into the car, turn on the music, and drive to the nearest outlets.  We sit through traffic and stand around in the cold before we can finally immerse ourselves in consumer paradise. By 4am, we call it quits and drive back home to the comfort of our beds, bellies still full and wallets empty. Here in France, of course, Black Friday doesn’t exist. Instead, my friends and I went down to the Cours Mirabeau, one of the most popular avenues in town, and took pictures of the holiday lights.  It wasn’t quite the same as midnight shopping, but I think it was a perfect alternative.

I guess I didn’t realize how important Thanksgiving was to me until I couldn’t celebrate it properly.  Before, it was simply a delicious, enormous meal. It was a time when I got to miss a few days of school and quote Joey from “Friends” saying, “These are my Thanksgiving pants.” Now, I see that it’s much more than that.  It’s a time, of course, to reflect on all of the little things for which we are thankful. It’s even a time to appreciate being American and having opportunities in our country that so many do not have. Most importantly, I believe, it’s a time to celebrate being with your family and loved ones.  Here in France, I realized just how lucky I am to have a new sort of family at IAU. 


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