One six hour car ride, five U of M students, and the desire to explore a new place, here we are in Chicago! When we made it to Chicago we settled in right away and bought travel cards for the subway and buses and we were off. We spent the rest of our day viewing Millennium Park, Willis Tower and eating out. On Thursday Qian, Gina and myself woke up early to watch the McDonald’s Thanksgiving day parade downtown. It was so exciting to be right in the action and be a part of what the locals and others view on TV. We met up with the Italians, Paolo and Claudio, later. It was raining most of the day and many places were closed, but that didn’t stop us! We wandered through the city and actually ran into some of the other international students from the U of M. We walked around with them some more then went back to our place we are staying. I immediately started working on our Thanksgiving dinner and then we went out to shop a bit. On Friday we visited the science museum and Chinatown, and today, Saturday we will visit the zoo and head back to Minnesota.

I never realized how much Thanksgiving meant to me until I started sharing this special day with people who have never experienced it before. Last year while I was abroad I also cooked my family and many friends of theirs a Thanksgiving dinner. This was my second year in a row I would be celebrating with people who have never done this before. This is really special to me. I love that I get to teach people what Thanksgiving is and why it is important. As I was cutting up the turkey I couldn’t help but to think back to last year and how I spent Thanksgiving with my host family and my best friend, Pooja. It seems as if it was all a dream and it never happened. Like I never really went on exchange at all.

It is days like Thanksgiving when I miss my exchange friends and family most. This was a day I got to spend with them and truly let them know how thankful I am to have them in my life. Most days it can be hard to talk with my friend Pooja, who lives all the way in India, because of the time difference, but I was so happy to be able to talk back and forth with her on Thanksgiving. I was also able to speak with my first host family quite a bit. This year they had decided to have a Thanksgiving of their own with some friends of theirs. It makes me so happy to see that they wanted to carry on the tradition as well.

As for this year, it was also a special day. I got to sit at a table with people from around the world, and get a long. There are so many things going on in this world right now. Nothing makes me happier then to see so many cultures together at once. After cooking all the food, I had everyone go around the table and tell of what they were thankful for. It seemed so odd for them, but that was okay. I believe we all had to think a little bit about what we are truly thankful for to have in our life.

After we gave thanks we all ate to our hearts content. I was so happy that everybody loved the food. Shortly after eating we headed out so Qian and Gina could do some Black Friday shopping. I walked into one store with them, Macy’s, and immediately stepped out with the Italians. We decided it was too stressful for us so we decided to take a walk instead. We walked back to Millennium Park and sat and chatted for awhile. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.

We got to have a real conversation about living in other countries and how exciting it can be. I think part of why I loved this so much was that I got to live vicariously through them on their exchange here. I envy international students that are out right now exploring the unknown. When I speak with them I can’t help but to remember some of my own experiences. While your abroad it seems as if everything you see and do is so exciting. Everything is so new, so foreign. The memories you create, the stories you get to tell, the people you get to meet, it is all so enchanting. I miss it all. I miss the random adventures, seeing new things, hearing new ideas, just being completely fearless. One of my favorite things about being in a new country is you get to really see the country and how the people live there. When you go to your host country you sort of have an idea of what goes on there, what the people are like, and what the landscape will look like, but then you get there and your whole idea changes. I thought it was interesting being able to speak to the Italians about what they thought the US would be like vs how it actually is and I think this video does a great job describing this.

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