For the past week or so I had originally had plans to go to my dad’s house for Thanksgiving. I had talked to him and asked if I could bring some of the international students that didn’t have anywhere else to go. My dad loves to cook and thought it was a great idea. I had planned to bring my friend Qian along with a friend of hers. We got to planning right away and even talked about Black Friday shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Everything sounded great.
A few days later two of the Italian boys, Claudio and Paolo, began asking others on our floor if they would like to go to Chicago for Thanksgiving. At first I was reluctant but I told them that if they could convince Qian then we would both come. Qian did not take much convincing at all. She quickly contacted her friend and said that she had changed plans and we wouldn’t be going to my dad’s anymore. The boys also got another girl on our floor, Gina, to come with as well. For the past few days now us five have been busy making arrangements for Thanksgiving.
To me this all seemed like a joke at first. The Italians doing their usual joking around and everyone else just playing along, but we are about to book the place we will be staying at this weekend. I am flushed with excitement for this trip. I have never been to Chicago and I am excited to explore this new place with this group. Interestingly enough, none of us really know each other very well either, I think this is also why it seemed like a joke to me. I am also excited to get to know Gina, Paolo, Claudio and Qian better as well. Putting aside all of this excitement has also made me think about this trip on a deeper level. I will be spending my Thanksgiving with a handful of people who have never even had one before. With that being said, I told the group that I would make them a traditional Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night. I am so happy to do this, I love cooking!
I can’t wait to take this adventure. I really hope to make the other students feel very included in the American culture by showing them what Thanksgiving is and what it is about. Sure, the full trip won’t be about this, but for at least that evening I want to show them what a real Thanksgiving is and what it means to Americans. In Garza-Guerrero’s journal “Culture shock: Its Mourning and the Vicissitudes of Identity”, he speaks of the many struggles people feel upon entering a new culture. Yes, my floormmates have been living here for several months now, but culture shock can be felt even years after entering a culture; there is no time limit. Garza-Guerreo describes culture shock as a stage of ‘mourning’. He describes it in this way because it is as if someone is mourning the loss of their own culture while trying to embrace a new one. Those that are considered the “new” culture often do not even take this into account when meeting a foreign person. This is why living and being abroad can be so difficult. As exciting and new as everything is, it can also be quite frightening and can make one homesick.
What I hope to do with this Thanksgiving is make my new friends feel very included here and help make this cultural shock process an easier one. I know when I was abroad the hardest time of year was right around the holidays. I was thinking about how I was going to be spending my holidays with, essentially, strangers. By the holiday season I had only been in Spain for two months and now I was to spend the holidays with them? Lucky for me I had a really great family that made me feel very included in theirs and I felt right at home or rather felt right at my home away from home. I really hope to follow this example that my host family has set for me. I hope to do the same for the international students I will be spending my Thanksgiving with.