Photo courtesy of Selly Sallah

Students Abroad Give Thanks for America

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is the time of year when everyone takes a step back to think about what they’re thankful for. For many, friends and family top the list, as we look forward to seeing and spending time with them in the upcoming week.

However, a significant portion of the junior class does not have this upcoming reunion to look forward to. In fact, a large percentage of the junior class will spend Nov. 24 in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all.

Although these students will be experiencing what is likely their first Thanksgiving away from friends, family, and their country, they will return in a few short weeks with an entirely new perspective from their experiences abroad.

Well into the semester, these juniors have had time to reflect on what they are thankful for while being so far away.

Students listed a wide variety of small comforts they missed from home that were unavailable abroad. Good ketchup, cell phone service, window screens, pedestrian right-of-way, salsa, ranch dressing, American-style pens and pencils, large grocery stores, good sidewalks, and being able to flush toilet paper (which apparently is not allowed in Greece) all made the list of smaller parts of home that students wish they could access abroad.

“Peanut butter. It’s not a thing over here, which is truly just such a tragedy,” says Emma Catranis, MCAS ‘18, who is currently abroad in London.

Solina Jean-Louis, MCAS ‘18, who has spent portions of the last two summers abroad in Germany, echoed the issue of a lack of peanut butter abroad.

“It comes in such tiny little jars and is so expensive. So if you’re going abroad, definitely bring at least two or three jars of peanut butter,” she recommends.

Even something as simple as water cannot be taken for granted while abroad in Europe.

“One thing from the United States that I’d expected is ice in your water when you go to restaurants. Here that is not a thing,” says Danielle Patane, MCAS ‘18, who is currently studying in Italy. “Also, water is not free when you go out to eat. It usually costs about two to three euros for a bottle of water.”

But the students’ newfound appreciation for aspects of American culture was not limited to small objects. Many students said they missed the comfort of being surrounded by their own culture.

While living abroad is an exciting change of pace, at times it can be overwhelming. It’s hard to be entirely comfortable in a place that is not yet completely your own, where people may be different from you, and where street signs may be in languages that you don’t understand.

“Living abroad was way different than I expected, I think because I imagined it would be more like a vacation. I [didn't realize] that living somewhere is totally different than vacationing,” says Katherine McCartin, LSOE ‘18, who spent part of her summer abroad in Italy.

McCartin continues, “Living is not as romantic as vacation! When I got home I [appreciated] not having to mentally convert to Euros before withdrawing cash and being able to walk up to a drugstore or grocery store and read all the labels because they were in English.”

McCartin was not alone in missing the familiarity of home and the English language while abroad.

“I’m just thankful for feeling at home here in the United States. As much as I love being abroad and having new adventures every day, it really wears you out. Even if you don’t notice it, your brain is taking in so much new information everyday while abroad and it can be really exhausting,” says Jean-Louis. “So I’m grateful for lazy days and feeling comfortable here, surrounded by other Americans, English, and the things I know and love.”

Among the things that students love and miss, family, friends, and dogs tend to top the list.

“I think being here has made me so much more thankful for the friendships and support systems I have at home,” Catranis says. “When it comes to the people in my life, I think I am probably the luckiest person in the world. And I’m glad that being away has given me that perspective.”

It seems that in many cases, distance does make the heart grow fonder, especially for students who are away from their families and friends for four months.

Finally, students at BC can spend this week being extra thankful for the education we receive here. Although the experience abroad is undoubtedly valuable, it is certainly different than it is here.

“I miss the sense of community I feel at BC. My school in London is massive so there isn’t really the same sort of camaraderie,” Catranis says. “Being over here has made me thankful for my BC education in general. King’s is pretty hands-off and I miss having professors who are invested in my education as well as me as a person.”

It is easy to overlook something as simple as BC camaraderie when counting our blessings in the upcoming weeks, especially when that camaraderie is currently based on end-of-the-semester panic and stress.

In fact, it is easy to overlook most of the small details of our lives that we should be grateful for. Many aspects of our lives seem so ordinary at this point that we forget to be thankful for basic things such as ice in our water, the ability to use a credit card, and easy access to a bottle of Jif. Luckily, our fellow Eagles abroad were able to lend us some insight on just how much we have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.