AUTHORAlyxie Harrick Alyxie graduated from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service in 2012 with a major in Culture and Politics and a certificate in Asian Studies. She studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador, and Shanghai, China, where she wrote for the Berkley Center's...
October 28, 2010
December 6, 2010
December 13, 2010
The Junior Year Abroad Network (JYAN) connects Georgetown students studying abroad in a variety of cultures. Students share reflections on religion, culture, politics, and society in their host countries, commenting on topics ranging from religious freedom and interfaith dialogue to secularization, globalization, democracy, and economics.
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Alyxie Harrick on Celebrating Thanksgiving Abroad
December 6, 2010 | 1 COMMENT
Although absent from my family table, I knew I still had many things to be grateful for. My close friend from Georgetown had finished her study abroad program early and flew from Australia to explore Shanghai with me. Luckily she was still here during Thanksgiving, so we were able to be each others family at the universitys Thanksgiving buffet dinner. My host dad accompanied us to the dinner, and while he opted for the shrimp dumplings and Chinese mixed noodles, I enjoyed his reaction when he tried turkey and cranberry sauce for the first time.
Even though I was not able to spend Thanksgiving in the US, I was fortunate to share it with my Chinese family and new friends. Being their first host student, my host family had never celebrated Thanksgiving. My stories of watching the Macys Day Parade while preparing food and saying what you are grateful for around the dinner table intrigued them they had never heard of such traditions before. Sharing my culture with them was the greatest gift I could give this holiday season. The next morning when my mom rushed me awake to show me news clips of the parade, I could see they how much they were trying to make me feel at home. This is truly what family is for.
While I longed for my American family during Thanksgiving, I know that Ill be thinking about my host family on Christmas. There will be no lotus cakes to accompany the Christmas ham, nor tea to follow dinner. But I will have these memories and new Chinese traditions which I can now share with my American family.
COMMENT FROM PROF. ANDREW WACKERFUSS April 10, 2011
Alyxie, as your former CULP professor, I read your post with interest for the many layers of cultural dialogue you're participating in. Obviously our biggest goal when we study abroad is to gain a more tactile and nuanced understanding of our host culture, its language, and its way of life. But I think only when we arrive do we appreciate that we are also teachers, not just students. This comes through most clearly on those days when we feel most separate from our homes, and then work with our hosts to re-create some semblance of what we're missing. The resulting scene is often a far better insight into American values than anything they can or would hear in the news. Cultural pratices and lived experiences, not political assertions, are in this way the best teacher for both sides.
I also read your comment with personal interest, since it reminded me of my own Thanksgiving abroad. While on a Fulbright in Germany, I invited my friends and former host family over to my new place where I had prepared stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry, and a hard-to-find turkey. (The difficulty of even acquiring items we take for granted really hit home how foreign a practice Thanksgiving was there.) I also had to answer a lot of questions about what exactly we were celebrating!