What’s it like to be abroad for a big American holiday like Thanksgiving? Surprisingly wonderful. Alumni Ambassador Andrea studied in Limerick, Ireland and she shared her Irish Thanksgiving story with us:
The mere thought of spending an American holiday locked in a dorm room an ocean away is nothing less than depressing. Before hopping on a plane to Ireland I was worried that this would be what my Thanksgiving would look like. Fortunately this fear was unfounded. My Thanksgiving abroad was not the most traditional one to say the least, and it was not spent around the table with family. But it was incredible and as I sat beside my fellow exchange students, my friends, I felt so loved.
Ireland does not celebrate the last Thursday of each November with a turkey, football, and a parade, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t host a memorable Thanksgiving. My Resident Director (though Irish) understood the significance that Thanksgiving holds in the hearts of Americans and planned a special dinner for our group. She arranged for a bus to pick us up and take us to Bunratty Castle (a castle older than our country) to dine!
Upon arrival we were greeted in the warmest possible way by actors, dressed as people from centuries ago, who offered us mead and bread with salt – an old Irish tradition believed to keep guests safe. We mingled in a room with tapestries that also predate our country as we enjoyed the company of those around us. We were then escorted through a rustic spiral staircase to the dining room and tables large enough for the twenty people in our group to sit comfortably at one. It was then that we were served a three course meal and while it did not include turkey, it was delicious. The actors continued to entertain us by singing and dancing as we enjoyed our hearty meal and the jolly atmosphere.
Once the meal and festivities were over, we left the castle with a renewed sense of friendship, happiness, and gratitude for this once in a lifetime Thanksgiving. Nothing about that day made me feel lonely, or even slightly sad as I feared it would. The Irish Thanksgiving I had was by far one of the most vibrant ones I have ever experienced. Returning to the American holiday this year makes me miss my time abroad even more.