Turkey for two: tales of Thanksgiving for college students

I remember my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was 20 and living in Germany at the time. I didn’t really know anyone, didn’t speak the language, and felt very homesick. There are some traditional fall celebrations in Germany, like Ertendank, which is a traditional harvest festival held in German cities and towns in October. There is music, dancing and food, and even parades.

It was lovely, but it wasn’t Thanksgiving like I was used to. I have a large family with roots in the North and South, so our holiday celebrations usually consisted of large groups of people with food enough for thirty or forty. It was a celebration that started days ahead with food preparation and baking, and it culminated in an amazing feast filled with talking, laughter and years of memories.

I missed that when I was thousands of miles away from my friends and family, and that year I decided to try my hand at cooking my first Thanksgiving meal. Let’s just say it wasn’t quite like mom made, but it helped remind me of home. I ate it while I talked on the phone with my family, which helped ease the homesickness just a little bit.

As a college student, this might be your first or one of many holidays you have had to spend away from home. The trick to not only surviving the festivities, but even enjoying them, is a little creativity and willingness to combine small elements of your memories from home with the new parts of your college life.

Try hosting a “Friendsgiving Meal” with your new college friends or dormmates. Most college dorms have small kitchens, so don’t plan anything to elaborate and don’t overextend your budget with expensive ingredients.

Buy smaller portions of meat, like turkey cutlets or even Cornish hens, and add in easy-to-make inexpensive sides like boxed stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and premade rolls.

If you don’t want to cook the entire meal yourself, encourage friends to bring a dish, dessert, or beverage, and enjoy each other’s company potluck style. This cuts down on cost, adds diversity to the menu, and gives you and your friends a chance to share a little of home with each other.

If cooking isn’t your thing, then eat out or order in! Maryville offers many unique and delicious dining options near campus, and many restaurants offer special Thanksgiving menus with all the same dishes you can make at home.

Another alternative is to go the unconventional route and simply order a pizza, Chinese food, or some other comfort food of your choice. Turkey isn’t mandatory for an enjoyable holiday meal, use your imagination to make your own new Thanksgiving traditions.

Not into cooking or hosting, but don’t want to spend the day alone? Then consider volunteering and really getting into the spirit of the day. This can be a fulfilling way to spend Thanksgiving and make new memories. Check with campus organizations or online for local volunteer opportunities within the surrounding neighborhoods.

Churches, Soup Kitchens, Shelters, Veterans Facilities, Hospitals and Clinics and other Non-profit organizations are always seeking volunteers. This may give you the opportunity for a memorable holiday experience and gives you a chance to meet, connect, bond, and eat with other friendly people in your community.

Finally, stay connected with family and friends. Not being able to physically be home doesn’t mean you have to be absent from the lives of your loved ones.

Make sure to send out holiday messages and Thanksgiving wishes on social media. Arrange a video chat or phone call with family members over Thanksgiving dinner.

Remember, no matter how you’re able to communicate with your family — your parents, siblings, and relatives will be happy to have you involved in the holiday, even from afar.

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