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Celebrating Holidays Studying Abroad

Being abroad for the fall semester, I prepared myself to be homesick around the holidays this year. Instead I have been pleasantly surprised that every holiday here so far has just helped me to fall even more in love with my host family, this city, and the other students in my program!

For Halloween my host mom made a pumpkin pie. Although it wasn’t at all like the pies I’m used to, it was delicious and so thoughtful of her. Because of the absence of pumpkins here that are fit for jack-o-lanterns, (the only ones to be found in Grenoble are the eating kind- they aren’t hollow enough inside to make them practical for carving) we drew pictures and bought mini pumpkins instead. Bars around town had Halloween bashes, and although people didn’t get as dressed up as at home, we weren’t out of place with our costumes.

My birthday has always been one of my favorite times of the year, but being away from my friends and family this year made me much less inclined to celebrate it like I always do. Fortunately, I have a great group of friends who through me a little party, and our program director bought a little cake and everything! Although my host parents were out of town, they left a present on my pillow with a sweet note.

For Thanksgiving this year, we are going out to dinner with our CEA program, and my host family is so excited to learn more about this holiday that is so bizarre to them! They don’t have anything similar at all to our Thanksgiving celebrations at home, so the whole concept is something interesting for them to learn about.

Although I will be home just in time for Christmas, I still get to experience many aspects of the season here do to Christmas markets! At home, it seems to be frowned upon if you start celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving is over, but as there is no Thanksgiving here, Christmas can start a little earlier. Every day, more and more lights are being put up around Grenoble, which only helps to build the excitement. The Christmas markets here in town opened up this weekend, giving us the opportunity to experience a real European tradition! Additionally, our CEA director has been encouraging us to get in the holiday spirit by decorating the office.

The holidays here have been much less anti-climactic than I expected them to be. They’ve been opportunities for me to share a little of my culture with my new French family and friends, and I’ve grown closer to the other American students here though bonding over the holidays. Not only that, but I’ve got to experience a few French holidays as well! Through it all, I’ve gained a little more appreciation for my culture and our unique manner of celebrating holidays.

Aimee Goffinet is the Fall 2013 CEA MOJO for Grenoble, France. She is currently a senior at the University of Kentucky.
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