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Letters from Abroad: An Irish Thanksgiving

Three months ago, I left the sunny American west coast for the historically gray skies of the Irish west coast. I am spending this semester in Galway, Ireland, studying at the national university here. Classes ended this past week so we’re all gearing up for study week and then two weeks of examinations before all the Americans disperse back to their home cities. While I cannot wait to do laundry for free (it’s up to $10 a load!), eat real peanut butter and go outside wearing less than five layers, leaving this country is going to be difficult after meeting so many wonderful people from across the globe and having the opportunity to travel around this small island and all of Europe.

One of the highlights of my time in Ireland came out of a day trip one October afternoon, sitting at the edge of the world. Perched on the edge of a cliff, I stared across the Atlantic Ocean and strained my eyes to see the edge of America but even with glasses on, I couldn’t quite see across three thousand miles. Eventually, though, I finished my lunch, hopped back on my rented bike, and continued with my study abroad group back across Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. Only a few weeks later, Ireland had a ‘bank holiday’ weekend, which meant I was immediately on a plane to Paris. I learned that the Mona Lisa is only one painting in the multiple day adventure that is the traversing the Louvre and that the real Moulin Rouge is nothing compared to the majesty of Montmarte.

As the semester progressed, so did the work, and us Americans decided to go all-out for Thanksgiving as the best cure for procrastination and creeping homesickness. As we watched friends’ Facebook statuses change to “heading home!” or “needs a ride to/from the airport,” classes at NUI Galway continued as lecturers went over exam tips and paper deadlines. The program I came with, Arcadia University, had its students split into groups, each getting a ‘Thanksgiving box.’ But I live with two Irish students as well, so we held a second Thanksgiving the next day since with no Thanksgiving, this country does not get the materialistic glee of Black Friday. It was in preparing the Irish Thanksgiving dinner that I realized how much I have grown over the past few months. Not only do I have more pride in sharing American customs and traditions, I am also much more equipped to do so comprehensively thanks to a Mills education.

Any Mills student who has the time left at college should study abroad. Yes, the exchange rate does not agree with any bank account, and yes, the eight hour difference to California time can be disheartening. But in the end, you get to climb green hills, travel to a diverse range of countries from a central base and teach some non-Americans the art of making a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich.