(My final Campus Reporter post of the semester. Originally posted on the SYA Admissions Blog)
Thanksgiving. Back home I associate it with family time, lots of food, and a break from school. But the French don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving and rather than lament all the traditions I was missing, I focused instead on how incredible it was that I was actually in France. That’s something to truly be thankful for.
As this semester abroad has worn on, I’ve been struck by the warm heartedness of my classmates. Realizing that we have been given this amazing opportunity while studying abroad, we have taken every chance to give back. In the period between American fall holiday #1 and #2 (Halloween and Thanksgiving), my classmates and I have coordinated and participated in a number of activities targeted towards helping people in need.
To start things off, I spent my last day of Toussaint break (Nov 3) in my English teacher’s kitchen with three of my classmates trying to understand why the French oven wasn’t adhering to the laws of culinary science (which, in case you were wondering, is definitely the most exact of sciences…definitely, no eyeballing of quantities or excessive buttering involved). Hours later than anticipated, after having to deal with both the early closure of Carrefour on Sundays and a momentary lack of butter, dozens of cupcakes of various shapes and sizes sat on every flat surface of that kitchen, iced and waiting. Long story short, sugar sells, and by the end of the day, the only proof of the previous existence of approximately 100 cupcakes was the pile of trays covered in crumbs and fallen sprinkles. In the end, all the work paid off…literally. As part of She’s the First’s Bake a Change campaign, we raised over 100 euros to help provide an education for girls in developing nations.
Additionally, since mid November, each week, groups of three or more students visit three different retirement homes around Rennes, helping out and providing entertainment that ranges from dance lessons to arts and crafts. Many American students also took the end of November as an occasion to show how grateful they were for their host families by cooking them a Thanksgiving meal, as American as is possible sans pumpkin, whole turkeys or cranberries. Further proving that food and service go hand in hand, the environmental club hosted a bake sale at the beginning of December to raise money for Philippines Relief Efforts in the wake of the recent disastrous Typhoon Haiyan. It only took us two separate attempts to realize the French silicon “muffin pans” are a prime example of false advertising, but at least us hungry teenagers don’t care too much if the cupcakes turn out misshapen; good food is good food.
As my first semester abroad comes to a close, it’s these activities that have a special place in my heart. This holiday season I’m thankful for a lot of things. For my family in Rennes, in America and elsewhere across the world; for my friends, on both sides of the pond; and above all, this amazing experience and the opportunities it has provided me to simultaneously get involved with a new community and help people in need.