Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving in Bologna

SAIS Bologna celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday last week with a dinner for some 200 students, family members, faculty, staff and children at the Bologna Center.

Below, Briana Thompson, a U.S. national from the state of Massachusetts, shares her thoughts on what it meant to her to spend Thanksgiving here in Italy.

Thanks to the Student Government Association for organizing the feast, to those who prepared the food and to Julie Aaserud of Norway for supplying the photographs for this post.

I have spent almost every Thanksgiving Day in or near Plymouth, Massachusetts -- the site of the original meal between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. From a very young age, I learned all about the struggles of the settlers in this new land and their new friends, and went on countless field trips to see Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower and Plymouth Plantation.

Briana Thompson at the
SAIS Bologna Thanksgiving dinner
The lessons were simple and emphasized sharing, friendship, appreciating different cultures and of course being thankful for what you have. However, when I was younger it was very easy to simply associate Thanksgiving with football, turkey and a long weekend off from school.

Luckily, as I’ve matured, the holiday has become more meaningful. On the one hand, Thanksgiving (Eve, in particular) means reconnecting with hometown friends, regardless of the time and distance that you’ve been apart. I have come to appreciate just how special these people are, and I defer to a quote from the television show "The Wonder Years" to explain: “After all, if growing up is war, then those friends who grew up with you deserve a special respect. The ones who stuck by you shoulder to shoulder in a time when nothing is certain, when all life lay ahead, and every road led home.”

On the other hand, the fundamental aspect of Thanksgiving -- giving thanks for the blessings in one’s life -- has become increasingly important as I’ve gotten older. It is for this reason that spending Thanksgiving here in Bologna was not entirely different.

I will readily admit that I missed my family fighting over drumsticks, monopolizing the gravy, perpetually relegating my adult cousins and me to the kids' table, cuddling up on the couch in various states of delirium from food comas, etc. But I am so grateful that I have them and my friends to miss.

At the same time, sharing a meal with 200 plus SAIS students, faculty and staff this past Saturday was really an attestation to the unique family we’ve become here, and I’m incredibly thankful for that. For me, the spirit of the holiday was present more so this year than ever before as the emphasis was placed on all those lessons I learned as a kid (sharing, friendship, appreciating different cultures, being thankful) and less on football and stuffing my face.

I can’t say I’ll be adding pasta to my Thanksgiving Dinner menu from now on, but the post-meal dance party might just become a tradition.

The Gathering
Matthew Melchiorre
Polina Bogomolova
Geoffrey Levin
Rositsa Georgieva
Lachezar Manasiev
Petra Vujakovic
Nicholas Borroz
Julie Aaserud
Jemilatu Abdulai
Nelson Graves

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