Celebrating Thanksgiving away from home

Some students are left without the opportunity to travel home for Thanksgiving due to factors such as time, money and distance. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ADOBE STOCK

Thoughts of turkey-filled feasts and quality time spent with family are typically associated with Thanksgiving, but for some students, a traditional celebration of the holiday can be hard to come by so close to the end of the semester.

The university will close Thursday and Friday to honor Thanksgiving. With only two official school days off over the break, some students can have trouble finding the time to travel to see family out of state, out of the country or even just down the road, due to the academically busy time of the year.

Sophomore Omar Taha said Thanksgiving can be difficult at times due to his parents living out of the country. 

“My parents are overseas in Dubai so I video call them for a bit [on Thanksgiving],” he said. “It’s tough being so far away from them so I like to check in when I can.”

Unable to see his parents in person for the holiday, Taha said he visits his aunt, grandmother and cousins in Orlando instead to ensure he spends time with other family members.

The shorter break has also impacted junior Chip Karmercia’s plans to see his family for Thanksgiving. He said the money and time required to see his family isn’t worth the effort, especially with winter break approaching.

“This year, I can’t see my family because plane tickets are too expensive and the timing is just not optimal with finals,” he said. 

“I’m from Connecticut, so getting on a plane and going home for a couple days and coming back in time for Monday classes is just too much unnecessary work and not worth the extra money.”

Distance has also affected freshman Rachel Weitz’s plans for Thanksgiving. It is her first year attending USF and she said a short break makes it difficult to plan trips. She said her family decided the money spent to fly her out wouldn’t be worth the length of her stay.

“Usually, I would have Thanksgiving dinner with my immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins [in Cincinnati],” Weitz said. “This year, I’ll either go to one of my friends’ houses for their family Thanksgiving, or I’ll meet up with my uncle who lives in Florida and also isn’t going back to Cincinnati this year.”

The decision didn’t drastically affect Weitz, she said, since she has kept close contact with her family throughout the semester. 

Without getting to see his family, Karmercia said he will spend the day on campus and take the time to rest and relax, something he finds to be a rare commodity near the end of the semester.

“My plans for this Thanksgiving is to just watch some football and relax,” Karmercia said. “With finals just around the corner, I’ve been very busy in preparing for them and making last minute touches on papers and projects, so I’m looking forward to an off day where I can take a deep breath and not have to worry about school.”

Missing family time that once was guaranteed has impacted Karmercia’s perception of the holiday, as not visiting with everyone on Thanksgiving is a hard notion to accept, he said. 

“The biggest part that I’m going to miss this year is just getting to see everyone. Since my family lives so far away, it’s tough for everyone to agree on a date to come visit and Thanksgiving is that date,” Karmercia said. 

While holiday plans have shifted for some compared to previous years, students who aren’t going home are looking at the positives Thanksgiving may bring this year, such as classic Thanksgiving food and new familial experiences. Sharing holiday-specific food with family is one thing Taha is excited for this year. 

“My aunt makes a mean pot pie and my grandmother always comes up with new dessert ideas that I look forward to,” Taha said.

Freshman Victoria Johnson is excited about using the break to spend time with her grandparents in Clearwater even if she won’t see her parents and sisters.

“I’m just going to dinner with my grandma and grandpa, but I’m excited to spend time with them because I haven’t gotten to spend Thanksgiving with them before,” Johnson said.

With a combination of distance, money and the effects of the pandemic making holiday family time a difficult prospect, students are finding different ways around certain hardships to make this year’s celebration of the holiday special. 

Through all of the complications, Taha said his Thanksgiving plans are still valuable to him, and the difficulties make the time spent with one another even more valuable.

“I just don’t get to see my family as much since I’m always so busy, and I barely even have time for my friends,” Taha said. “It’s more about coming together after a long time of not seeing each other.”