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    Posted March 17, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    Thanksgiving dinner in Russia

    Last year, while most Americans were sitting down to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning, I was sitting down to a make-shift Thanksgiving dinner in Moscow, Russia, with peers from Montenegro, France, Belgium, Uzbekistan, Poland and Ukraine. I was three months into the academic year in my study abroad program, and I was living in a dormitory with Russian and international students.

    Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, so I decided to have my own right there in the dormitory. I went to Ashan, a "Russian Walmart" for cranberries, corn, carrots, potatoes, chives, turkey filet and any other items that could make this dinner resemble the Thanksgiving meals I'm used to back home. As I invited friends and neighbors for dinner and dessert, I realized it was shaping up to be a familiar Thanksgiving.

    After class, my neighbors offered to help prepare dinner. I was grateful that they did because there was so much to do! I assigned them some tasks to help with the cooking, such as peeling potatoes and carrots, while I prepared the bird.

    We managed to have everything ready by 7 pm. More of my friends and neighbors, from across the hall and throughout the building, came shuffling into the narrow room I shared with two other students. As the girls came in they each placed a token of their appreciation, boxes of chocolate, cookies and a bottle of wine, on the table with the appetizers.

    Before we dug into our main dish, we wanted to share a toast. In a rush to open the wine, we ran into a little problem, instead of the cork coming out, it went further into the neck of the bottle. We were disappointed thinking we would have nothing to toast with, but then two of my Russian friends stood up and took over…

    Placing the bottle on the floor, they asked for a pen and something hard and flat. The only thing I had handy was a book about Stalin. Working together, one girl held the wine bottle and the pen on top of the cork while the other hit the pen with the book and VOILA! The cork was set free!

    Once everyone had some wine in their plastic cups, we began to toast. We toasted to international friendship,“за международную дружбу,” our futures, “за будущем,” and love, “за любовь.”

    After the toast, I suggested we all say what we are thankful for as it is a tradition in my family. Most of us said we were thankful for meeting each other and one jokingly said she was thankful for Stalin, for, without him, the toast would not have been possible!

    For the rest of the night we shared, with each other, aspects of our respective cultures, and even taught each other lullabies in our own languages. For the previous three months I had been immersed in Russian culture and it was great to share an American tradition with friends and neighbors of other countries.

    I was concerned about missing family and friends on Thanksgiving, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt right at home surrounded by people of different nations.

    This is just one of the many great benefits of studying abroad- cross-cultural understanding. You have the opportunity to understand another culture by sharing and observing traditions and norms, and they have the opportunity to understand a little about yours. I am thankful for receiving the Boren Scholarship, which has made it possible for me to further my interests in Russian language and culture.

    I would encourage all who are interested in another culture to apply for the Boren Scholarship or one of the other many scholarships available for study abroad. It is an experience you do not want to miss!
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