Our First Thanksgiving


I am thankful! Having completed the first two and a half months of my year abroad at The University of Santa Barbara, I feel settled and happy. With just under two weeks of Fall Quarter to go (which will no doubt be spent somewhat reluctantly in the library in preparation for finals), I fly home to be with my family for Christmas. I feel that this is an appropriate time to pause and reflect, especially as I am currently cruising along the Highway 101 back to cosy Santa Barbara – having had an excellent Thanksgiving break in Berkeley.

Choosing to come abroad was not an easy decision. I was so happy in Edinburgh, that I truly didn’t believe my university experience could improve. I applied, admittedly quite spontaneously, to The University of California on a cold November afternoon in Edinburgh. I thought about learning to surf, walking to lectures in flip flops and quite frankly living the Californian Dream. That seemed pretty ideal. The moment I got the offer, I knew that I wouldn’t turn it down – I couldn’t. I was excited, I really was, but so extremely nervous too! Moving half way across the world is definitely not the easy option. But I am a true believer in exploiting comfort zones; it’s how we learn, grow and progress. So of course, I accepted.

The first few weeks were tough at times. Whilst I was excited about everything that UCSB had to offer, I was also terrified. With the looming pressures of making new friends and ‘making the most of it’ – I couldn’t help but miss home. Homesickness is a completely normal part of change and it definitely subsides. I have joined the Triathlon team, which has helped me hugely. We train every weekday and the people are great! Already, I think about how I will miss them when I leave. So the tables do turn… and you have to be patient and positive that any hard times that come your way, won’t stay forever.

That being said – my friends from home who are also on their year abroads, have been fantastic and I do miss them dearly. I have friends elsewhere in the US, as well as in Australia and Europe. My flatmate and best friend, Sal, is in Seattle for the year, studying at The University of Washington. We call almost daily out here, and share our highs and lows (mostly all highs now). Thankfully, we were reunited in Berkeley for Thanksgiving with some of the Edinburgh students studying there. It was lovely, and as we were walking through the rainy streets of San Francisco, it felt as though we were in Edinburgh again. Seeing my friends and hearing their stories boosted my spirits and we had a much needed four day holiday and catch – up. If they can do it, I can do it and if I can do it, so can they!

Sandhya, a fabulous friend from Edinburgh, showed us around the Berkeley campus.  Of course, we ate well and Sandhya cooked up a storm for us all to enjoy on the day of Thanksgiving.  I spent the evening appreciating my Edinburgh friends and their company, and also meeting new people.  As well as good food, we explored San Francisco, a short bus ride away from Berkeley. We ice – skated in Union Square, watched the sunset across Golden Gate Bridge and took advantage of being together in such a beautiful city!  It was wonderful. 

As I near Santa Barbara, and The Greatest Showman plays in the car, I realise how lucky I am. The rain has stopped and I feel rested and replenished having seen my friends. It is Thanksgiving after all and I am truly thankful for having this opportunity to live and study abroad. I am happy and eager to give it my all and embrace it. This can be done anywhere. Whether you are abroad, or in Edinburgh: make time to be thankful. I know I will – so join me, next year in Edinburgh to celebrate Thanksgiving, Scottish Style!

Edinburgh reunites in San Francisco! Pictured, left to right, Sandhya (University of Berkeley), Sal (University of Washington) and myself, Jess (University of Santa Barbara). Happy times!

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