Six Ways to Spend Thanksgiving for Students Unable to Head Home

Students who are spending Thanksgiving away from home enjoying Friendsgiving.

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Spending the holidays away from home is hard. Affording a flight across the country while living on a student income is even harder, though. Plus, those plane ticket prices skyrocket during the holidays. What that often means is that many college kids don’t make it home for Thanksgiving.

If you’re one of them, have no fear. You might be missing out on turkey with the family at Aunt Salli’s, but you can still feel at home despite the miles in between.

Host a “Friendsgiving.”

We celebrate Thanksgiving as a day of gratitude and unity. So, sitting around the table with good friends and stuffing your face with Stove Top is actually in keeping with tradition. Your college might even make things easy on you by organizing a turkey dinner for students stuck on campus. If so, tell the crew to wear their eating pants and meet at the dining hall!

Stay with a friend.

Does one of your roommates live close to campus and plan to drive home for the long weekend? Ask him if he’d mind having one more at his table this year. If he says yes, remember to bring something for the meal. Even as a student living in a dorm on a tight budget, you can easily whip up a few dishes. If you can get your hands on an oven, you can make an easy dessert, like candied yams, which will cost less than $20.00 and take a mere 45 minutes of your time. For a side dish, sauté green beans with caramelized onions. Of course, there’s always the trusted Betty Crocker box of brownie mix or a cake from the local bakery if all else goes wrong.

Celebrate with a local abroad.

If you’re living in another country, you’re especially far from the festivities. Celebrate anyway by introducing the holiday to your host family or local friends. Cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner if you can find the ingredients, and as you enter your food coma, stream the parade and football games on your computer. Keep in mind that some other countries celebrate a similar holiday, so you might be able to partake in that. Japan’s Kinrō Kansha no Hi falls on November 23. Translated, it means Labor Thanksgiving Day. It was created after World War II to honor hard work and community involvement. On the other side of the world, the people of the Netherlands attend a nondenominational church service followed by cookies and coffee on the fourth Thursday of November. Their holiday is a remembrance of the breaking of the Spanish siege in 1574.

Send snail mail.

It’s the thought that counts. Send your loved ones something in the mail. You could spend your entire day creating DIY gifts or writing out postcards. It might not be the most ideal way to celebrate, but it allows you to show your appreciation for someone special in your life. Craft a simple gift:

  • Recipe in a jar. The holidays are prime time for baking. Give your friend or relative a head start by putting all of the ingredients into a nice jar and writing baking directions in a card. Here is an example.
  • Rum spice aftershave. Using some ingredients you probably have lying around the dorm, cook up some aftershave for your dad or brother. Your loved one will be wearing the scent of fresh orange peels, and you will have given a really great gift! Find the PopSugar recipe here.
  • Bath bombs. What’s better than a bubble bath? A colorful bubble bath, of course! Find out how to make bath bombs here.

Make it to dinner virtually.

Can your parents navigate Skype or FaceTime? Ask them to give you a video call while everyone is together. Video calls are one of the best ways to feel like you’re there when you physically aren’t. Maybe, if you’re lucky, your family will save you a seat at the table!

A girl volunteers at an animal shelter since she is spending Thanksgiving away from home.

Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko /


Visit an animal shelter or volunteer at a soup kitchen to connect with others and build community. That’s what holidays are all about, right? Celebrating with others, feeling good, and paying it forward can make your Thanksgiving extra special this year.

Don’t worry. There will be more holidays and more of Aunt Salli’s great cooking to look forward to in the future. It stinks that you can’t make it home this year, but remember, celebrating Thanksgiving is about being thankful. So tell us, what are you thankful for?

About Katelyn Brush

Katelyn likes learning, good health, traveling, and pizza on Fridays. Her mixed education, composed of SUNY the College at Brockport, a semester at a community college, and one abroad at the University of Oxford, helped her earn a bachelor’s degree in English. College also gave her a few lessons in Taekwondo and sleeping in a hostel dorm with total strangers. She’s a yoga teacher, author and illustrator of the children’s book, “Signing Together: A Guide to American Sign Language for Everyone.” As a Student Caffé writer, she hopes to help you through the highs and lows of college with a laugh ... or 20.

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