Overseas students gather for a taste of home during Thanksgiving

December 9, 2022


When Elizabeth Francy Demaret studied abroad in Ireland as a Richmond student in the 1980s, she remembers feeling lonely spending Thanksgiving overseas.

“It was a hard day,” Demaret, a 1988 graduate, said. “For Americans, it’s a big day. Everywhere else, it’s Thursday.”

Her daughter, Delaney, a junior at Richmond, is currently studying abroad in Spain. To help fend off the holiday blues, Demaret decided to hop on a plane and host Thanksgiving dinner in Europe for Delaney and any other Spiders who wanted to join. A dozen of them descended on a rented home in Annecy, France, for a taste of home during a long weekend with other Spiders.

The students brought recipes from their moms that they wanted to have,” Demaret said. “We had a video call with parents for a toast before dinner. It was really special. They were in a house together for the holiday.”

Demaret and her daughter chose France because it was centrally located for many of the Spiders studying abroad in Europe. Students made the trek from Madrid and Barcelona, Prague,  Maastricht in the Netherlands, and Paris.

But they came for more than just a Thanksgiving meal. The 12 students spent a long weekend together touring Annecy, a town in the Alps in southeastern France. They explored a holiday market, went hiking and mountain biking, and even participated in a polar plunge.

“It was a wonderful time, and I’m grateful to be able to provide a space for them to all get together and give them a taste of home,” Demaret said.

The students enjoyed themselves so much that some of them sent her a handwritten thank you note after the celebrations. 

“We can’t put into words how much it means that you brought us all a wonderful home to celebrate the holiday,” it read. “This was truly one of the most memorable and amazing weekends of our abroad experience, and we loved every minute of it.”

A D-Hall Thanksgiving dinner

On the Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, the chaplaincy and Dining Services offered a special Thanksgiving lunch in the Heilman Dining Center for students who remained on campus.

“Dining makes it quite special with themed decorations and a full Thanksgiving meal with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and all the holiday favorites — along with dessert,” said Terry Baker, executive dining director.

Since most Thanksgiving meals have plenty of leftovers, students are offered take-out boxes so nothing goes to waste. Dining Services also provides a take-away breakfast option for the next day.

Each year, faculty and staff volunteer at the Thanksgiving lunch, welcoming the students and sharing a meal and conversation.