Travel Journal #13 – Collective Happiness

This is the time of year for giving and spreading good cheer. It’s also a time for spending exorbitant amounts of money and eating way too many cookies. I’ve never been much of a holiday person; I find them stressful, awkward, and either uneventful or way too eventful. It’s because of this that some of my Centre-in-China family has lovingly dubbed me the Scrooge of our group.
River Town bookstore
Missing holidays at home hasn’t really been an issue for me. I’m always excited to see my family again but not necessarily because of the holidays. While I may be the Scrooge of the group, Claire and Hunt have both kept the group overflowing with excitement for the holidays. Together they try to bring some holiday cheer into my Scrooge-ish demeanor, but have been unsuccessful thus far.
Now that the leaves have finally departed from their trees on Tongji’s campus, holiday and finals fever has set in for Centre-in-China. Paper due dates are no longer creeping but rather sprinting towards us, and the amount of caffeine needed to keep me awake throughout the day is reaching an all-time high. Rather than feeling particularly homesick, Thanksgiving makes me want to curl up in my bed and sleep, and forget about all of the homework, emails, and negotiating that seem to run my life every day.
Despite this, I was excited to join friends from Next Step China with some of their friends and my classmates at the NSC office for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a nice break from homework, and the semi-home-cooked meal didn’t hurt. I expected a turkey, perhaps some mashed potatoes and a few rolls. It turned out to be a feast that included everything from sweet potatoes to pumpkin pie; there were even some dishes prepared by several Centre students. Since we didn’t have a table for everyone to fit around, everyone pulled out chairs from the desks. Amy and the other Next Step staff covered some filing cabinets with table cloths for us. It wasn’t exactly traditional but everything was delicious and the conversation flowed easily and cheerfully.
What made the dinner the most special, though, was that we went around the room and told what we were most thankful for. We were all thankful for the same seemingly clichéd things (family, food, Next Step, studying abroad); nevertheless it didn’t matter because the feelings were real. Rather than making something up to make the process move faster, we were each really thankful for the same things—each other and this experience that we have gotten to share. The collective happiness and gratefulness was something that I never expected to experience with a group of people outside of my own family.
When we get bogged down with stress, and just life in general, it’s easy to forget how much we have to be thankful for. Though this Thanksgiving hasn’t filled me with holiday cheer, it has reminded me to be grateful for everything that I’ve been blessed with lately, even the holidays. But I’m especially thankful for the family that we’ve been able to create even though home is so far away.
by Morgan Whitehead ’15, currently participating in the Centre-in-China study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in China.
PHOTOS: Culinary delights for our Thanksgiving dinner (top of page); River Town Bookstore (above right).

By |2013-12-04T13:44:47-05:00December 4th, 2013|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - China|