This year I celebrated Thanksgiving at “home” – that is, on Stanford’s campus where I’ve been living for two months now. My parents came out here for the break, and for the actual holiday we enjoyed a free dinner provided by the Graduate Student Association. It was nice because we got to share the meal with Mirela, my roommate, who is from Bulgaria and was celebrating her first American Thanksgiving.
My parents said it was their first time celebrating Thanksgiving not at someone’s home, and their first time eating Thanksgiving dinner outside (although we were in a tent), which I thought was interesting because neither was a first for me. In fact, I realized that, of the last 6 Thanksgivings, I haven’t spent any two in the same place – 3 different states and two different countries, in fact – and there are only three people (Mom, Dad, and Grandpa Holland) who have been at more than one of the meals.
It reminded me of how often I’m far away from the people that I care about, and made me so grateful for those people who continue to care about me even when I’m far away from them for long periods of time.
Other things I’m grateful for:
Family, friends, and ways to keep in touch:
I QQ-ed with XuLei last night, something we still do pretty regularly. How amazing is it that we can catch up whenever we want, talking face to face, for free?! I’m also grateful for the fact that she said I look thinner, which I’m pretty sure was a first for her.
The circumstances that have allowed me to visit friends, and friends to visit me:
This last year was full of so many opportunities to reunite with friends – from Lester and Denise visiting me in Minneapolis, to my summer trips to Tulsa, St. Louis, and Chicago, and my extended road trip through 2/3 of the country, I got to see so many people that I hadn’t seen in too long! Every visit was excellent, and there’s not a place that I visited that I didn’t leave thinking to myself, “Yeah, I could live here”.
This time last year, I hadn’t realized yet how important the friendships that I made senior year at TU would become. I was still unsure about the consequences of leaving the country for my senior year, and hadn’t yet figured out that it was pretty much the best thing ever. Also, I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve made at Stanford, who have helped me through this first quarter!
The opportunities I’ve had to study at three of the most beautiful universities:
I love TU’s matching sandstone, library steps with a majestic view of downtown, and luxuriously spacious student apartments. I loved Xiamen’s proximity to the beach, neighboring mountains, continually blossoming flowers, and Tall Building. And now I’m continually in awe of Stanford’s classic Main Quad, modern-but-appropriate new Engineering Quad, the killer view from the Dish, and the insane fall colors. How have I been so lucky?! And . . . where could I possibly go from here?
And lastly, I’ve started reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, and this passage reminded me of the way I learned Chinese (although here he’s talking about learning his first language, Latin):
There had been a time too, of course, when I did not know any Latin words either; yet simply by paying attention I learned Latin without any fears or torments; I learned it in the caressing language of my nurses and in the laughter and play and kindness of those about me. In this learning I was under no pressure of punishment, and people did not have to urge me on; my own heart urged me on to give birth to the thoughts which it had conceived, and I could not do this unless I learned some words; these I learned not from instructors but from people who talked to me and in whose hearing I too was able to give birth to what I was feeling. It is clear enough from this that free curiosity is a more powerful aid to the learning of languages than a forced discipline.
Pretty much super grateful for that opportunity that I was given.