Thanksgiving At College—Away From Home For the Holidays

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Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family, and feasting. This is a holiday where we find comfort in familiarity. That glorious four-day break is usually anchored by timeless shared traditions, and maybe a few customs that are unique to your family. [My family, for example, requires at least one annual spin of Arlo Guthrie’s epic musical Turkey Day saga, “Alice’s Restaurant.”] But for countless college students every year, Thanksgiving will represent a departure from these traditions and customs. This year, you might be attending school at a considerable geographical distance from a lifetime of familiar harvest feasts. For many students, traveling home for the holiday may be impossible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing Thanksgiving right on your college campus.

Thanksgiving is a great holiday, but a terrible time to fly. Everybody does it anyway, but it’s generally pretty miserable. According to, AAA projected 54.3 million Thanksgiving travelers in 2018. Naturally, this means longer wait times, bigger crowds, and crankier flight attendants, not to mention inflated ticket prices. If you’re a college student living on a budget, and far away from home, you may have to skip the trip this year. That’s a bummer, but you still have tons to be thankful for. You’ll just have to find a way to show your gratitude on campus.

If this time of year has you pining for an educational experience a little closer to home, consider Transferring from Campus to Online College.

Otherwise, check out our tips for making the most of your Thanksgiving at college:

  Throw a Friendsgiving Party

You may not be at home with your family this year, but the good news is that you aren’t alone. Tons of other students face the same financial restraints. And with winter break just around the corner, there are plenty of others like you who will be hanging back on campus for the short break before heading home in December.

Seems like as good a time as any to get together for a huge feast. Assemble your campus-bound buds and put together an epic dorm room potluck party. It may not be like the dinners you remember from back home, but if you do it right, you’ll still be full and thankful. And hey, maybe this will be the start of a new tradition for you and your campus mates.

Obviously, you don’t need us to tell you how to throw a party, but we do have a few helpful tips on creating the perfect Thanksgiving playlist.

  Video Dining

There is one way you can save money on flight fares and still spend the holidays listening to your family argue over stuffing recipes while your crotchety uncle says politically inflammatory things—videoconferencing. The technology for video chats is pretty top-notch these days. As long as a family member can oblige you by setting up a monitor on the other end, you can use something life Facetime or Zoom to sit right there in the room with your family.

And yes, you’ll probably still be at the kids’ table. Also, you’ll need to bring your own food, and I wouldn’t say anything to tick anybody off because you can be exiled from the dinner table with the flick of switch. Of course, the reverse is also true, which means you can bail for bed just as soon as the tryptophan kicks in.

If you really love the whole videoconferencing thing, you may consider the opportunity this medium can provide for a great college education. To learn more, check out Online College Tips You’ll Be Thankful For.

  Serve Your Campus Community

There’s so much more to Thanksgiving than just gorging. On the very same occasion that we reflect on the things for which we are thankful, many of us will also take this opportunity to share with those who are less fortunate, or at least to give back to our communities. You are now a member of a new community, one that begins on your campus and extends to your surrounding region.

As long as you’re staying in town for the extended weekend, get into the giving spirit. Find a local shelter, food collection, soup kitchen, blood drive, hospital, nursing home, or park cleanup where you can volunteer your time, energy, and love. There are more ways than one to feel full during your holiday weekend.

Not sure where to start? Find out How To Do Community Service.

  Trade Your Turkey for Pigskin

Ok, so footballs aren’t really made from pigs anymore. Perhaps trade your griddle for the gridiron? Call it what you want, but late November is when football really starts to heat up. Whether you’re rooting for your NFL team from halfway across the country or cheering your college squad into Bowl season, turkey time is also time for tackles and touchdowns.

If you don’t have any other plans, load up on salty snacks, make sure you’ve got fresh batteries in your remote, and park yourself on the couch for the traditional array of NFL and NCAA turkey bowls.

For features on football, fandom, and our furry friends in those hot, heavy mascot costumes, check out College Sports In Focus.

  Advocate for Social Justice

When it comes to Thanksgiving, there’s always an elephant in the room. While we like to focus on the feasting, the family, and the friends, the history of this holiday is replete with awful truths. It shouldn’t be considered taboo to acknowledge the historical genocide of countless Native American tribes on the path to the colonial harvests commemorated by this holiday. We must acknowledge these things if we are to truly honor this holiday and those who shed blood so that we may celebrate our good fortune.

If you see the Thanksgiving holiday as inseparable from the racially-motivated crimes of America’s European settlers, the best way to give back during this time may be by dedicating yourself to social justice. This may be the most powerful way to celebrate the best of what is implied by Thanksgiving without ignoring the worst of it.

As you prepare for your next semester, perhaps consider exploring The Best Degrees to Fight Racism.


One of the coolest things about staying at college for Thanksgiving is the feeling that you have the campus mostly to yourself. It’s a lot quieter during the holiday weekend. And while that means fewer events or activities, it also means fewer commitments or responsibilities.

Take advantage, because it won’t last long. College is stressful and Final Exams lurk just around the corner. But for these four days, you have no obligation to look at a computer screen, show up to class, or “read chapters 12 to 15 before tomorrow morning.” Make sure you really use this time to catch up on sleep, rest, or repose. Ok, so those are all exactly the same thing. That should tell you how serious we are.

Chill out. Turn off your alarm. Unplug from the world for just a bit. Once you’re back in the final grind before Winter Break, you’ll be glad you took the time to recharge.

If you need a little help finding that calm center within yourself, check out Stress in College Students—Coping with College Anxiety.

And if spending the holidays so far away from home makes you realize that you’d rather be much nearer to those you hold dear, that’s cool too. Check out these resources for moving into an educational experience closer to home:

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Search Colleges is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.
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