Hannah Wald.jpgHannah Wald, a junior from San Ramon, California, spent 14 weeks in Paris in fall 2015 through a Northwestern study abroad program. Two weeks after Paris was attacked by terrorists, she celebrated Thanksgiving at a restaurant in the city with Northwestern alumni and students during an event organized by the NU-Kellogg Club of France. Here, she reflects on what she learned by spending Thanksgiving with members of the Northwestern community in France.

By Hannah Wald '17

Since I was little, one of my favorite holiday traditions has always been celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. We would travel to my grandmother’s house back in California where I would watch football with my dad, uncle and grandfather and help my grandmother and mom cook the whole dinner from scratch. In 2015, however, my Thanksgiving holiday was a little different: I celebrated Thanksgiving in Paris while studying abroad in France.

In the middle of October, I was thrilled to receive an email from my program director saying that Northwestern students who did not yet have Thanksgiving dinner plans would still have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris! I learned that the NU-Kellogg Club of France was sponsoring a Thanksgiving dinner in a Parisian restaurant. The event was open to all Northwestern students and alumni in Paris. Along with fellow Northwestern study abroad students, I decided to attend this Thanksgiving dinner. 


I did not know what to expect, so I was a little nervous. The dinner was at Restaurant L’Ardoise in the middle of the 2nd arrondissement, in the center of Paris. The setting was small and intimate, which was perfect for us to sit and talk. There were about a dozen alumni at the dinner, along with around 15 current students. We were served a traditional three-course Parisian meal, a little different from the Thanksgiving dinners I was used to at grandma’s house. The first course was a bowl of hearty soup that included cheese, bacon, and green onions. The main course was a plate of roast turkey, which had sweet potatoes, stuffing and vegetables. Our dessert was a lemon tart with a fruit sauce. The portions were not as large as in the States, but the food was spectacular! I appreciated the staff of L’Ardoise who worked to provide us an authentic Thanksgiving dinner. 

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Northwestern alumni and students celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris.


Perhaps what I enjoyed the most about the Thanksgiving dinner was talking to the alumni. Hearing their stories of what it was like at Northwestern during their time as students was very cool. I talked with several alumni who currently live in Paris. One elegant lady, Noelle, made a great impression on me. A native Parisian, she had gone to Northwestern nearly 50 years ago for her undergraduate career and majored in engineering before deciding to switch to German. I loved talking to her because she was still so enthusiastic about her time at NU. I especially enjoyed hearing her wonderful story of how she recently reunited with an old classmate from the 1960s via Facebook. That blew my mind. It was amazing to see firsthand what a strong bond you can have with the classmates and friends you meet in college.


Of course, what made this event so special and memorable was that it took place only two weeks after the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris. The fact that this event brought the students and alumni of Northwestern together for this special holiday became even more meaningful after the fear and trauma of November 13. I felt so blessed to experience a little bit of the Wildcat spirit and pride, even thousands of miles from campus. I learned that no matter where you are, or how far away you are, Northwestern is always with you.

Hannah is double majoring in political science and international studies and hopes to pursue a certificate in integrated marketing and communications.