Holidays in graduate school are a bittersweet time. On the one hand, it’s a welcome reprieve from the intensity of the schoolwork grind and a chance to reconnect with loved ones back home. On the other hand, for many international and out-of-state students, going home for the holidays is not always feasible financially or due to the distance. Personally, my hometown is a 16 hour drive from the university or a $400+ roundtrip airplane ticket so, both this year and last year, I have had to choose between going home for the November break or going home for New Year’s instead.
With this in mind, the Heller Student Association started a Friendsgiving tradition to bring students together for a time of community, gratitude, and fun. The Heller Student Association is a student working group dedicated to amplifying the diverse voices of the student body and meaningfully contributing to decisions that affect students’ time at the Heller School.
This year, about 30 students gathered on the afternoon of Friday, November 25th in the Zinner Forum for our 2022 Friendsgiving Celebration. We spent the first half hour of the event playing board games, teaching each other new card games, filling out coloring sheets, and writing positive messages on a big poster board to the tune of a Charlie Brown holiday playlist on Spotify. Connect4 and Exploding Kittens stood out as the crowd favorites. At 12:30pm sharp, we gathered around three long tables for a feast from Boston Market resplendent with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, rotisserie chicken, cornbread, and apple pie. Before digging in, we went around the table sharing things that we were grateful for. Unsurprisingly, student after student cited the friendships they’d made at Heller and the welcoming campus community as top of their gratitude list. Since the event was open to students from all of Heller’s programs, many new friendships were formed as people from different programs interacted for the first or maybe second time.
After lunch, we had a very spontaneous and impromptu karaoke session, which was dominated by 90s boy band singles, Taylor Swift classics, and a few Latin tunes. Students were able to take home tons of food to feed themselves and their roommates over the holiday weekend. While the organizers were perfectly happy to handle the take-down and clean-up process themselves, every single attendee pitched in to fold tables, remove chairs, and take out trash. It was such a perfect picture of the spirit that is so indicative of the Heller community. I left the event feeling refreshed and grateful for all the people who contribute to making the Heller School the place that it is.