Reflecting on those around the world who are suffering and on all of the change and upheaval the international education community has experienced in recent months and years, we at the NAFSA office are feeling especially grateful right now. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we asked NAFSA staff members to share their favorite holiday foods and memories, and what they're feeling gratitude for at this time. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the NAFSA office!

What are you grateful for right now?

I’m grateful for having made the transition to NAFSA and the learning and joy it has afforded me.
Fanta Aw, Executive Director and CEO

This time last year, I was completely stressed out, preparing to make the entire menu for my family’s Thanksgiving gathering by myself. This year, I’m feeling grateful that I don’t have that level of responsibility and can just enjoy making a few dishes and sipping some seasonal beverages!
Meredith Bell, Associate Director, Strategic and Digital Communications

I‘m grateful for the Education Abroad (EA) Knowledge Community chair stream and the EA Regulatory Practice chair! BJ, Susan, Autumn, and Kate are unbelievably generous with their time and expertise, and they make every meeting we have so fun. Something I appreciate about each one of them is their true educator spirit. They are always willing to brainstorm collaboratively, listen, and reflect. It’s been a beautiful year of working with leaders who so deeply care about their work and the people they work with.
Joelle Brown, Associate Director, Education Abroad Services

I’m grateful for my first year at NAFSA and the amazing welcome my colleagues and the regional leaders have given me. It’s only been a year, but I know that there are going be NAFSAns in my life for the rest of my career!
Will Eichhorn, Associate Director, Regional Affairs

I’m grateful for my new NAFSA crew, the beginning of sweater weather, and having a week to recharge with family at the end of the year.
Kerry Flett, Manager, Strategic Partnerships and Development

I’m thankful for my colleagues on my team and the rest of the staff at NAFSA! I’m proud of the work we do together and the creativity they bring.
Elizabeth Hendley, Editor in Chief and Director, Publishing Services

I’m grateful for all the NAFSA volunteer leaders I get to work with every day. This time of year is an especially busy time for my programs, so I’m feeling particularly grateful to our RISE Fellow and Academy application reviewers, the fantastic training team we had leading the Management Development Program (MDP) in its in-person return last month, the departing 2023 Academy coaches for their year of support and encouragement developing new professionals, and the incoming 2024 Academy coaches who are already hard at work preparing to meet their trainees. I’m also very grateful to the regional leaders I worked with to host MDP in Montreal—they were kind, accommodating, and knowledgeable. And I’m grateful to my Academy chairs, who are true thought leaders and partners in the continued improvement of that program. None of my work would be possible without the huge network of NAFSA volunteers I can tap into. These folks are why NAFSA is able to deliver quality programming year after year.
Lauren Newton, Director, Professional Development Programs

I am grateful for my job, my health and life itself, my colleagues, and being able to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones this year!
Ronnie Townsend, Event Technology Specialist

I’m grateful for new ideas and leadership at NAFSA as we near the end of this 75th anniversary year. The association that I’ve called home for a nearly 30-year career in international education has reached this major milestone, surviving myriad challenges along the way. Now, we have new, energetic leadership for NAFSA, and I’m excited to see where that takes the association and the field.
Caroline Donovan White, Senior Director, Education Abroad Services and Volunteer Engagement

Tell us about your favorite Thanksgiving food, tradition, or memory.

Taking a cooking class in Ghana on Thanksgiving Day some years ago and making everything from fufu to red red and kelewele was a great memory for me!
Dorothea Antonio, Deputy Executive Director, Knowledge Development

My favorite Thanksgiving memory is from my time at American University…we created a tradition of Thanksgiving dinner for international and domestic students who could not go home, so the students could be in community and not alone. We enlisted colleagues across departments to come and serve dinner. I’ve never forgotten the smiles on the faces of students.
Fanta Aw

I think my favorite Thanksgiving memory might be from when I was studying abroad in Strasbourg, France. My family was visiting, and we made mashed potatoes for the potluck gathering hosted by the program director for the students. This seemingly simple task presented a series of comedic challenges, concluding with a mishap-filled tram journey from my homestay to the potluck. The adventure produced several inside jokes that my family members continue to reference every Thanksgiving.
Meredith Bell

I used to live along the Iowa River in Iowa City, Iowa. During the winter months, there are always (like 20 or 30!) bald eagles that live by the river. We loved having a big Thanksgiving meal and then going for a walk along the river and counting the number of eagles.
Joelle Brown

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the carbs! Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cornbread, bread rolls, stuffing, and pie…it’s all about filling my plate with carbs.
—Will Eichhorn

I love to keep Thanksgiving as easy and stress free as possible. The past few years we have forgone the bird in lieu of more interesting protein but keep our favorite sides—I'm looking at you cornbread stuffing! This year we're making ribs in the oven—it's easy and way more exciting than some dry turkey.
Kerry Flett

The last few years, my family has gone to a cabin in the mountains for Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to getting out of town, going on some hikes, and making s’mores around a bonfire with my nieces!
Elizabeth Hendley

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition with my parents growing up was going to get the Christmas tree immediately after we finished the meal. We lived in upstate South Carolina and there were some really neat Christmas tree farms nearby. My dad was always interested in getting a bigger and taller tree than we had the year before, which was great fun for my brothers and me. However, this was super stressful for my mom because we would often arrive home with a tree that was too big for the space in our living room. I have a very clear mental image of my dad in the front yard sawing down the tree to make it fit. I am proud to say that my dad is still trying to get bigger and better trees every year!
Lauren Newton

My favorite Thanksgiving food is green bean casserole and pumpkin pie for dessert! My favorite Thanksgiving memory is gathering with multiple generations of my family each year during my childhood.
Ronnie Townsend

My favorite Thanksgiving food is sweet potato pie with marshmallows and pineapple pieces!
Jenna Vaccaro, Associate Director, Publishing Services