Celebrating Holidays While Studying Abroad

By Lorena Roberts on December 31, 2017

Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, and if you ask most people, they’ll tell you that studying abroad is one of their fondest memories from their younger days. If you’re going to study abroad this semester, or maybe you already are, you might encounter a dose of FOMO (fear of missing out) when you see your American friends celebrating all the holidays you’re missing out on.

It’s easy to feel like you’re missing everything that’s going on at home. And sometimes this is intensified when the holidays come around and you aren’t there to be a part of the normal family traditions.

Typically, students miss being home for Thanksgiving the most. Not being able to be with family and friends can create a substantial amount of sadness. Instead of letting this sadness take you hostage, here are some ways you can still celebrate American holidays overseas:

via Pixabay.com

1. Host your own celebration.

Just because you aren’t on American soil doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate American holidays! Hosting a “Friendsgiving” can be your own way of coping with being away from your family and friends.

Whether you cook the food or you ending up meeting at a restaurant, having a big get together for the ones you’re closest to abroad will remind you of what it’s like to be with your family. It’ll give you that same warm, fuzzy feeling. Everyone will be together. There will be laughs and hugs and, of course, lots of photos.

2. Invite your family to visit.

If you’re going to be abroad during an especially important holiday, like Christmas or New Years, invite your family across the pond to celebrate with you! It would be an awesome opportunity to show your family what your new surroundings are like.

This might take a little bit of planning, as your family might have to save up some extra money to make the flight over. I should also mention that there’s a chance when they depart that you’ll be pretty sad. If you’re having a tough time adjusting to life abroad, much like I did, I wouldn’t suggest inviting your family over. You’ll want them to stay until the end of your program, a solution that probably isn’t feasible.

3. Celebrate like a local.

Part of studying abroad means taking in aspects of another culture that includes holiday celebrations. If you’re in a country that celebrates the same holidays as you would at home, take advantage! Having the opportunity to take part in how the locals celebrate is something many people won’t have the opportunity to do. The way you celebrate that holiday once you’re back home could be changed (or at least influenced) forever.

4. Take time to call home.

It’s okay to feel homesick and to even make an extra-long call home. Part of being homesick during the holidays is simply because you’re geographically separated from the people you love. So while I’d encourage you to connect with your family and friends, I’d advise you to be careful as to how much time you spend staring at photos and Facebook updates. You don’t beat feeling homesick by doing things that make you feel more homesick.

5. Visit a new place with a few friends.

Instead of spending the day in bed with Netflix, wishing you were back home with your family, go on an outing with people in your program or friends that you’ve made since you’ve been abroad. You’ll find that spending your holiday abroad doing something new and exciting will keep your mind off of what you’re missing back home.

6. Plan a day of celebration by yourself or with your pals.

If you’re going to be abroad for Easter and that happens to be your favorite holiday, invite your friends for a brunch, an Easter Egg Hunt, and a hike in the woods. Having multiple things to do and multiple ways to celebrate will alleviate some of the homesickness you’re feeling.

If you include picking up a postcard to mail to your family, or taking photos of yourself and your friends at different places during your adventures, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished including your family in your celebration.

7. Use technology to your advantage.

Having a Skype or Facetime party with your family is the perfect way to feel like you’re at home for the holidays. You might plan to eat while they’re eating, just so you can feel like you’re really there.

Just because you’re in another country doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate all the holidays you would at home. You have the opportunity to share your favorite holidays with the friends you’ve made while studying abroad, and maybe you’ll even pick up some traditions of your own!

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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