By Katie Ford
Most would agree that studying abroad is an incredible experience, and it is worth the school events, club activities, and parties that you might miss while you’re away. I doubt that anyone would argue that studying abroad becomes much more difficult when you’re away from your family during the holidays. There are ways to help lessen any homesickness you might be feeling, and that will allow you to enjoy the holidays, even when you’re abroad! Here are some great ways to overcome homesickness while you’re away for the holidays:
- Celebrate anyway! Especially with holidays like Thanksgiving, it’s super easy to have your own celebration with American friends who are also studying abroad. You can gather everyone’s favorite recipe from their own family Thanksgiving so that everyone gets one dish that’s a comfort Thanksgiving food. You can even make cooking a group activity to stave off the homesickness that holidays can bring. Hosting an American holiday abroad is also a great way to share your culture with your new friends from your host culture! Invite local friends to your Thanksgiving dinner so that they get to participate as well- trust me, they’ll appreciate it (especially with all that great food)! You may also be able to find restaurants in your host city that prepare a traditional meal if you’re unwilling or unable to cook on your own. Just spending time with friends from your home culture will help you feel more in touch with the holiday and your family at home.
- Skype. One of my favorite things to do when I’m away for the holidays is to Skype home with my family during their celebration. This usually means me staying up ridiculously late to be passed around on an iPad or laptop while everyone watches the football game, but it’s well worth the laughs that come from getting my grandma to understand the concept of Skype. Skyping home to be involved with your family’s celebration is a great way to feel connected to the festivities.
- Travel. Traveling during a holiday that you can’t be home for is a great way to take your mind off the fact that you’re not home with your family. Last year I spent Christmas Eve (probably my favorite holiday) in a pub in Scotland, and I had the best time ever surrounded by two friends and a whole bunch of Scottish strangers. If you go out to a bar or restaurant for a holiday abroad, especially a holiday that is celebrated internationally, you’re also likely to meet locals that are celebrating alone/with friends, and you might be able to join their group! Plus, if you’re traveling to cities that are also celebrating the holiday, you’ll be exposed to different traditions from another culture- what a great way to learn something new about the holiday!
Being away from home during any holiday isn’t fun, but you can certainly still enjoy these holidays even while you’re abroad! Take the time during the holidays to learn about holiday traditions in your host country, and perhaps even share some of your own customs with your host friends/family/community. Sharing traditions, values, and insights is a huge part of why studying abroad is such a great tool for bridging gaps between countries and cultures all over the world. Use your time abroad, especially times when you might be most homesick, to encourage understanding and acceptance of other cultures, and embrace new holiday traditions while sharing your own!
Thanksgiving 2013 in Cardiff, Wales- 4 nationalities were represented!