‘Tis the Season for New Traditions
There’s something about the beginning of November, a certain magic to it...I’m walking beside Albert College Park (a beautiful park right beside campus), Americano in hand, Sundara Karma in my ears, and a crisp breeze on my face. This Southern California gal withers in those crisp breezes however, so I pull out my scarf that is always on reserve. As I ride the bus bound for DCU’s St. Patrick’s Campus, I’m welcomed by falling leaves of all colors in the neighborhood. Such reminders cue memories of home and passing the ketchup at Thanksgiving dinner. I can smell the Turkey in the oven and hear the laughter as my Aunt Susie demolishes everyone at the card game of Rummy. I remember the “Friendsgiving” gatherings I’ve had with friends back home, scrambling to cook something decent to contribute and experimenting with a mulled cider that may or may not have had rum in it. I leave the bus for class, I’m late as usual, and now I’m incredibly homesick. I realize that I won’t be home to help put up Christmas ornaments or pick out the tree. I can’t dust off the Christmas DVD collection the day after Thanksgiving while nursing my food hangover. I can’t begin placing my wrapped presents underneath the tree a few weeks early and laugh at my cat attempting to tear down every low-hanging ornament. While I’m busy hosting my own holiday-themed pity party on the walk to class, I receive a reminder on my phone for the Friendsgiving Party taking place in a couple of weeks and a very large smile appeared on my face because I knew...the food coma is BACK.
Feeling homesick for the holidays is normal, in fact, a little to be expected. Homesickness itself is a longing for the familiar and the traditional in times of the complete opposite. Studying abroad or traveling away from home during the holiday season can result in feelings of disconnect or “missing out” (I believe the current colloquial term is “FOMO” or fear of missing out). Luckily, all it takes to turn what could be a negative holiday experience into a positive one is a little proactive thinking!
Below are some tips for having a happy holiday season during your time abroad.
- Rally the Troops. One of my favorite things to do for any holiday is having a party or “social gathering: with friends. Just because the old faithfuls are back home does not mean you cannot celebrate the same way with new friends! In fact, sharing your holiday traditions is a fun way to become closer with your new expat buddies. Coordinate a “Friendsgiving” potluck or a Secret Santa Gift Exchange. Invite international friends too! They can bring some new dishes and traditions of their own.
- Get Crafty. So you’re low on funds but want to feel the same festivity you normally experience at home. Head over to the local discount shops (Dealz or EuroDollar) or craft stores and get creative! Making decorations at home can be a fun way to share the holidays with your flatmates and spruce the place up a bit.
- Celebrate Local. Do a little digging and see what is available nearby. Some restaurants and Pubs in Dublin offer a holiday menu, including a Thanksgiving Turkey Meal. Venues may be offering special events like concerts and ceremonies. Make sure not to miss the Christmas Lighting Ceremony on O’Connel Street in late November! Ask your CIEE advisors and local friends about celebrating like a local and give it a try! After all, studying abroad is about new experiences.
- Phone home (a little). If you’re missing the festivities at home or want to remain up to date on the family gatherings, consider calling home a little bit to say “hello!” Do your best to not hole up in your room for hours doing this though because you may miss out on the fun happening around you!
- Share your thoughts. Homesickness throughout the holidays is a normal part of studying abroad and I guarantee that you are not the only one. Express your feelings with a friend or advisor and share stories about what you miss from back home. You may even find yourselves laughing at funny stories and learning more about each other along the way!
Celebrating the holidays abroad is a unique experience that paves way for dynamic personal growth. Take it in stride and embrace new traditions. Who knows, maybe you’ll bring many of them home!
Photo featuring my friends and I at our “Friendsgiving” celebration.