Ah, the holidays. The time of year where there’s a giant feast every month, gifts galore, and endless hugs from family members near and far. For so many people, this is the time to get together and share your love with the people that matter most; and, consequently, studying abroad over the holidays can be a one-way ticket to homesickness. Without your family and friends nearby, it may seem like an absolute drag to have to miss all the hoopla back home. However, there are some things you can do to help alleviate the yuletide blues.

Walkway lit by streetlamps in the snow
Winter may be cold, but your holiday season abroad doesn’t have to be!

Here are a few tips to help you avoid feeling homesick while studying abroad, by teaching you ways to celebrate a holiday abroad!

Bring Your Tradition Abroad

No matter what holiday you celebrate, be free in deciding just how traditional you want to be in your holiday celebration abroad! You might need to be flexible though, as not every location will have the cooking ingredients you need. Embrace the newness, accept the improvisational challenge with open arms, and prepare to create a whole new realm of personal holiday tradition. If you can’t pre-order a turkey as is so common to do so in the States, you may have to do some multi-grocery store hunting! Maybe you don’t have any canned pumpkin pie filling and will have to make your own pumpkin pie puree for a pie you plan on sharing with friends abroad! You may find that you have to make a lot of things from scratch (again, embrace and enjoy!), depending on where you are. 

Wherever you are in the world, flexibility is key! In London, the cuisine is pretty similar to what is part of a traditional American Thanksgiving, so holiday meals shouldn’t be too tough. In Colombia and other South American countries, however, you might find it more difficult to match ingredients and recipes, so improvise! It might be better to have duck instead of turkey in Asia or a pear dessert instead of apple pie. Start looking for supplies early on so you have time to research and come up with altered ingredients or alternative recipes for the ultimate homesickness cure!

Students crowded around a kitchen counter eating food
Ain’t no Thanksgiving like a crazy Friendsgiving!

Pick a Place to Party

If your impromptu holiday abroad is larger and includes a lot of people, check in with your host school about the possibility of using a larger event space. If that’s not available, you can also try the local community and keep an eye open for church or other religious buildings for options. Of course, you could also keep it small and intimate and host the get together in your dorm/apartment, if your kitchen is equipped for such celebrating, that is! Rally your study abroad friends, turn the feast into a potluck, and have each person responsible for bringing one thing to the table! There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned friendsgiving or improvised Christmas feast to keep that holiday spirit alive (and keep you from feeling homesick).

Make Your Battle Food Plans

Ignite everybody else’s holiday spirit and involve your guests in the winter study abroad party shenanigans! If you’re a cook and you love throwing dinner parties (and don’t mind the responsibility of making everything), you can ask people to bring dishes, drinks, or desserts to help round out the holiday feast table. Some dinner party hosts choose to assign general categories (drinks vs. food) and others make things more specific (wine, non-alcoholic, appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts). If you have a certain dinner vision in mind, include a list of other traditional items for all your non-Americans to pick from. Just remember that not everything has to be perfect, and it may even be the imperfections that bring you and your friends closer together around the holiday season.

Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments
Pack a few Christmas keepsakes like ornaments from home to display in your pad abroad!

Organize Your Troops (aka Friends)

Since apartment kitchens abroad can be pretty tiny when trying to host a celebration, it may be a good idea to call for backup. Beyond asking people to pitch in with food items, ask your friends to pitch in with cooking and work together. What a great way to build up the spirit of the holiday and keep you from feeling homesick while studying abroad?! It is more than likely that not everyone will know each other, but everyone will be talking and laughing by the time you are ready to start the meal. If you prefer to be the only one in the kitchen, enlist your friends to decorate for the party or bring something that represents the holiday that they celebrate at home.

Whatever you do, make sure that everyone feels included when rejoicing during your makeshift holiday, and you are sure to drop any homesickness in a minute!

Execute Your Plan

The holidays are here and it’s time to put into action everything you learned about how to get over homesickness abroad! You’ve made a handful of cornucopias, you’ve decked the halls with boughs of holly, you’ve decorated your desk-sized Christmas tree, and you’re tracking Santa by the hour! Whatever you’re celebrating this holiday season, sit back, relax, and enjoy your very own holiday abroad creation. Even though you may miss the familiarity of being at home, your winter wonderland abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that makes for irreplaceable memories. 

Closeup of a table decorated with many foods for feasting
Embrace a truly unique compilation of feasting foods by collaborating with your friends abroad!

Now it’s your turn! Remember, you don’t have to do a whole meal or even make it yourself. Whatever you choose to do, whether alone or with friends, brings a little bit of home to your time abroad. Host a full-on Thanksgiving feast, share eggnog with a friend of two while sitting around a tree, or decorate your apartment abroad with holiday decorations from home. It may even be wise to pack some holiday keepsakes from home while you pack for your study abroad adventure! Make the most of a new situation by creating a new celebration and mixing in a dash of comforts from home. Those few ingredients combined are an easy-to-make recipe for an amazing, homesickness-free holiday season abroad!

Ready to kick holiday homesickness to the curb? Suit up in armour, create a MyGoAbroad Profile, and find a winter study abroad program today!

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