The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

How to celebrate Christmas away from home

Alejandra shares some tips for international students who aren’t going home for the holidays, and how you can still make it a Christmas to remember...


Have you decided to stay in your study destination for the Christmas break instead of going home for the holidays? Don’t worry, you can still have a Christmas to remember! Read our guide to spending Christmas in your study destination...

'Living away from home is a challenging business, mainly during the holiday season. There is no other time in the year in which you feel more out-of-context than Christmas. This is my sixth Christmas away from home and I cannot deny that it is still a season full of mixed feelings.

I feel very lucky to have had the chance to come and study in the UK but I also feel homesick from time to time, remembering the Christmas parties I used to have when I was little.


After a few Christmas away from home I have learnt a few things:

Every family celebrates Christmas differently, so don’t expect to have exactly the same experience abroad. Instead, seize this opportunity to discover different cultural traditions.

No matter how homesick you feel at this time, think about how lucky you are! Only a small percentage of the total population around the world have had the amazing opportunity to study abroad. So, don’t feel depressed and count your blessings.

There will be other international students like you who would like to have some company around, so you will never be alone.


Here are a few ideas of how you can celebrate this season:

Attend any of the public festivities taking place like Christmas carols, church services and other celebrations organised by different religious and non-religious communities.

Go shopping! On the leading up to Christmas Day, shops will be thriving and you might encounter mobs trying to get last minute presents. However, soon after Christmas you will see prices significantly going down and definitely less people out. In the UK, for example, the 26th December is Boxing Day, a national holiday where widespread retail sales take place.

Get together with other international students like you for an extravagant dinner. Other international students will be looking for company during the festive season. You can organise a delicious dinner to share and it definitely won’t cost you more than going to any restaurant. If you get organised well in advance, you can play “Secret Santa”, a game that consists in giving a small present anonymously to a person randomly assigned to you. In fact, you can read about my overgenerous Christmas dinner experience from last year.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. While you might be away from your family this Christmas, there are many people out there that might not be as lucky as you are. They might be homeless and in need of company. You can do something special this Christmas by volunteering at your local shelter. You can find information online about charities volunteering near you this Christmas.  


If you are planning to study abroad but are scared about feeling homesick and lonely, worry not. Like you, there will be other young people from other parts of the world and together you can make of your holidays a time to remember.'


Read more:

Are you staying on campus for the holidays (not just for Christmas)? Read our guide to keeping yourself busy and occupied while your friends are away.

‘How Christmas is celebrated around the world’

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About Author

Aspiring journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Londoner 'by adoption'. Tweeting for @hotcourses_Abrd