Beat The Blues: How To Get In The Holiday Spirit Abroad
The time of year that all students anticipate is rapidly approaching! A time where we can put down the books and step away from our desks for a much needed break after finals. That’s right, Christmas is coming!
Right now students all over the world will be heading home for the Christmas break to be with their families in their home country. But, if you’re like me, then you’ll be spending your first Christmas in your new home! Whilst this is in many ways very exciting, it can also be quite daunting. How can you be excited for the holidays when you can’t participate in any of your usual traditions? If it hasn’t hit you already, now is probably the time when the reality of being away from your home and the people you love will really sink in. But fear not! For I am determined to convince you that you have every reason to be excited for what lies ahead. Here are some tips to beat the blues and get in the holiday spirit.
1: The little things make the biggest difference
Whether it’s listening to Michael Bublé (I mean when else do we actually listen to his music) or ordering a seasonal drink of the Starbucks Christmas menu in a classic red cup, do something that makes you feel festive. For me, I’m studying abroad at UCLA, so being in the land of eternal summer, I can literally only dream of a white Christmas. It can be very difficult to feel festive when you’re surrounded by palm trees and sunshine, especially when this time last year I was in the middle of London which has been transformed into a Christmas elf’s paradise.
But my friend and I, having met for dinner, spontaneously decided to buy Santa hats and sing along to Christmas music (yes, we were in public. No, we’re not ashamed.) I went from feeling like the Grinch to feeling like Buddy the Elf after one song. Doing one small thing really can make a huge difference to your mood, so whatever it is, don’t be afraid to let your festive flag fly!
2: It’s not about where you are but who you’re with
It’s inevitable that having spent so many years in the same place, or at least the same country, for the holidays, you learn to associate the holidays with a particular place. But ultimately, what makes the holidays special is not where you are, but who you share it with. Make an effort to surround yourself with good people. Even if you can’t be with your family, be around friends. If most of your new friends are heading home for the holidays, this may be a great time to make new friends. Remember, there are other students like you in your situation. Last year, when I was still in London in my first year of university, my American flat-mate, who was studying abroad in London from the University of California San Diego, and I celebrated Thanksgiving with three other girls from California studying abroad in London. I had met two of them a couple of times prior, and I had never met the other girl. They all cooked family recipes that they would have back home and we shared our experiences with each other. We had a wonderful night and we really appreciated each other’s company, and I made new friends that I am still friends with to this day. If you’re away from your family, try to find others to celebrate with this holiday season. Host your own Christmas dinner, or your own secret Santa. Or, if nothing else, be sure to call your friends and family back home. Either way, do something to fight the feelings of loneliness you may be experiencing.
3: Start a new tradition
The holidays are driven by traditions. Every person and every family has something unique to them that makes the holidays special. What better way to commemorate this new chapter in your life than starting a new tradition? Do something that you would never think to do back home that will make your holiday experience truly unique. Being in Los Angeles, my plan for Christmas day is to go to the beach wearing a Christmas sweater. As silly as it may sound, it is something I would never be able to do anywhere else! And even though I won’t be able to spend Christmas on the beach when I get back to London, that’s what will make this Christmas so special for me. It will be totally unlike any other Christmas I have ever had and because of that it will be memorable. So wherever you are, do something different! You may never be able to spend the holiday season where you are right now again, so make this one count. And you never know, if you happen to come back some time in the future, then you can continue your new tradition in the future.
4: Finally, be thankful
Whilst you may be missing your family and friends or feeling down because you’re away from home, remember how lucky you are to have this incredible opportunity. Regardless of your religion, your culture, etc., the holidays should be a time of reflection and a time to appreciate everything you have in your life. Whilst I miss London and I miss my friends, I am incredibly thankful to be in California studying at UCLA. It is an opportunity that many only dream of that for me is a reality and I will never take that for granted, and you shouldn’t either. Students around the world would love to study abroad and for whatever reason they can’t, so remember how lucky you are to be where you are right now. Be thankful for the new friends you have made, the new experiences you’re having, and even take some time to reflect on where you’ve come from. Being away from London has made me appreciate it all the more, as they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Have a positive outlook and be grateful this season, because, in my opinion, that’s the best way to feel more festive.