Staying at university during the Christmas break might seem like a gloomy prospect for international students. Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, being away from home during this festive season can feel lonely.
However, Christmas is also the time of the year when we can relish an empty, peaceful campus for a while. Tired of living in a crowded house? Now you can take a longer shower, try cooking new recipes, turn the music up a little bit louder and dance crazily.
Like Harry Potter having a great Christmas at Hogwarts, international students at the University of Sussex (and any other university around the world) can also find ways to enjoy their break on campus.
A range of events are held throughout December, such as Christmas parties, carols, orchestras, art and crafts, sports, board game nights, film screenings and more. Sussex has also organised a one-day trip to Winter Wonderland in London: a huge, must-visit Christmas fair.
On Christmas Day itself, there will be a religious service and celebrations organised by the University Chaplaincy. There will be enough activities, mulled wine and mince pies for everyone on campus. Personally I cannot wait to try the traditional British Christmas food during the Boxing Day lunch event.
Away from campus in nearby Brighton, there are a number of interesting things to do during the Christmas holiday. At the Royal Pavilion you can experience a magical, Georgian-style Christmas, take part in ice-skating and watch The Snowman, a classic winter animated film adapted from the book by its Sussex-based author. The most anticipated event in town is perhaps Burning the Clocks, a unique Brighton night parade with lanterns, fireworks and bonfires that is suitable for all ages.
So make sure that you also have a look and see what festivities there are in your local area and join in.
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Another option is to use the Christmas break to travel around the UK or Europe, as some of my friends have done. It is a good way to relax and refresh before coming back to study routines and essay deadlines.
Or you could use this time to learn about the Christmas traditions in different places. Transport and accommodation may cost slightly more during the peak season, but some sites often provide student discounts. It is also better to plan the trip as early as possible. A friend of mine arranged her European getaway last October!
Another way that you could experience Christmas is by visiting or staying with a host family. It is a perfect opportunity to learn the local culture and experience home comforts at the same time.
It is also a good way to meet other international students that are staying over the holidays and make some plans together, such as having meals where each person brings a dish to share and gifts to exchange.
Living far away from the family during the holidays doesn’t have to be sad. We should embrace the emptiness of campus because it will not last long. You can choose some of the ideas above to create your own fun.
Even with all of these plans, you might still feel lonely and homesick and that is OK. If you keep feeling this way and find it hard to deal with then reach out to someone you trust and talk to them about it.
Living abroad may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we should try to focus on the things we are gaining and not what we are missing. It is bittersweet but thinking that way might bring you comfort. This experience teaches us to be alone and how to make friends quickly.