Spending the Holidays Away From Home

Being away from home during the holidays isn't fun. As I write this on Thanksgiving, an American holiday typically spent at home with your loved ones, I constantly glance at my computer clock, waiting for it to be late enough to call my family at home in the States to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. At 1pm it’s 8am over there. Will they be up yet? Can I squeeze in a call before my 2:30 seminar?

I’m lucky though. My year abroad program is hosting a Thanksgiving meal at a pub near the university, and I’m sure it will be a fantastic time with my Exeter family. I miss my real family back home, but I still love getting to know everyone here and making new memories. I suppose that’s the bright side of being away from home and tradition for the holidays. So, if you find yourself stuck at school for your favourite holidays, Christmas, or anything else important to your family, we’ve got some tips for how to handle it:


1. Make the Day Special For You

Even though I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I can still celebrate it in little ways. This morning I put on my favourite sweater and some makeup (something I don’t usually wear) to make myself feel more festive. Likewise, one of my American friends here made herself some pumpkin oats (pumpkin is a food often associated with Thanksgiving) for breakfast to similarly honour the occasion. If you can’t celebrate your holiday in the way that you’re used to, you can still make small changes in your routine to keep the day special.

2. Celebrate with Your Friends

I’m lucky enough to be on a program with other Americans, so we’ll have a true Thanksgiving meal tonight, but even if your friends don’t typically observe your holiday you can still celebrate with them. After all, who doesn’t want to celebrate a new holiday? I’ve had latkes with my non-Jewish friends when Hanukkah occurred during the school year, and had a Thanksgiving feast with my British flatmates last week to celebrate the holiday. Your friends will love getting to know a new holiday, and even if it doesn’t feel like home, you’ll still be able to observe some of your favourite traditions.

3. Talk to Your Family

You may not be able to physically be with your family on the special day, but you can still talk to them and share what you and they are doing for the holiday! Even if your family is in another country, it’s super easy to use WhatsApp or Skype to talk to them. Hearing about your favourite traditions that you are missing might make you a bit home sick, but you’ll still feel better having talked to your family and friends.

4. Start New Traditions

Spending the holidays in a new place is the perfect chance to create some new traditions! Instead of dwelling on what you’re missing out on, focus on what you are doing. Go to a new restaurant to celebrate, teach your friends about the holiday, or even just go somewhere new by yourself to connect with the holiday in solitude. Whatever you do, focus on the joy of doing something new—who knows, it could become something you’ll long to include in your holiday celebrations in the future!


It’s not ideal to have to spend your favourite holidays away from home, but just because you’re away doesn’t mean that season has to be all doom and gloom. It is all about staying in the holiday spirit and focusing on making great memories with new friends!