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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Another year, another holiday season!! If it were any other year, I would already be annoyed at the fact that Christmas music is already playing, but not this year. I know this holiday season is about to be the best one yet. I’m more than ready for all of the festivities that are about to come. The holidays have been tough for me for the past couple of years because of COVID-19. It’s been nearly impossible to see certain family members without potentially putting them at risk. It broke my heart; I was convinced that holidays would never feel the same. I am about to get my flu shot and booster of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, so hopefully that makes things run a little bit smoother when it comes to keeping my loved ones safe and healthy. There are so many reasons why I’m excited about the holidays, but here are just a few to start with.

Family/Friends

I am beyond excited to finally see my family and hometown friends in person. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone besides my parents just because of my hectic life with school, work, volunteer hours and taking care of my dog. Out of my family members, I can’t wait to see my sister and grandma specifically. My sister just turned ten years old last week, but I feel like she gets older and taller every time I visit home. She’s one of those people where you can go a long time without seeing each other, but the minute you’re reunited it’s as if nothing’s changed. I also hope I get to see my grandma. She’s had a hard couple of years with COVID-19 and other health issues, but I hope this year we’ll be able to bounce back to normal. My grandma raised me for about the first five or six years of my life, so we’ve always been pretty close. She’s pretty much the heart and soul of our family. My best friend is also coming back home for Christmas, she’s been in Texas and Alaska with her new husband, so it’s been about a year since I’ve been able to see her. I already know we’re going to have soooo much to catch up on.

Finishing Up School

Yes, that’s right, I’ll have a full-on Bachelor’s degree by Christmas!! With this semester being my last, it has been CRAZY busy. I have some graduate school applications to finish up, a final exam and a couple of final projects and then I’ll be done until next fall. The holidays have been my biggest motivation to keep doing well in school because I know the holidays will be when I finally get a well-deserved break. Normally during winter break, I get stressed about my classes for the next semester and what my workload will be. But this time around, I’ll be able to actually relax fully. I can finally be present in the moment instead of having to worry about “what’s next?” for a little bit. I’ll also be able to do that with all of my family and loved one’s around, so that makes it 10 times better.

Food

This one is a no-brainer, but who doesn’t love holiday food?? I’m the most excited about my mom’s homemade mac & cheese. It’s one of my favorite things my mom makes, and she only makes it twice a year, once for Thanksgiving and once for Christmas. I’ve been waiting all year, and the time has finally come. My stomach is growling right now just writing about it. Homecooked food will also be nice because I don’t always find the time to make myself decent food. For most of the semester, I’ve found myself either ordering out or eating whatever I can dig up in my freezer. It’ll be nice to have a change of pace and let my body have some nutrients for once.

My Dog’s First Christmas

Last year on Christmas day, I found out I was getting a puppy. The next day, we drove all the way to Kentucky to pick him up, and it was one of the best days of my life. My dog, Bear, means the absolute world to me. He is the most lovable, cuddly, handsome & sweet dog I have ever met. This Christmas, he’ll get to meet some of my family members for the first time since I’ve gotten him. I just know that Bear is going to have an absolute blast with all of my little cousins. I’m hoping to buy Bear and me a matching pajama set so we can take cute pictures by the Christmas tree. My heart is already melting into pieces just at the thought of it.

City Trip!

Screaming, crying and throwing up because one of my bucket list items is finally happening this year. I’ll be in Chicago at some point over the winter break to do all the holiday festivities for the first time that you see in the movies. It might not seem like a huge deal to some of you, but I grew up in a very small town that isn’t anywhere remotely close to a big city, let alone Chicago. This will also be a first for my sister as well, so I’m excited to experience it together. We’ll be seeing Christmas lights, visiting the “Home Alone” house and going to Navy Pier. I also have a friend who wants to take me up to where they live by the city and show me around. I’ve only been to Chicago a couple of times in my life and usually, the trips don’t last too long, so this will definitely be a time to remember.

I believe this holiday season will truly be unlike any other. I feel like something’s been in the air recently, not sure about you guys, but the vibes have been off for me. Thinking about my plans for the upcoming holidays really brings my spirits up. I know how happy I’m going to be when I get to see my friends and family for the first time in a while. I also know how good I’m going to feel when I have home-cooked food in my belly. Finishing school is also a huge plus, there’s about to be so much less stress on my plate. I can’t wait to do all of that with my dog around and travel to new places. Big things are coming at the end of this year, but I know even bigger things are to come for me in 2023.

Bella Sibenaller

Illinois State '23

Hi, my name is Bella and I'm a junior here at Illinois State. I'm a psychology major, but I'm also going into nursing. At ISU, I am also apart of the National Society for Leadership and Success and currently serve as the social chair. My hometown is Charleston, Illinois. It's a super small town south of ISU. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with friends and Facetiming my eight year old sister. If you have any questions about Her Campus or any of the other organizations I'm involved in, please reach out! My Instagram is @bellajsib.