Far Away from Home? Here's How You Can Still Get into the Holiday Spirit

For me, being home is the very definition of Christmas. Spending time with family, constantly catching scents of the Christmas tree, and watching Elf on repeat definitely gets me in the spirit. No matter what holiday you celebrate, being at school can definitely be a downer since the winter season doesn't feel the same in a new environment. Don’t let being at school affect how you celebrate!

I know — there aren't many houses lit up with lights around campus and if you don't have a car, you can't blast Christmas music when you're driving like you did in high school, but there are still ways to enjoy the holidays at your home away from home.

1. Create a tradition with your new friends.

Since my friends and I are freshmen, we decided that every year we’re going to make Christmas cookies. We don’t have our own kitchen, so baking the premade Pillsbury Christmas cookies will have to do (we all know they’re the best anyway). Start a tradition where each friend buys a pair of Christmas socks or an ornament and swap with each other. It doesn't have to be a huge tradition, even the smallest gestures can mean the most. 

2. Decorate your dorm room with Christmas decor.

Snag a mini Christmas tree, dangle lights in your room or pick up something balsam fir-scented — it'll make your dorm feel more homey. Or start a competition with other people on your floor to see who can decorate their door the best. Since we’re all on a budget, check out a Dollar Store or see if there’s any old decorations at your house that your parents don’t use anymore. Making your dorm feel more like home is a surefire way to keep your spirits high.

3. Host a Secret Santa or Yankee Swap with other people on your floor.

If your floor is tight-knit, suggest doing a $10 Secret Santa. If you aren't quite so close, do a Yankee Swap!  You can agree to buy little gifts, like holiday chocolates or a scented candle. Who knows, it might even bring your floor closer.

4. Listen to one of Spotify's Christmas radio stations while walking around.

When I’m at home and have access to my car, I listen to Christmas music on the radio on repeat for all of December. At school I don't have my car, so the experience of listening to Christmas music is a little different. Next time you're walking around campus, plug in your headphones and try out a holiday-themed radio station on Spotify. I've done this for the past week and let me tell you — it’s really made me feel more at home. My personal favorites are Mariah Carey and Taylor Swift Christmas stations, so start there or discover something you like.

5. Have a Christmas movie night with friends.

Put on some comfy PJs and gather round in one of your friends' dorm rooms with a television. Freeform’s "25 Days of Christmas" plays a Christmas movie every night throughout December and they're sure to get you feeling nostalgic and excited for the holiday. Make some hot chocolate and have each friend bring a snack for you all to share!

6. Check out if your school is having any holiday-themed activities.

At UMass, we had a winter festival where they were ice sculptures, caricatures being drawn, hot chocolate, cider donuts and fried dough. They were playing Christmas music and had blue lights strung everywhere. This helped me get in the holiday spirit because I finally felt like I was back at home with my family. Check out your school's website or the weekly events email to see if they're having any holiday activities before break!

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