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14 ways to cope with holiday homesickness overseas

I get it; you're on a student budget, and international flights aren't cheap.

Throw a Covid-19 pandemic in the mix, and traveling home from your international university for the holidays just got a whole lot more complicated.

So if it looks like you're going to be spending the holidays overseas, whether or not by choice, it's hard not to feel sad about missing out on the family traditions back home.

I've been there, too, having spent Thanksgivings, Christmases and New Year's in Ireland, Australia and Brazil.

So here are my top tips for dealing with holiday homesickness if you find yourself overseas for the holidays.

To avoid homesickness overseas, take up a local holiday tradition

In Ohio, we grew up banging pots and pans when the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve.

In Brazil, everyone heads to the beach dressed in white and jumps seven waves for good luck.

Partaking in this new tradition was really memorable and exciting, and realizing I'd freeze to death if I tried to import this tradition to Lake Erie in the future helped take my mind off the FOMO (fear of missing out).

Enjoy the "unique" aspects of celebrating the holidays overseas

Think about this: your family and friends are probably jealous; while they're doing the same old, same old, you're out there having Christmas on the beach in the Southern Hemisphere perhaps or at a European Christmas market.

Santa on a beach

Have a Secret Santa exchange with friends

Sometimes it's nice just to open something, and being around other people is the best way to rid the homesick blues.

Celebrate multiple times per day

How about a New Year's toast every time a certain time zone strikes midnight where a friend or family is located?

Invest in festive-wear

Who wouldn't feel cozy and nice in a pair of "ultra soft" reindeer leggings?

Add a pair of Uggs, an oversized hoodie and a classic Christmas movie, and you've got the perfect recipe for "holiday mood."

Tea; lots and lots of tea

To me, there is nothing more comforting than a huge cup of tea and wrapping myself in my blanket.

I like mine with milk, like they have in England.


I can say this; all the times I didn't have the energy or time to decorate for the holidays wherever I was abroad, I regretted it.

It just didn't feel like Christmas, for example.

Even if it's just a small tree, do yourself this favor and put it in a lovely spot.

Send postcards for Christmas cards

Spending some time writing out thoughtful Christmas cards on a postcard from wherever you'll be is a great way to feel closer to loved ones in a distant land, knowing that in a few days or weeks they'll be holding the same card in their hands.

It also forces you to join the hustle and bustle of the season, to venture out into the neighborhood or town to purchase stamps and send them on their way.

You'll realize you're not the only one sending them out, and if you send one to yourself at your family's address, you'll always have a memento from this year.

Treat yourself

In theory, you're saving all that money on international airfare, right?

Why not treat yourself to your own Christmas present of choice and reward yourself for a year of hard work and putting yourself out of your comfort zone.

Be kind to yourself!

Tourism in your local country

Maybe this is the first long break you've had in your new country or you've just never had the chance to visit a particular place.

Now is a great opportunity to get out and see the countryside.

Go for a trek, go for a long weekend somewhere--just see something new.

Fresh air and new surroundings are good for the soul.

Stay off social media

There is nothing worse for your FOMO blues than scrolling through social media over the holidays and seeing everyone else together.

Don't look. Just don't look. No bueno!

Cook your favorite holiday recipes

Holiday food is classic and comforting; every family has their go-to recipes.

Fill your apartment/room with the smells of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

They sure take long enough to cook.

The upside? You'll remain occupied and most likely will have to be in touch with family for "help" along the way (at least I did!).

Thanksgiving pumpkin pie

Stream American sports

Whether or not you're a fan of watching the Cowboys on Thanksgiving or the Lakers on Christmas, see if you can find a local broadcast or stream of these games, if nothing else than to have the familiar sound on in the background (as it usually is in most homes here).

Teach the locals your traditions

This is probably my favorite way of beating the holiday homesick blues.

In all the places I've lived overseas, I've always been able to find Americans around to share in a Friendsgiving.

And in the one place I couldn't, I invited locals over to introduce them to the joys of American-style turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and other family favorites.

And of course, before anyone could eat, everyone had to say what they were thankful for.

So my best advice? Just try and live in the moment. Nothing this year is normal, and we'll never forget that.


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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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