By Leila Ataeva; Skokie, Illinois
International students, are you excited about the upcoming holidays? We certainly hope so! The semester is coming to a close with all your final exams and projects coming to an end. With the Winter Break starting, you will now have some extra time to do something that you normally did not have the time to do. Of course, you’d rather be listening to the song “Driving Home For Christmas” while going to celebrate with your family, instead of staying in the US during the holidays and feeling homesick. You have to admit that time and money are often limited. As an international student, I can understand being far away from family and close friends can be difficult especially at this time of the year. Nevertheless, it may be a perfect opportunity for you to have a new experience, find new friends, and create new memories related to the winter holidays.
For those of you who have decided to stay in the United States, I put together some ideas on how you can feel the excitement of this holiday season.
#1 Get Together With Other Students
There are always students who can’t go home like you, so use this opportunity to make new friends. A good idea is to plan a Holiday potluck. Do you remember the International Food Festival
last month at CSI? You’ll be surrounded by other international students like you, everyone brings their favorite dish from home, shares their culture as well as stories about being an international student. You can try a variety of foods and be inspired or even inspire someone new. Let’s get together and have fun!
#2 Take a Holiday Trip
I am pretty sure you have lots of places you dreamed about on your “must visit” list. This upcoming break is the perfect time for you to do that. Lots of cities in the US are ready for Christmas and the New Year’s Eve events. You will find special events, Christmas trains, and magical Christmas markets almost everywhere you go. I guarantee it will be impossible not to feel the excitement of the holiday season.
Here are some suggestions for you to consider (if you have your own list, I will be glad to look at and share with other students):
– New York City, NY.
Take your ice skates and camera. There is a gigantic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and of course, ice skating in Central Park.
– Santa Claus, IN.
Each year this tiny town receives thousands of letters written to Santa. A group of local elves ensure each kid gets a reply (I’m kidding). But if you want to feel the old-time Christmas spirit, you have to visit the Santa Claus Museum and Village, get lost reading letters to Santa from the 1930s. You can sit at antique school desks, write a letter to Santa, and make a run through the gift shops on your way back.
– San Francisco, CA.
It will be a lot of fun to participate in The Great Dickens Fair and the Victorian Holiday Party. You will travel back to the 1800s with “an elaborate party with hundreds of costumed players performing and interacting with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops”.
– Chicago, IL.
Chicago is a magical place to spend your holidays. Here you can find Christkindlmarket, ZooLights, see The Nutcracker, listen to Caroling at Cloud Gate and just enjoy the Skyline near the beach (while the weather is not so cold).
– Las Vegas, NV.
Vegas has the most dynamic and vibrant places anyone can ever imagine visiting, and moreover the shows go on all year long. New Year’s Eve celebrations are absolutely magical in Las Vegas – the City of Lights!
Important notification: If you would like to travel outside of the US, do not forget to meet you Student Affairs Adviser.
#3 Learn a new kind of sport
When winter comes to the city there are lots of sports to enjoy, especially in the snow. With fun activities like skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating and snow tubing, you will absolutely have a fun time while exercising. And by the way, nobody prohibits snowball fights! Take your friends and start a playful snowball “fight”. Afterwards, warm up with a nice cup of hot chocolate and cookies to end your day right.
#4 Books Vs. Movies
Either option is great. Reading books is always a great idea. Open your list of books you’ve been planning to read and start your journey. For those who prefer watching movies – there are many new movies out in theaters. Grab some popcorn and candy and get started watching your favorite movies. Invite your friends, make a movie night at home with popcorn, pizza, and soda. Have fun!
#5 Stay Positive!
Even if your family and close friends are far away, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday season. Write down your New Year resolutions, write letters, spend time volunteering, take photographs and create an album to share online, there are many ways to stay positive and enjoy the holiday season.
To be honest, I still don’t have any plans for this holiday. This is my first time celebrating Christmas and New Year away from my family. But thanks to CSI I found a lot of new friends. I will definitely plan to host a Christmas family-style dinner with my new Family!