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How to spend Christmas as an international student in the USA

By Amelia Carruthers• Last updated: Jun 28, 2023
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Americans love celebrating Christmas.

From impressive light displays to carolling concerts, massive Christmas trees and fabulous foods – they certainly don’t hold back! It’s a time to have fun with family, reconnect with old friends and truly indulge.

Even with all these festivities, Christmas can be a difficult time for international students away from home. Whether it’s the cost of flights or looming deadlines, there are many reasons why you might choose to stay in America over the university holidays.

The good news is there are so many ways to celebrate Christmas as an international student. From making friends to volunteering and exploring the country, you never know… with these tips and ideas, it might be your best holiday season yet!

How to spend Christmas as an international student in the USA

1. Stay connected 

Just because you can’t physically be with your family – it doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of celebrations! Leverage modern technology such as Skype, WhatsApp or Zoom and arrange a video call with your relatives.

Even if it’s just a 20-minute call to share stories, unwrap presents together or chat with siblings, this is one of the best ways to combat homesickness. There’s something special about seeing the face of a loved one, especially over the holiday season. You might have to run a few Zoom tutorials if your family aren’t the most tech-savvy though – so consider getting prepped in advance!

2. Find friends on campus

On the topic of staying connected, remember there’ll be plenty of international students in a similar position. Use the Christmas holidays as an opportunity to make new friends and support others.

American universities welcome students from all over the world, so not everyone will celebrate Christmas as part of their culture. Could you arrange an inclusive event where everyone is invited to bring their favourite dish from home or share how they usually mark the season? It’s a great way to learn about diverse cultures, have fun and make friends from around the university.

 3. Research university events 

Most US colleges arrange events to help you celebrate Christmas as an international student. Campus life is famed for its sociable, safe environment – and universities are especially keen to uphold this over the holiday season.

So get in touch with your college’s student support team and ask if there are any social events planned. How to spend Christmas as an international student in the USA is a common concern, something universities are used to helping with. If there’s nothing on – could you proactively help your college organize an “official” Christmas get-together? 

4. Get closer to home

If you’re wondering how to spend Christmas as an international student in the USA – this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to adopt American traditions.

There might be a community of people from your home country nearby. Church centres, temples, speciality restaurants and community groups are great places to investigate. Sharing stories, eating familiar food and speaking your own language (if English isn’t your native tongue) are all super ways to beat those solo-Christmas blues.

5. Visit a friend 

If you’ve made close friends during your time at university – why not ask whether you can join them and their family for the Christmas holidays? 

This will provide fantastic insight into a “true” American Christmas, where you’ll probably eat traditional Christmas dinner, share presents and possibly even help “deck the halls” with Christmas decorations! 

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6. Take a vacation

If you’re still searching for ideas on how to spend Christmas in the USA – have you considered a festive vacation? Americans really celebrate Christmas in style, so whether it’s the decorations of New York (ice skating in Central Park anyone?), a festive ski resort or Chicago’s legendary Christmas markets, start thinking about those places you’ve always wanted to visit.

If an American vacation isn’t possible, why not stock up on all those books, podcasts or TV series you’ve been meaning to catch up on? Take a break and treat yourself to whatever feels good.

7. Share your traditions 

To celebrate Christmas as an international student – what about sharing your own Christmas traditions? Hold a party for anyone else staying on campus during the holidays, and prepare your own traditional food, games and songs to give your friends a taste of celebrations in your home country.

Your friends will love the opportunity to get together and learn about your cultural heritage. So don’t be shy. Especially if you have a large guest list (and a large table to match) it will be a Christmas to remember! 

8. Volunteer your time

It’s common for Americans to spend Christmas day volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless centre. Research organizations near you and get involved. It’s a great atmosphere, as everyone present wants to create the best Christmas day possible. 

This is an opportunity to help those less fortunate than yourself and meet new people. We all know helping others is a great way to feel good about ourselves too, so it’s a win, win all round. 

9. Go on a job hunt 

Your US study visa usually allows you to work up to 20 hours per week during the semester, and up to 40 hours a week during the holidays. So why not make the most of seasonal vacancies and search for paid work near you? 

Most restaurants, retailers and bars need extra staff over the holidays. As well as the chance to earn a bit of money, you’ll make friends and experience the “real” America.
No matter how you’re planning to celebrate Christmas as an international student – the most important thing is to stay positive and enjoy yourself! Even if you’re not able to visit loved ones, there are so many ways to make friends and have fun at this time of year.

Edvoy help students around the world find courses and institutions they love. If you’re considering studying in America, explore our blog. From step-by-step guides for US student visa applications to passing visa interviews and which US universities accept backlogs – there’s lots of advice and inspiration.

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How to spend Christmas
International student in the USA
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Amelia has a background in academic publishing, education and digital marketing, She is a freelance writer with a love o...Read More

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