Spending the holidays abroad? You're likely experiencing a new world of cheer! But no matter how prepared you are for your working abroad adventure, it's common to feel some homesickness or culture shock during the holidays. Here are a few things you can do to help keep the season bright, even when you're in unfamiliar surroundings far from home.
1. Keep a journal, or video diary, of how your secular or religious holidays are celebrated in your new temporary home.
You'll not only create a great memory of your working abroad adventure, but your journal will give you a daily appreciation of the small cultural differences. Post your video journal online, or start a blog to share your experiences with friends back home. They'll feel closer to you, and you'll be spreading cultural awareness.
2. Ask questions.
Start a conversation with other volunteers or participants about their holiday traditions, and what they miss about being home. Socializing and being thankful for friendships is a big part of how Americans celebrate the holidays. Try to create some opportunities for all the participants on your program to socialize and have fun.
3. Create some new traditions with other volunteers or participants who are away from home.
Share your recipe for a favorite holiday treat, or start a Secret Santa tradition with the other participants. You may even combine everyone's ideas and start a new multicultural tradition that you can share with your friends and family back home!
4. Ask if you can participate in local holiday festivals, special events, and even religious observations.
Volunteer some of your free time to help prepare for a local festival, decorate, or help cook a special meal. If you can, ask others to explain the history or meaning behind their holiday traditions. They will appreciate your interest in their customs, and you'll come away with a deeper understanding of what the holidays mean in your community.
5. Remember to stay positive.
It's easy to get homesick during the holidays, but keeping an open mind and a spirit of adventure will go a long way. International travel is all about new experiences, new challenges, and being willing to step outside of your comfort zone.
InterExchange is proud to have an experienced team that is dedicated to international cultural exchange. We come from a variety of backgrounds, but nearly every member of our New York City-based staff has extensive experience traveling, working, or living abroad.