Holidays are the times of the year that bring people together, but when you're abroad, it's hard not to feel left out. I studied abroad for a year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the holidays were some of the most challenging times for me. I love holiday traditions, spending time with my family, and most importantly, eating my mom's cooking. These times were when I was the most homesick in Argentina. However, with some creative thinking, I was able to turn my holiday experiences into great memories. Here are some of my tips:
Use technology to your advantage - At many family events during the year I was abroad, I still had a place at the table! My family took a laptop or iPad and hooked it up to Skype or FaceTime. Through the power of technology, I sat at our Thanksgiving dinner and also participated in our Passover celebrations. It was a little weird literally being passed around to talk to everyone, but I was happy just to be included.
Turn the holidays into a sharing moment - Some holidays I was even able to celebrate with my host family in Argentina. My host sister, Delfi, didn't know anything about Hanukkah, so when December came, we decided to have a Hanukkah party at our apartment. We invited some of Argentine and American friends over, and we made latkes (potato pancakes) and other traditional food. I explained the holiday and we all learned together.
Participate in a local tradition - Many holidays are celebrated around the world, and being abroad can give you a unique opportunity to make friends and learn more about the local culture. Lots of universities have student religious groups or youth groups that are always looking for interested members. Additionally, if you are looking to celebrate but don't speak the local language, look for expat communities-most large cities will have an organized group.
When I look back on my abroad experience, I have fond memories of trying to find turkey in South America (it's a super exotic food there), attempting to make pumpkin pie, and spending time with my family through the computer. Spending time abroad showed me that I could be self-reliant and also made me appreciate being with my family that much more.