It is not uncommon for international students to find themselves alone and with very little or nothing to do during this time. Given the celebratory nature of the Winter Break in the United States, loneliness and sadness may be heightened for students who remain on campus. In addition, the short days and lack of sunlight in Michigan can add to feeling low in general.
It is important to remember that being alone during the break can actually be quite enjoyable. The following are suggestions for a more positive Winter Break experience:
- Enjoy…your own company: Think of all the things you’ve wanted to do and never had the time for. Remember those times this semester when you felt stressed out and wished you had a few extra hours? Well, now you have them!
- Explore and experience: Even if December is cold and bleak in Michigan, the season has a lot to offer. For example, you might try your skills at Winter sports activities. Most facilities are open during the break (not including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day). Many of these facilities advertise off-season rates between Christmas and New Years. Airlines may also offer greatly discounted rates if you fly on Christmas Day and New Years Day.
- Connect: If you have a host family, be proactive in connecting with them before the break. Even if you haven’t been keeping in touch over the semester, most families who agree to host international students are more than happy to include you in their gatherings and celebrations. This will provide you with an opportunity to meet new people and learn about different holiday traditions.
- Volunteer: Nonprofit organizations such as soup kitchens and shelters are always looking for people to help during the holidays. It is a wonderful way to get involved in the local community and spice up your resume.
- Entertain: So what if no one else has taken the initiative? You can host a get-together! Invite others to bring foods and symbols from their culture and/or religion.
- Relax: This is the PERFECT time to rest and relax before the new semester begins, and you find yourself racing to meet deadlines. Read a book. Decorate your room. Watch a movie. Do nothing! Contrary to what we’ve been told, an idle mind is NOT always the “devil’s” workshop! Enjoy the downtime!
Even though you may be staying on campus for the holiday season, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy your time off. Have a great break!
Contributed by: Durriya Meer, Psy.D.