Getting in the Christmas Spirit While Studying Abroad

Written by: Billie Clark

It was around this time last year that I was slowly getting into the festive spirit in Swansea. Classes ended in mid-December and exams didn’t begin until January. Basically, I had a fair bit of free time and Christmas cheer.

Even while at home, Christmas is more of a small family celebration for me, so having Christmas without my family was really strange. I bought some gifts online for them, and I sent out Christmas cards, but until it was almost Christmas, I wasn’t doing anything else that was particularly festive.

I went to the Christmas parade in downtown Swansea, and that was the first evening parade I ever went to—it was really neat! There was also a Christmas festival, with rides and a skating rink, set up near the beach. There were pantomimes being performed, and Christmas markets in all the major cities.

We didn’t get any snow in Swansea until closer to January, and, even then, it was only an hour or two of light flurries that left no traces, and for the first time in my entire life I missed snow. I was still (and admittedly still am) freaked out by the palm trees found growing throughout Swansea, and my winter in Wales certainly helped me understand how they were able to survive.

Christmas Eve and Day were extremely laid back. In my house of ten (myself included) only three of us remained on the evening of the 24th. I made a dinner of bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes), corn, and left over pizza. The potatoes were undercooked (because I was impatient) and I was worried about food poisoning, because it was my first time cooking pork sausages, but it all turned out fine in the end. The three of us sat at the kitchen table and watched anime on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas in Welsh

On Christmas morning I Skyped my family and opened the presents they had sent and for me while I was online with them.  I made pancakes for myself and my housemates, which was nice and  casual.

On Boxing Day I went over to a visit a friend who was staying in the same residence village as me and I helped him make brownies for a party he was having, and on New Year’s Eve, I spent the day baking cookies. Another friend from the village visited and we watched Big Hero 6 before ringing in the New Year with fireworks outside.

All in all, my first Christmas away from home, in Swansea, was a really interesting experience. I had a lot of fun and was able to experience Christmas and New Years in a student residence, which I had never thought of doing before. I learned that spending time with my family is what makes my holidays special to me, but that a variety of Christmas music playlists and frequent Skype calls are enough to get me in the holiday spirit!


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