The holiday season is always a joyful time of year. Especially for those who spend a great amount of time celebrating their customs and traditions, surrounded by close friends and family. On the contrary, this time of year can be very difficult for those who study or intern abroad and have to be away from friends and family. Although, spending the holidays in a foreign country presents many unique opportunities to interns and trainees. After all, who knows when you will ever get to spend Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, Boxing Day, or New Years in a different culture ever again! But no matter where you are from and what holiday you celebrate in your home country, interning abroad is a great way for a student or intern to partake in many new celebrations, in addition to having the chance to share pieces of their own culture and holiday traditions from back home.
During the holiday season, there are many unique events and festivals held in local communities and cities across the United States. Attending these special, but short-lived cultural activities will definitely be one of the most memorable highlights to your exchange experience. Whether you go Christmas caroling, attend a holiday festival in the community, volunteer your time by ringing bells for the Salvation Army, or watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Years Eve; these are just a few examples of great American holiday traditions that you may otherwise never get to experience again.
Holidays in America are unique due to the fact that each family may celebrate differently based on their religion, where their ancestors were originally from and the traditions they brought with them to America. The holidays also consist of popular practices and fables that are laden with history. It may be a possibility that a well-known tradition originated in your home country and is now a prevalent custom on the other side of the world! For example, German immigrants introduced the Christmas tree to America in the early 1700’s and the story of Santa Claus and hanging of Christmas stockings evolved from a man named Saint Nicholas born in Turkey.
Even if Christmas or Hanukah are not typically celebrated in your home country, seek out your own meaning of the holiday and simply enjoy the day with your fellow trainees or interns, new friends, hosts, and people in the community. Celebrating a holiday in a foreign country offers a tremendous opportunity for cultural enrichment and the chance for someone to delve further into the culture by exploring traditions and customs of the locals.
As you may be very eager and excited to learn about all of the American holiday traditions, everyone around you may also be very curious about your culture and customs too (host family, new friends and fellow participants)! Take this opportunity to share about your culture by playing festive music, or preparing a traditional recipe in which you would normally have at your holiday celebration in your home country.
As an international trainee or intern, this may be your one and only chance to celebrate a new holiday in a new culture. Your exchange experience is your chance to take in new holidays and traditions all while sharing your customs, alongside many new friends. Although it may be very hard to be away from your family and friends, look for the best in everything around you and treasure your countless new experiences.
Share your Holiday Traditions with CAEP!
Are you spending the holidays with your hosts, friends or fellow interns or trainees? Snap a photo of your holiday travels, festivals you attended, holiday activities you participated in, new favorite foods you tried– or maybe even the dishes you prepared to share with the group! Capture and share your new and old traditions by tagging us on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #shareyourtradition.