Great Tips of Things To Do with your International Students During Christmas

Written By Sally Forsyth

Is your family enjoying having an international student stay in your home? Having an international student stay with your family is a really amazing experience! You are helping them learn about your culture, and at the same time, you are learning about their country and interchanging ideas and perspectives.

Will they be with you during the holiday season?

Keep in mind this may be the first time they experience Christmas away from home. Depending on their home country, they may have never experienced Christmas before and for many Christmas, festivities are totally different in their own country. It is important for you to explain and have a chat about how you celebrate Christmas in your family, and what traditions you may have during the holiday season.

Of course, they will no doubt have seen a few movies or TV programs showing how Americans and Canadians celebrate the holidays; but it will be good for them as international students during the festive season to know what to expect!

Typical traditions - Here are some points to consider:

  • What typical traditions do you celebrate with your family?
  • Do you go Christmas caroling to your neighbor’s homes or send out Christmas cards every year?
  • Does your family open their presents on Christmas Eve at midnight, or Christmas Day in the morning before breakfast?
  • Do you go to mass on Christmas Eve or church on Christmas Day?
  • Do you have a big family dinner at your home, or do you go to visit the homes of other family members such as grandparents?

It is really important to explain to your international student exactly what to expect. This way, they can decide what activities and events are coming up. They will want to know who they may meet in each event, what they may need to wear, and so on. They will want to feel like they are part of the celebrations; but at the same time, they don't want to feel anxious or uncomfortable with people they don't know.  Sitting down and having an honest conversation is really important to make them feel at ease.

Feeling Homesick

It’s possible that your international student may feel a little homesick during the holidays. After all, the holiday season is a time when families come together, so this might trigger feelings of missing loved ones at home. Try to include them in as many activities as possible and keep an eye on them to make sure they are not feeling lonely or isolated! Encourage them to take pictures and videos of all the holiday celebrations to send back home, so their families can also feel more connected with them at each event.

Sharing Holiday Traditions

Probably the best idea to make them feel welcome is by sharing holiday traditions, both for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. For example, they could:

  • Help decorate the Christmas tree
  • Create and send Christmas cards
  • Help prepare the food for the Christmas dinner
  • Make Christmas cookies or other holiday desserts
  • Plan a New Year’s Eve celebration
  • Sit down and write New Year’s resolutions with other family members

Christmas and the Arts

Check out and see if there are any special artistic Christmas celebrations in your area, such as a ballet like The Nutcracker, or perhaps a Christmas concert. This would be a memorable activity your international student could enjoy together with your other family members!

Go Shopping With Them

Part of the tradition around the holiday season is, of course, the sales!  It's always a great social activity and while it can be overwhelming many students enjoy shopping for their family and friends. This will make them feel closer to the family that is so far away.​

There are usually great bargains in the stores right after Christmas and right after New Year. It might be fun to accompany your international student to the sales, just for the experience and to grab some goodies on sale! All in all, be supportive of your international student during this holiday season. Help them to have fun and to enjoy the festivities!


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About the author

Sally Forsyth is a High school English teacher and an educational coach. She has worked in national and internatonal schools in different countries and different school systems, She is also the founder of CoachMyFuture, a coaching organization focusing on coaching teachers and educators in the educational sector.

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