Should you go home for the holidays while studying abroad?

Should You Go Home for the Holidays During Your Year Abroad?


For study abroad-ers participating in a full year abroad, the decision about whether to go home for the holidays has to made pretty soon if it hasn’t been made already. Are you struggling between your two options? In my opinion, the best way to figure out what to do is to evaluate the pros and cons of each option and to ultimately make a decision based on what you want. To help you make your decision, I’ve compiled a list of the positives and negatives of going home for the holidays while you’re abroad.

The positives of heading home

You get to see your family and friends

This is obviously the biggest positive of going home for the holidays. Spending the holidays away from family can be lonely, even if you are in a beautiful, romantic place. If you go home, you don’t have to miss holiday traditions and you’ll be able to catch your friends up on your first (crazy) semester abroad.

You get a chance to ‘recharge’ before going back abroad

Being abroad can be stressful and full of unfamiliar traditions, languages and situations. If you go home for the holidays, you’ll be in a familiar setting for a bit. It can be a good way to gear yourself up for the next semester and to start the new one feeling really rested and ready to take advantage of being abroad for another four months.

It can make your year abroad seem less daunting

If you are looking at a full year abroad and are feeling overwhelmed by the idea of being away from your family and friends for that long, planning to come home for the holidays is a good way to make the year seem more manageable. It also gives you something to look forward to when you’re feeling homesick.

You can bring back the rest of your winter clothes

Don’t underestimate how much a few more winter sweaters might be worth to you, especially if you’re living in a chilly country! It will be expensive to buy a whole wardrobe of winter clothes in your study abroad city, so bringing some warm clothing from home may be a better way to go. This isn’t a good reason to go home if it’s the only one, but it’s an advantage of going home!


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Why traveling home for the holidays may be a bad idea

It’s expensive

Flights to just about anywhere are expensive during the holiday season, and international flights across oceans are no exception. Paying to go home for the holidays can put a serious dent in your finances and limit your resources for other trips you might want to make while abroad.

It interrupts your time abroad

Going home for the holidays can make feel like you spent two semesters abroad instead of an entire year. Your experiences will seem less cohesive and that makes it harder to feel at home in your study abroad location.

You miss experiencing the holidays in a foreign country

Every city and country has different Christmas and New Year’s traditions, and celebrating the holidays with your host family or some of your local friends can be a really cool cultural experience. You’ll probably never get another opportunity to spend Christmas in a totally different culture!

You’ll miss out on valuable travel time

Holiday vacations can be a great time to travel, since you don’t have to go to class during the week. If you go home, you won’t have the chance traveling around the country/continent where you’re studying abroad, and you might not get another chance to do so.

You might feel even more homesick

Going home for the holidays might seem like a great way to handle homesickness, but since it can make you feel less connected to the country where you are studying abroad, it can actually make you feel that much more homesick once you’re back abroad and the new semester starts.

You may experience reverse culture shock

We’ve all heard about culture shock, which is when we have trouble understanding and adjusting to cultural differences when we go abroad or interact with someone from a different culture. But after spending some time abroad, you will start to think of this new culture as normal, and when you go home, you might find you have trouble adjusting back to American culture. This is called reverse culture shock. It can be really disorienting, because everything is meant to be familiar and comfortable at home. On top of that, friends and family aren’t always as interested in your time abroad as you think they should be, and sometimes they just don’t understand it. It wouldn’t be the most pleasant situation for the holidays!

I never traveled home for the holidays when I lived abroad, but I was usually in the minority among people that I knew. I had both good and bad holidays abroad. Probably the most memorable was in Russia, where New Year’s is a major holiday but Christmas is not. I spent Christmas night with two other Americans at a nightclub – certainly my most unique Christmas experience yet!

What are your thoughts on going home for the holidays during your year abroad? Are there other any pros or cons that you think are important? Let us know in the comments!

Photo sources: Pixabay, Olga/ Олька via Flickr

Emily Liedel is a translator, journalist and polyglot. She has lived in Switzerland, Russia, Spain and France and speaks German, Russian, Spanish, French and a little Chinese. She writes about language learning and living abroad at The Babel Times and also produces The Babel Times’ cultural magazine for English learners . She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and three chickens.