The holidays should be “merry and bright,” but for many exchange students this time of year can be a real struggle. This year, try getting a little goofy to stay ahead of holiday homesickness!

Don’t worry, it’s normal!

The truth is, exchange students tend to follow a predictable cycle of adjustment. Next to the culture shock of their initial entry into a new country, the holidays are often one of the most emotional times of the year.  Even previously well-adjusted students can face new challenges.

If we put ourselves in their shoes, it’s not hard to understand.  This may be the first year away from home, and now they’re approaching a holiday season WITHOUT their most precious family traditions.

Holidays = Familiar. Family. HOME.

But this isn’t the whole story! As we know from years of experience, many of our students’ favorite memories are made during the holidays. Though this season presents a very real emotional struggle, it provides just as much opportunity for engagement and connection.

LAUGHTER truly is the best medicine!

Our advice for an exchange student (and their host parents!) who may be struggling with holiday homesickness is to plan a little FUN to help enjoy the time! These 5 hilarious holiday traditions are sure to get you in the spirit!

# 1 – Ugly ugly-sweaterSweater Contest

In recent years the “ugly sweater” craze has taken hold and has become a national phenomenon! Join the party by buying (or making!) an ugly sweater, or better yet, organizing an ugly sweater contest or party. Get your host family or friends on board for some real fun!


#2 – The Elf on the Shelfelf-on-the-shelf

Does your host family “do the elf”? This Christmas tradition has only been around for several years, but it’s amazing how many households are jumping on board! If the elf has made an appearance at your house, ask your host parents if you could help join the fun of planning and executing some of his adventures. If not, give it a try yourself! Your host family will find it hilarious and you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy it, too!


#3 – White Elephant Exchange

This hilarious Christmas gifting game is a must. Talk to your host parents, LC, or your friends to see about getting a group together, then have fun finding or creating a goofy gift!


#4 – Fuerins-25-days-of-christmas-moviesnny Christmas Movies

Cozying up at home can be just as fun as getting out. Make some popcorn, fill a mug of hot cocoa, and check out some of these favorites!

  • Elf starring Will Farrell
  • A Christmas Story the 1983 classic
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase
  • Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin
  • Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd

#5 – Christmas Caroling

Caroling didn’t start out as a “goofy” tradition, but it feels like one today! The idea of walking up to your neighbor’s houses (without being invited) and spontaneously bursting into song feels a bit out of touch with our current culture. But do you know what? Your neighbors will LOVE it, and you’ll have a blast, too. Ask your friends or your host family if they’d like to go caroling together. Learn 1-3 simple Christmas songs, wear your previously mentioned ugly Christmas sweaters, and you’ve got a party in the making!