Staying in York over the Christmas holidays

Hi, I’m Lily, a 2nd Year Chemistry student. Now, I may not be staying in York over the holidays myself but I live with a few international students who are. So, I’m here to share their experiences of staying in the city over the Christmas holidays!

What is campus like over the holidays?

In general, my flatmates agreed campus can get pretty quiet over the holidays, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! They agreed it’s nice to have a bit of peace and quiet to catch up on work and revision. But also to be able to meet up with friends without worrying about rushing off to their next lectures. A small community of international students forms over the holidays as they come together to keep each other company.

What is there to do on and off campus?

In the lead-up to Christmas, all of the colleges will offer a schedule of events to keep anyone staying on campus over the holidays busy. Lots of the events are based in Wentworth College, but there are others around both campuses. From Christmas movie nights to full-on Christmas meals, there’s lots to do and plenty of ways to meet others staying on campus.

The entrance to the Yorkshire Yuletide Village (Shambles Market)
The entrance to the Yorkshire Yuletide Village (Shambles Market)

My flatmates also said they went off campus a lot. The majority of students may be gone, but that doesn’t mean York city centre quietens down! They assured me that there was always something to do in York. The atmosphere is great with all of the shops and restaurants open and the Christmas market in full swing. They all said that the residents of York made them feel welcome and at home over the holidays when they ventured out into town and they never got bored.

One flatmate was quick to say that, both on and off campus, there was always a really good atmosphere in York over the holidays. Lots of people on campus are very aware that international students will be staying and make lots of effort to make them feel part of the festivities.

What can you do if you don’t want to stay in York but can’t go home?

Lots of my international student friends said they take the opportunity to travel during the holidays. Christmas is a really good time to travel around the UK. Everywhere is even more decorated and welcoming to tourists than usual. Some even said they decided to spend some time exploring Europe because it was more affordable than going home. They said that there’s always someone else you know staying in York that will want to go with you. So you’re not travelling alone and it’s a great way to spend time with your friends.

Does it ever get lonely?

As welcoming and warm as York is, especially over the holidays, it’s inevitable that sometimes you get a little lonely. One of my flatmates said she was really worried about that in her first year. She thought she’d be alone over Christmas, having moved into a flat in Alcuin College with no other international students. However, during term one and the holidays, she met lots of other international students who were also staying and formed a group of friends to hang out with. They spent lots of time together over the holidays, even getting together to cook Christmas dinners!

The only time one of my flatmates felt lonely was on Christmas day itself. When the town centre is almost entirely shut down and the campus is at its quietest. This year she and some of her friends decided to apply to the University’s Winter Hosting Scheme. The idea is that University staff and York residents volunteer to spend some of their time with international students over the Christmas period. This could be going for walks, having a coffee together, going to carol services or even going to their house for Christmas dinner. It’s safe to say that my flatmates are all pretty excited to see what Christmas is like in a British household and get to know some of the local residents.

Star-shaped paper lanterns on the Christmas market
Star-shaped paper lanterns on the Christmas market.

As scary and lonely as it can sound to stay on campus over the holidays when so many students are going home, my conversation with my flatmates has shown that it really shouldn’t be. There’s always something to do and people to meet. Plus there’s a real community here determined to not let anyone feel alone over the holidays!

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Hi, my name is Lily. I’m in Alcuin, I’m studying Chemistry and I’m a second year. I would recommend York as I think it’s a really nice place. It’s really relaxed and there’s a nice atmosphere – everyone seems really happy.