It wasn’t until a month ago that I finally decided I would be staying at university over the winter break. I’m an international student at York, and the prospect of spending the holidays away from home was daunting.
You’ve likely heard that university is a time of change. Certainly, there’s a lot to adjust to. I had my fair share of worries coming to school this autumn. I now know from experience that many of those worries would vanish when I finally set foot on campus. Trust me when I say this: I understand that the word of a blog poster is difficult to take to heart, but we really do mean what we say.
Isolation and Support
One of my biggest fears going abroad was that I would feel isolated. If you’re considering traveling overseas to study, you may feel a similar way. For many, starting university represents your first time away from home – away from your friends, away from your family. You may worry about making new friends, or homesickness – as I was – or being alone.
I’m pleased to report that my fears were soon assuaged. I’m by no means a socialite – quite the opposite, actually – but what I found was that the York community greeted new members with open arms. There is a palpable sense of belonging that, at least for me, made it easy to think of York as a new home.
The university offers a range of support for international and home students alike. Programs like the Student Buddying Scheme exist to connect you with current students, and help you settle into university life.
University support aside, in my experience, it’s the students that make York, York. I can’t say I was surprised, but I was certainly pleased to find that York has some of the kindest and most compassionate people I’ve ever met. As a first year student, I haven’t actually been here long, but I couldn’t imagine life without the friends I’ve met through my course, through societies, and through college living.
An Occasion to Celebrate
Now — back to holidays. For many, the holiday season is a time when families gather. The thought of spending the holidays without family can be difficult, to say the least. What I realised (as clichéd as it is), and what I hope you will come to understand, is that at the University of York, you are a part of a family. Your flatmates, coursemates and college are your family.
There is a sense of festivity here that I can’t say I ever felt back home in the US. One thing I immediately noticed was how early Christmas decorations started going up. As early as the first week of November, Christmas trees began to appear. Christmas is quite big here, it seems. The city centre boasts a holiday market that I’m excited to try. I mean, the city really is beautiful this time of year. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the spirit and cheer of students eagerly anticipating term’s end is difficult to ignore.
It was this spirit that helped me decide to stay in York for winter break. Something clicked that made me understand the joy to be had from a holiday spent in the company of friends. Rather than something I worried about, I‘m thrilled to be looking forward to talking part in the upcoming holiday season.
Gathering around the table for a cuppa (cup of tea) with flatmates. Watching movies and playing board games with coursemates or fellow society members. Exploring the city and participating in college-run events with my college. Spending time with family.
No matter what holiday you observe, the long winter months of November and December are an occasion to celebrate. It’s dark early and bitterly cold all day, so it’s an important time to be with others. It may not be familiar, but you can still find great joy spending the holidays in your home away from home.
Enjoy the holidays, everyone! Stay safe and have fun.