Experience Christmas Abroad: A Guide for International Students

Are you studying abroad during Christmas?

Snow is falling, smells of hot chocolate are in the air and sleigh bells are ringing. Christmas is a magical time, even for people who don’t celebrate the holiday. Students studying abroad might feel homesick if they can’t see family at this time of year. How can an international student enjoy the season when far from home? Here are some helpful tips if you’re spending your first Christmas abroad.

Why Spend Your Christmas Abroad?

There are some drawbacks to staying abroad during the holiday, but there are also some amazing benefits. Traveling can be quite the adventure, and you can visit plenty of places to celebrate Christmas. If you’ve made friends while studying abroad, you can take a mini vacation and get another stamp on your passport. If you decide to spend your Christmas abroad, be sure to immerse yourself in other cultures. You’ll see what unique traditions people practice in different regions of the world.

Tips for Traveling During the Holiday Season

Everyone knows how chaotic it is to travel by plane, train or bus during the holidays. As you complete your study abroad trip, you’ll get a lay of the land and learn how to use public transportation, whether by subway, city bus or rideshare. However, if you plan on traveling to another country for Christmas, it’s essential to understand the different ways of getting around. Here are some helpful tips if you’re traveling internationally during Christmas:

  • Book tickets for your transportation in advance.
  • Make reservations at hotels, restaurants and tourist activities.
  • Keep all your personal belongings near your person.
  • Store your passport, government-issued ID and other important documents in a safe place.
  • Anticipate crowded public areas like airports, train stations and city centers.

The real question is — where are you going to go? There are so many places abroad to choose from. Where do you begin? In some countries, Christmas might not be celebrated by all people. If you do celebrate Christmas, it’s important to find a place where you fit in. Consider some of these destinations where you can spend the holidays in style and make lifelong memories.

Where will your study abroad take you? Find it out here!

bondi beach australia
Spending Christmas abroad can be an exotic experience, especially in a warm or tropical climate, like here at Bondi Beach in Australia

Top International Destinations to Visit for Christmas

Now that you’ve decided to stay abroad for Christmas, you might wonder which destinations will be the most fun to visit. Do you want a traditional Christmas holiday experience, or are you looking to make new memories and do something you’ve never done before? Every country offers something to suit your style. You might look for a small bed-and-breakfast on the beach or book a trip to a cabin in a winter wonderland. One of the locations below will be a suitable destination for your holiday trip.

1. Lapland, Finland

Lapland, Finland, is the country’s northernmost region bordering Norway, Sweden, Russia and the Baltic Sea. The area is known for its vast subarctic wilderness and ski resorts. If you really want to get into the Christmas spirit, visit the Arctic Circle of Finland. You’ll enter Santa Claus’s Village and can even cross over the Arctic Circle to receive a certificate of achievement. Lapland is a must-see if you’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas.

2. The Vatican, Italy

If you study in Italy and spend Christmas abroad, consider a trip to the Vatican. Aside from being known as the world’s smallest city, the Vatican City in Italy is also well-known for its Christmas celebrations. Decorations and lit trees fill the space, and there’s always something to catch your eye. Additionally, Vatican City has a unique Nativity scene curated by skilled artists each year. The Vatican is a sight to be seen — a bucket list item, if you will. You can visit St. Peter’s Basilica, see the Sistine Chapel and worship at the various Catholic churches if you’re practicing.


3. Bondi Beach, Australia

You might not think about catching rays at the beach during Christmas. However, at Bondi Beach, Australia, the Christmas holiday is all about the sun, surf and sand. Many people head to Bondi Beach and celebrate the holiday together. There are live bands playing and DJs mixing to keep you entertained and dancing. Consider Bondi Beach if you want a beachy, sunkissed Christmas.

4. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the Czech Republic, and it’s especially pretty during the Christmas season. There are plenty of things to do in Prague to keep you busy during the holidays. Go ice skating in the town center, see astonishing views at Hotel Josef or listen to music at St. Salvator Church. Some must-see attractions include Prague Castle, Prague Astronomical Clock and Charles Bridge. Here are some more examples:

  • Shop at the Old Town Square Christmas Markets
  • Taste Trdelník
  • Walk the Vltava River
  • Drink Svařák

Tourism in Prague is booming, so there’s no shortage of landmarks to explore solo or with friends or classmates. Remember that December is one of the coldest months in Prague. Be sure to bundle up and pack gloves, a hat, a scarf, warm socks and a big jacket. It will likely snow, so you can take stunning photos to show your family and friends once you’re back in the states.

5. Dublin, Ireland

When you are studying in Dublin, Ireland, you will have a great time celebrating the Christmas holiday. You can attend a 12 days Christmas event at the Docklands. The streets are filled with lights, wreaths, trees and myriad Christmas decorations. There’s even a small elf workshop kids can visit. Dublin is also a great place to learn about Irish culture — consider visiting popular spots like the Guinness Storehouse, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College Dublin and Dublin Castle.

Dublin during Christmas streets
When you are studying in Dublin, Ireland, you will have a great time celebrating the Christmas holiday

Making the Most of Your Christmas Abroad

If you’re studying abroad and feeling homesick, you’re not the only one. Missing home is a totally normal experience for anyone attending college overseas. Being thousands of miles away from home can be unsettling, but the time spent abroad will give you memories that will last a lifetime. Not everyone can say they’ve spent Christmas in another country, but you’ll be able to mark that experience off your bucket list.

 Are you interested in studying abroad? Check out Beyond Abroad’s study destinations! 

Beyond Abroad is the sister brand of Asia Exchange, a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia for students from all around the world. Since 2020 Beyond Abroad offers study abroad programs in Latin America and Europe. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly student newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.