One of the coolest parts of being an exchange student is having the firsthand experience of how other cultures celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other traditions.
When it comes to winter holidays, there are so many different ways to celebrate. Whether it’s sitting under a Christmas tree in tropical Costa Rica or learning about Mary and Joseph for the first time in Austria, students find a lot of differences (plus a lot of similarities) and tons of opportunity to make memories.
Here’s what our a few of our high school abroad students did in their host countries.
Have you ever heard of the Swedish holiday St. Lucia’s Day? High School Abroad Sweden student Catherine got to celebrate and make lussykatter with her family. These are saffron-spiced pastries in the form of curled up cat eaten on St. Lucia’s Day. Sounds both adorable and delicious!
“I love making these because they remind me of the family cooking I did back home ,” she says. Here’s a video of Catherine’s creations:
Okay, keep bringing on the sweets! High School Abroad Norway student Daphne made traditional Christmas marzipan with her host family, which is filled with many things, including raisins and dried apricots, then covered in chocolate. Yummy!
But that’s not all! Daphne even got a chance to visit a Christmas market in Bærems where you can buy some traditional Norwegian gifts.
High School Abroad Austria student Mollie Block normally celebrates Hanukkah back in the U.S., but this year she celebrated a bit of both Hanukkah and Christmas with her host family, the first year she’s done both! Each year her host family participates in Advent singing for the four Advent Sundays before Christmas, and normally they’d also sing Christmas songs with her host grandma, which was moved to Zoom due to COVID-19. Coincidentally, this year the third Advent Sunday happened to fall on the fourth night of Hanukkah. “It was such a really nice experience to not only join in on my host families holidays and traditions but also share some of my own,” Mollie explains. That’s what cultural exchange is all about!
One of our High School Abroad Italy students Jessica is placed in a small town in the Pavia Province in the Lombardy region of Northwestern Italy. Though she found many similarities between how her host family and her family back in the U.S. celebrate Christmas, she found a slight difference in the Italian version of the nativity scene, called a presepe. Jessica and her host sibling sat under the stairs and made this presepe pictured below.
Exchange student pro tip: Since Jessica is still learning Italian, she realized that a hands-on project such as this is great to work on communication with her host family. She says “between hand gestures and intuition, humans are easy at understanding one another when it comes down to it.” We couldn’t agree more, Jessica!