This is not my first time away from home, this isn’t even my first time out of the country. A few years previously I traveled around Australia for some time as a nanny. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and was given the opportunity to live and learn with families very different than my own. As a nanny, I lived with different families and was able to participate in the family activities. For Christmas that year, I nannyed for a family with two beautiful children and even though I was away from MY family, I was far from alone.
Having a family to spend time with, to celebrate holidays with and eat together with made being away from home a whole lot easier. The feeling of loneliness didn’t settle on you as heavily. It was easy to get wrapped up with your host family, learning about their traditions and teaching them yours.
This is my first Christmas alone with no family, host or otherwise to spend it with. The first Christmas away from any family and it’s a struggle. I think something that is often forgotten about the study abroad experience is the loneliness that can come with it. It can be very difficult to move to a new country and even more so the form relationships with people so different than the ones you grew up with. I think all study abroad students can attest to the struggle of loneliness that can come with such a great experience. The isolation of living in a dorm where everyone is living their own lives and making their own experiences. I didn’t think about how different this experience would be for me, living in a dorm without a family. It forces you to push yourself out of your comfort zone because if you want to socialize you have to get out there.
I have had to take advantage of the activities created for students by my host university and Oslo city for individuals without family. During my Christmas break, which is still going on, I attended different dinners and activities. I went to the Christmas markets with other international students enjoying the cold weather, warm drinks and hearty laughter that made the loneliness feel a little more distant.
I tried different foods and drinks like gløgg, a delicious warmed mulled wine mixed with spices and Ribbe a traditional pork ribs recipe eaten by most Norwegians. I also learned other peoples traditions, like how Norwegians celebrate on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas day.
Being away from home is still difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to have to go out and put yourself in the middle of the festivities even when you’re all alone. I struggle sometimes with leaving my room knowing that I have no one to experience these moments with but everyday I work towards getting out and communicating with new people and it has only paid off. As I write this, I am also getting ready to spend New Years Eve with others who are away from home. I plan to bring pieces of my own family traditions with me in the form of black-eyed-peas and greens. Because that’s the thing about traveling alone, you will always find someone who wants to show you a part of who they are and who wants to learn a part of you.
Instead of going into 2019 alone and sad because I am away from home, I get to experience it with my friends who everyday feel more and more like family.