… by Jana / from California / studying English Literature / 2nd Year
Leaving home for the first time and leaping into Uni life can be difficult. You’ve moved away from your friends and family, only to be hurtled into an environment where everyone and everything is new, strange, and demanding you to adapt. A year into University, and I still feel that way sometimes, especially around the holidays.
First semester last year, I remember even Halloween seemed difficult. For the last several years it had been a tradition for me and my best friend to spend all night watching Halloween movies and eating candy we’d swiped from the cul-de-sac’s table for trick-or-treaters. The pressure leading up to Halloween here – to find a costume, organise pre’s and decide on somewhere to go out – only made me miss home more.
It does seem like a sort of silly thing to get sentimental about. After all, it’s not as big of a loss as spending Thanksgiving and Easter away from my family. But it’s all these little habits that just stack atop each other. You spend your whole childhood forming certain customs for the way you spend your weekends, your days off, and your holidays, and who you spend them with. For me, the thing that helped the most was giving myself the space to realize that making new traditions, and celebrating some of my own, with the new friends I’ve made here in Edinburgh can be just as wonderful.
For instance, back home my church always does a big pancake and waffle dinner on Shrove Tuesday. It’s something I’ve gone to most every year since I was a toddler, and for me it’s the way I feel that the Easter/Lenten season has really begun. Last year, I told my friends about this and we all went out for pancakes together. It was a little thing, but for me it meant a lot to be able to have that dinner and that my friends wanted to share it with me.
It’s been the same for Halloween. Last year, a few of my friends came over to my room and we watched a movie together. And this Halloween another of my friends and I went to the King’s theatre to see ‘Dracula’. It’s still different from the Halloween I would have at home, but I do feel like I’ve continued the tradition, just in a slightly different way.
In all these instances, I’ve been so grateful to have found friends who have been so supportive and enthusiastic to share these holidays that are so important to me. Especially holidays that are particularly rough for me to spend away from my family, like Thanksgiving. This year I hosted my own ‘Friendsgiving dinner’ at my flat. It took two days of prep-work and hours of cooking. But, in the end, it was amazing to have all my closest friends in the same room, and for them to all be so enthusiastic about it. Even though, for most of them this was the first Thanksgiving they’d ever celebrated.
So, yes, holidays away from home for the first time can be difficult. It’s the time, after all, that you feel most keenly your separation from the people you care about and the childhood routines you’re accustomed to. But keeping an open mind to the new traditions you can form, and the way you can share your customs with the friends you’ve made, goes a long way towards making Uni feel more like home.