Most students in Canada have now written their final exams for the first semester, packed their bags and headed for home; that is if you are a Canadian student studying at a Canadian university or college. But what if you are an international student? Where do you go for the Christmas holidays? What do you do for those 10 to 15 days when all studying has stopped until January, when there are no classes and the study halls and dorms are lonely places devoid of chattering students? The silence is almost eerie, the loneliness deafening.
For an international student studying in Canada, the Christmas holidays can be a lonely and boring time. The weather in Canada is also cold with minus temperatures, lots of snow and chilling winds. So what can you do?
There are a number of things that international students studying in Canada can do to beat the humdrum of idle boredom in your dorm.
International Centres: Each International Centre has specific programs geared to the international student studying in Canada at their university to get them integrated into the community and university life. For example, Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton has an International Student Partnership Program whereby a domestic student is matched with an international student studying at the university. In this way the international student can learn about the city, community and university and the general way of life. The domestic student explains shopping, bus systems and etc and may well make sure they are hosted and entertained during those Christmas holidays when studying is finished for the semester and nights in Canada as dark, lonely and cold. The International Centre at the University of Alberta has a program where a local family can apply to have an international student studying at the University of Alberta come to their home for Christmas dinner. This is a fun way to spend the holidays and learn about Christmas traditions. Every International Centre will have a Christmas party on campus sometimes just prior to Christmas day, perhaps as early as the 15th but usually around the 22nd.
Campus Groups: Different campus student groups also have activities for international students during the holidays. Some will organise a winter retreat out at a ranch where students can go horseback riding, get a horse sleigh ride, go tobogganing or just sing carols and songs around a winter campfire. Along with this, there are cups of hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows to ward off the cold weather we have in Canada. It sure is a great break from studying and is a fun way of meeting other students and learning more Canadian traditions. Another example is a group called IFG that takes international students on a trip to Candy Cane Lane. This is a must see sight with all the houses in the area lit up in colourfully lighted scenes of winter and Christmas. The homeowners work hard to display this spectacular light show. It is well worth the chill of walking through the snowy lanes to see this bonfire of Christmas lights.
Working during the Holidays: If you are able to get the appropriate work permit to work in Canada while studying you can always work. Christmas is a time of year when retail sales are high so there is always a need for retail seasonal workers in Canada for the full month of December. You will be giving those Canadians who want time off to celebrate Christmas, a chance to take a day off to observe one of the most celebrated holidays in Canada.
Winter Sports: There are plenty of winter sports to engage in; tobogganing, skating, skiing and etc. So check out different groups, find a Canadian friend who lives in the city and go skating. You will enjoy learning these winter sports and get plenty of fresh air to boot. Just make sure to wear warm winter clothing. Canadians are doing it and if you are studying in Canada, you will want to experience these fun-filled winter sports that Canadians engage in.